Wayne Brandt, the face and voice of Minnesota’s logging and timber industries for three decades, died Thursday morning at his home in Duluth after battling pancreatic cancer.
Brandt, 61, was executive vice president of the Duluth-based Minnesota Timber Producers and Minnesota Forest Industries groups, the trade organizations that represented both the supply and production ends of the state’s timber industry.
Brandt became the industry's front person as it battled for survival in the face of global competition and environmental scrutiny, both at the Capitol in St. Paul looking for legislative changes and in front of the media when issues arose over logging or mills.
Brandt also represented the industry's interests on the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, the state-sanctioned stakeholders group that seeks to more amicably resolve issues facing Minnesota forests and timber harvest.
Shawn Perich of Hovland served with Brandt on the Minnesota Forest Resources Council for 20 years, including in tumultuous years as best management practices were being developed to protect streams and wildlife from logging impacts. Perich represented fish and wildlife interests on the council and sometimes butted heads with Brandt.
“We have good protections in Minnesota of our water resources from the impacts of timber harvest. And that’s in large part due to the Forest Resources Council and in large part to Wayne Brandt,’’ Perich said. “Wayne was very good at representing his interest, the industry. … But he was also somebody you could work with. He was somebody who listened to the other side. He could make concessions. But, more importantly, he was somebody you could sit down and have lunch with. ... You could agree to disagree with him.”
Kurt Benson, manager of Benson Timber in Blackduck, Minn., and president of the Minnesota Timber Producers, said Brandt was a strong voice for loggers and well respected by the state's top politicians.
"Wayne was probably the strongest lobbyist for the timber producers have ever had. He was quite an advocate for our industry,'' Benson said. "His knowledge and ability to recall facts and figures about anything to do with forestry in Minnesota was amazing. ... This is a sad day for the timber producers community."
Brandt, a native of Minneapolis who grew up in Willmar, Minn., moved to Duluth to attend UMD and stayed after graduating. He had been splitting his time over the past year between Minnesota and Arizona.
Before taking the timber industry job, Brandt served as an aide to U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar and served on the 1984 presidential campaign of Walter Mondale and in 1988 the campaign of Mike Dukakis. Brandt’s career also included positions with the Seafarers International Union and with the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota.
Brandt is survived by his wife, Catherine, and his daughters Alice and Eleanor. Arrangements are pending with Dougherty Funeral Home.