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October 23, 2013

KITCHELL: 3M had a different connotation in Cass

When you think of “3M” in just about any American city other than Logansport, you think Scotch tape, red plaid labels and a Fortune 500 company you want in your portfolio.

When people close to Cass County government in the 1980s and 1990s thought of another 3M, they thought of a woman who wasn’t a lock-step, rank in file kind of public official. In fact, she wasn’t afraid to speak up or speak out, even if it meant someone had to swallow some pride pills without benefit of a water pitcher nearby.

That was Mary Margaret Muehlhausen.

She passed away recently and will be remembered as one of those one-of-a-kind people in public life who actually thought more about how government ought to work than the vast majority who often seem content to let it work its course. She did more than take minutes for the county commissioners and county council. She read state laws, and at a point when county boards of health and hospital boards were required to have no more than four members of one party, she blew the whistle on Cass County’s non-compliance with state law. Her work days didn’t end at 4 o’clock when the courthouse closed, though that was often the norm for many.

I didn’t know her in 1980s when she won her first term as county auditor, but I did know she was proof that you can outshine your party in a primary. She wasn’t the party choice for auditor, but she was the people’s choice, and the voters prevailed to nominate her in the primary and elect her in November.

When I returned to Logansport in 1982, my first election as a journalist was an interesting one. Her son, Jim, won what will probably go down as the closest county prosecutor race here ever. He narrowly defeated his neighbor, Democrat Jim Austen. That gave the courthouse two elected Muehlhausens. It’s rare that any family could have two of its members serving in government, but it was meant to be for 3M and Jim.

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