See more of the story

Lee Eklund of Minneapolis may have had the most difficult job in the Minnesota GOP -- chairman of the Minneapolis City Republican Committee.

Eklund, whose task was to find GOP candidates for office in Minneapolis, where there hasn't been an elected Republican mayor since 1961, died of yet-to-be-determined causes Oct. 21 in Minneapolis. He was 50.

He graduated from the former Robbinsdale High School in 1975. In the 1980s, he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota and a master's degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas.

In the 1990s, Eklund held a number of posts with Twin Cities businesses, including U.S. Bank. In 1999, he went to work for the U, overseeing administration and finance. In recent years, he served as a lobbyist for the university. From 2002 until his death, he was a public affairs consultant.

Eklund cut his teeth campaigning for Dennis Schulstad, the last Republican elected to the Minneapolis City Council.

"He was truly a Don Quixote," Schulstad said. "He was bipartisan, and politics were his life. He was always pro-candidate and not anti-opponent. He gave me a lot of good advice."

Eklund's bipartisan nature showed in his work for the DFL campaign of former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton in 2001.

Over the past 20 years, he worked on dozens of campaigns, including the gubernatorial races of Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty and the second presidential race of George W. Bush.

He took over the chairmanship of the city's GOP committee from Lyall Schwarzkopf of Minneapolis, a former state legislator and former chief of staff for Gov. Arne Carlson.

"He was a solid thinker" and a "centrist" who gave consideration to the entire range of GOP issues, Schwarzkopf said. And "he was able to analyze fiscal documents and come up with improvements," he said

Schwarzkopf said if there was a political event, you could count on seeing Eklund there. A March 12, 2001, Star Tribune article quoted him as joking, "If you're having a christening for a garbage can, I'll be there."

He is survived by a sister, Linda Jackson of Chippewa Falls, Wis.

Services have been held.