He was elected to a four-year term in the Minnesota state Senate in 2016, narrowing beating his Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party opponent Dan Wolgamott by over 100 votes in a recount. Relph lost reelection to his seat this fall.
Pegi Broker-Relph said that her husband loved serving the people of St. Cloud and “cherished every minute of it.”
“Jerry dedicated his life to service and representing Senate District 14 was one of the highest honors he had. I can’t count the number of times he would come home at night and tell me about helping solve a constituent’s problem, or a story he heard from someone in a parade or at a public event, or even just someone he met during a ‘day on the hill’ event,” Broker-Relph said Friday.
“Jerry loved diving into the issues, finding compromise, and working together to solve problems and I have no doubt he would have continued solving problems outside the legislature,” she added.
Before joining the Minnesota legislature, Relph was a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, an attorney and a small businessman.
He was the main author of a bipartisan bill in March that provided emergency funding for combating Covid-19 in Minnesota.
Minnesota’s top Senate Republican called Relph a “true friend and colleague loved by so many.”
“For four years, he rolled up his sleeves and tackled tough issues for our state. Senator Relph will always be remembered as a dedicated public servant,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said in a statement Friday.
DFL state Sen. Carolyn Laine, who was also elected in 2016, remembered Relph as “one of the least partisan” lawmakers, who “was filled with decency and integrity.”
Relph is survived by his wife, two children, four stepchildren and grandchildren.
CNN’s Lechelle Benken contributed to this report.