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PEQUOT LAKES-A former Duluth city councilor and fighter for human rights has passed away. Meg Bye, who served 12 years on the council starting in 1973 died in hospice after a long battle with ovarian cancer.
Her death is making many local politicians (asked by FOX 21 NEWS) reflect on how much the city has changed since her service.Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon says Bye may have been the first female politician in Duluth who did not need to "act like a man" to be taken seriously on the city council."And I think in many ways Meg was one of those people who's just really comfortable in her own being,” Prettner Solon said."Everybody tells stories when she brought the peas from her garden to shuck at the agenda session,” Prettner Solon said with laughter.Duluth Mayor Don Ness remembers watching her while he attended UMD and speaking with her at different conventions.He describes her as principled – someone who fought for children, for the poor, and for rules protecting them."She was an advocate for the human rights ordinance in the city of Duluth at a time that our city was not ready for it,” Ness said.Bob Grytdahl, Duluth Human Rights Officer, remembers the city council discussions."And they wanted to include in one of the protected classes 'sexual orientation'. Sexual orientation was not in the state statue yet. So it created a huge controversy in Duluth,” Grytdahl said."But...,” Ness said, “...she was so committed to her convictions and was willing to make that sacrifice.""Consequently I think there was so much backlash to her leadership that she lost her city council seat,” Grytdahl adds."It was, I think, justice that it was Meg Bye that was the first human rights officer for the city of Duluth,” Ness said.Mayor Gary Doty gave her the job in 2001 after the city council eventually passed the human rights ordinance.Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007 the Human Rights office shows part of the legacy she left behind.After her Wednesday night death the people who worked with her say Bye's effect on community members may have an even deeper foundation."She was always caring about other people and how the world was affecting or impacting other people, and challenging other people to get involved and look for changes...looking for positive changes,” Grytdahl said."In my heart she was that person who was a mentor,” Prettner Solon said. “And I thought, you know, this is someone who I can emulate. If she can do these things, I can take some risks and I can try some of these things too."Bye was also the first woman picked to serve as president of the League of Minnesota Cities.A service will be held on Wednesday June 6 at 11 a.m. at Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Pequot Lakes. Visitation will be Wednesday starting at 9:30 a.m.