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At 90, Fmr. Gov. Quie Still Riding Horseback, Doling Out Opinions

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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VICTORIA, Minn. (WCCO) – Former Minnesota Gov. Al Quie will be 90 this year.

He served as a Republican Congressman for 20 years, then just one term as governor in 1979, and in his 90th year, Quie is more active than many men half his age.

From a horse stable in Victoria, the former Governor not only rides, but trains horses and clears trails.

“I keep the trails up there, so I’ve got a saw and clippers along with me,” Quie said. “If a tree comes down across the trail, I saw all those limbs off and pile them aside.”

His secret: “Two things — love the Lord, and horseback riding.”

Quie works with a prison ministry, reads widely, and works on a handful of public issues.

His current passion is Minnesota early learning.

He says the state’s new focus on all day kindergarten is misplaced, and that lawmakers should do more for children even younger.

“What they put into it? $30 million?” he said. “They should have put $300 million in it.”

Time on a horse gives Quie plenty of time to think about politics.

He caused a sensation when he gave up the governor’s office in 1983, sacrificing his political career to sign a tax hike bill fixing Minnesota’s devastated budget.

“It took more courage than anything else I could do,” he said. “And I would have left the governorship in a terrible shape. That would have been my legacy, and it would have been wrong to do it.”

Quie is still opinionated, describing current Minnesota Gov. Dayton as “a rich guy” who thinks he has to help every poor person,  “and so you can go too far overboard to do everything you can for poor people.”

He opposes same sex marriage, but he blames Republicans for bungling the issue and losing the legislature.

“It was just plain stupid on the Republican side to put that thing up as a constitutional amendment,” he said. “It should have been a legislative decision, and not use the Constitution to legislate. And that’s where they lost the ball game.”

He’s been riding his entire life, and he doesn’t see any reason to stop now.

“I had as my goal to keep training horses until I was 80,” he said. “When I got to be 80, I said, ‘I can make it 10 more years.’ Now we’ll see what happens.”

Minnesota’s oldest living former governor’s actual birthday is in September, and there are a number of commemorations planned.

His wife, Gretchen Quie, is in declining health, and he said that’s his most important job of all — full time caregiver.

The two have been married 65 years.

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