April 6, 1937: C. Rudolph Berghult defeats Snively to become youngest Duluth mayor ever

Duluth Mayor C. Rudolph “Rudy” Berghult. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in Duluth in 1937, 31-year-old C. Rudolph “Rudy” Berghult upset popular incumbent Samuel Snively—in the mayor’s office since 1921—to become not only the first mayor who was born here in the Zenith City, and not only the youngest mayor ever elected in Duluth, but also the youngest mayor ever elected in a U. S. city with a population over 100,000. (Duluth had about 105,000 citizens at the time; he lost the title of Duluth’s youngest mayor in 1979, when 29-year-old John Fedo took the office). The Duluth News Tribune called Berghult’s election “the greatest upset in municipal politics [in Duluth] in many years.” With 71 of 78 precincts reporting, Berghult had 14,936 votes; Snively 14,359—a difference of 577 votes. The paper noted that the results from unreported precincts was not expected to overturn the results. Berghult was born in Duluth on April 15, 1905. When he ran for mayor in 1937, newspapers described him as a “31-year-old student of municipal government and economics,” a pretty good resume for a civic leader.  One of the first things Berghult did after he took office was to remove F. Rodney Paine as Duluth’s Parks superintendent. Paine and Snively had worked together since 1925 to improve Duluth’s parks. Together they planned and oversaw the creation of, in part, the Municipal Zoo at Fairmount Park (along with Bert Onsgaard, of course); tourist camps at Indian Point, Chester Park, and Brighton Beach; and Enger Park and Lester Park golf courses. They also arranged for improvements at all established parks, the transition of Lake Place Park to Leif Erikson Park, and expanded and completed Boulevard Drive, which was renamed Skyline Parkway under their watch. After 1937, outside of the construction of Enger Memorial Tower and completion of the Minnesota Point Recreation Area, Duluth’s parks were paid little attention until the 1980s. Berghult would serve one term in office, losing the 1941 election to Edward H. Hatch. Read more about Snively here and Paine here.

2 Responses to April 6, 1937: C. Rudolph Berghult defeats Snively to become youngest Duluth mayor ever

  1. He captained a landing craft at D-Day and was awarded a Bronze Star for his work saving wounded soldiers. Then he worked for NASA for more than 20 years. There will be more on him on April 15, his birthday.

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