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Fergus Falls representative reveals House bloodline

ST. PAUL — A Minnesota state representative was sworn into office in a newly renovated state Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 112 years to the day after his great-grandfather took his oath in the newly built Capitol.

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, was among 200 legislators sworn in Tuesday in the Capitol, which just reopened after a $310 million renovation.

His great-grandfather, Ole Opdahl, immigrated from Bergen, Norway, to Freeborn County in 1865 and went on to represent the southern Minnesota area in the House from 1903 to 1906.

Nornes, who was sworn into his 11th term Tuesday, said he learned of his familial tie to the state House only after he took initially office, when his mother passingly mentioned the connection.

"I don't know how much they had even talked about it as a family, sort of an unknown part of family history," he said. "When I got elected, someone took me up to the library in the State Office Building to dig up some of the old material that had his picture in it. That was the first time I'd seen his picture."

Like Nornes, Opdahl served the House as a Republican and was appointed to committees related to agriculture, including drainage and grain and warehouse. He also chaired the State Public School Committee and served on Appropriations and Legislative Expenses committees.

Nornes is Higher Education Committee chairman.

Although Nornes said his great-grandfather's role in Minnesota's government gives him a unique connection to the state's history, he refrained from mentioning his family tree at Tuesday's swearing-in ceremony.

"I kept it a secret today," he said. "I didn't want to appear to be taking the stage and boasting; it's a Norwegian phenomenon."