Gov. Ventura, who shocked both political parties in 1998 with his upset guberrnatorial victory, displayed his charisma and magnetism to a packed crowd Thursday. Several hundred people stayed after a lunch buffet, and dozens more crowded the aisles, stood on chairs at the back of the room, and waited in the hall to listen to Minnesota's celebrity governor.
Gov. Ventura and his commissioners applauded the PHS Jazz Band for their music.
In a testament to his popularity, Gov. Ventura arrived with a full media entourage in tow and had to sign autographs as he got off his tour bus.
Once inside, the speeches and laughter began. Mayor Jeff Thompson got the first laugh while making some introductions. "Welcome to a community of which we are very proud,"ĘThompson said. "We aren't very big, but we certainly have a lot to offer, other than being located smack dab in the middle of one of the busiest and most outdated two-lane highways in the state of Minnesota."
That had the governor laughing and pointing to El Tinklenberg, commissioner of the Department of Transportation, who was one of five commissioners traveling with the governor. Later, before starting his prepared remarks, Gov. Ventura explained that his administration had inherited the condition (of Highway 23).
Thompson-who praised several aspects of the community during his remarks, including the health care system, the schools, and the cooperative spirit-also asked Gov. Ventura, who got his start in the limelight as a professional wrestler for 11 years, whether he would want to help coach a real wrestling team, the state-ranked Bulldog wrestling squad. In fact, one of the gifts presented to Ventura was a small green and white pinstriped wrestling singlet from the high school, which was obviously too tiny for the governor's build. "I tell you what," Gov. Ventura quipped as Sue Brauchler, Chamber of Commerce president, handed him the singlet. "Only the first lady will see me in this."
Later, Gov. Ventura said Thompson should think twice about whether Ventura should be teaching anyone wrestling moves. "Do you want your kids to know how to pull hair?" he asked. "Remember, I was a villain."
Ventura also declined Brauchler's offer for a ride on a snowmobile, saying that he wanted to be able to repeal the stud ban without anyone accusing him of a conflict of interest.
The PHS Jazz Band played for the crowd as they waited for Ventura and his commissioners to arrive at the Paynesville Legion.
The jokes became less frequent as Gov. Ventura started his prepared remarks. (See the accompanying story.) He did save one jibe for Tinklenberg, who used to be the mayor of Blaine while Ventura was the mayor of Brooklyn Park. Blaine High School frequently beats Champlin Park High School, where Ventura is a volunteer coach, in football, according to Gov. Ventura. He hired Tinklenberg anyway, which "goes to show how gracious and big I am because I don't hold it against El."
Ventura also recalled how he and Tinklenberg went to Washington, D.C., for transportation funding and returned with $25 million more than planned. Tinklenberg was good at persuading, said Gov. Ventura, while he was good at getting people's attention.
The last barb belonged to Thompson, though, who wished the governor a safe trip to Cold Spring and St. Augusta Township on Highway 23, the most congested highway in the state.
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