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Luncheon is first annual event for Hastings area retired educators

If you ask Hastings resident Paul Ehrhard, Minnesota has one of the best retirement systems in the country for educators and school employees. It’s because Minnesota educators have been paying into their pension program since the day they were hired, and the system is well structured and well managed, he said.

It’s partly thanks to the efforts of Ehrhard and other retired educators who are part of the Retired Educators Association of Minnesota (REAM), an organization that works to protect the pensions of retired educators.

“I was a teacher and coach in Minnesota for a long time,” Ehrhard said, “and then I took early retirement and moved out (of) state.”

He and his wife lived in southern California for a time, but yearned to return to Minnesota and eventually did, settling in Hastings and joining REAM. Then he found out that there was no Hastings unit.

“So I started one,” he said.

Ehrhard is now the president of the Hastings Area Retired Educators Association of Minnesota, or HAREAM.

“I started this unit two years ago, and, with the help of some other people organizing this thing, why, we’re growing,” he said.

Now there are more than 50 members in the Hastings unit alone.

REAM, and its local unit, HAREAM, are very active in the Minnesota legislature, Ehrhard said, although they don’t affiliate with any political party. They attend all the meetings of the pension and retirement committee meetings. Beyond simply attending, HAREAM and REAM members are asking questions of legislators, answering questions and working in concert with the Teachers Retirement Association and the Public Employees Retirement Association to make sure all retired public employees can keep their pensions.

Their work is important, Ehrhard said, because of other organizations that are working to undermine the state pension system.

“There are forces out there that are actively trying to reduce public employees’ – teachers’, especially – their pensions,” Ehrhard said.

Some of those attempts include trying to replace teachers’ pensions with 401k accounts, and taking away cost-of-living adjustments, Ehrhard said.

Ehrhard defended retirement benefits for Minnesota educators. According to a June 30, 2012, document provided by the Teachers Retirement Association, there were 2,649 retired educators in Dakota County alone receiving benefits totaling nearly $74.4 million.

“That money is basically put back into the economy,” Ehrhard said.

“A lot of (teachers) … live here and participate and spend their money here,” he added.

This year, HAREAM is putting together its first annual luncheon event to get retired educators and other members of its organization together to discuss some of the issues they face.

The luncheon, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 19, at the Hastings Country Club, will feature John Fisher, president of REAM and a legislative retirement expert, as the keynote speaker. There will be a barbecue pulled pork and chicken buffet. The cost is $15. Registration begins at 11:15 a.m. and lunch begins at 11:30 a.m.

Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by Aug. 8 by emailing LaRae Kaupang at or calling 651-438-2876.

HAREAM is guided by a four-person board, which includes Ehrhard, president; Harold Kaupang, vice president; LaRae Kaupang, secretary and treasurer; and Nancy Techam. For more about HAREAM or to join the unit, contact LaRae Kaupang. For more about REAM, go to