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Norwegian candidate: Byberg's accent is heard around the world

Ingeborg Eliassen, a correspondent in Washington, D.C., for the Norwegian daily newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad, visits the Tribune Wednesday. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- Voters in Minnesota's 7th Congressional District aren't the only people who have noticed Republican candidate Lee Byberg's Norwegian accent.

Ingeborg Eliassen, a correspondent in Washington, D.C., for the Norwegian daily newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad, spent Wednesday and Thursday in Willmar to learn about the American political candidate with Norwegian roots.

Eliassen's introduction to Minnesota came on Tuesday night, when her plane was finally allowed to land at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport amidst the hurricane-like winds that pummeled the state.

"A lot like home,'' laughed Eliassen when speaking about the Minnesota weather.

It's Byberg's connection to her newspaper's home in Stavanger, Norway, that brought her to Willmar. Eliassen said a reader in Stavanger called the newspaper to tell them about Byberg's connection to Norway.

Byberg, 48, was born in Chicago but raised in Brazil, Paraguay and Norway.

His parents were Christian missionaries. Byberg and his family call Willmar home. He served as general manager of Willmar Poultry and, more recently, as vice president of operations for Life-Science Innovations, which was founded by Willmar Poultry.

Eliassen said there is a great deal of interest in Norway about people of Norwegian heritage living in the U.S. She said many people in Norway are very familiar with Minnesota and its role as the destination for many of the country's emigrants.

Her readers are interested in American politics too. While most Norwegians are not following individual races for Congress, they are interested in the bigger picture of what color of government the United States will have after this mid-term election, she explained.

There are people in Stavanger, Norway, who remember Byberg and know the family, and they too will likely be interested in learning about his political race, she said. But for the vast majority of the paper's readers, her article will be how they learn that a former resident of Stavanger is now an American business executive challenging a well-known congressman for office.

Eliassen writes often about the Middle East and relations with the Muslim world, but also covers a wide variety of topics about American society for her newspaper. The weather notwithstanding, Eliassen said during a visit to the Tribune on Wednesday, that she was enjoying the opportunity to explore Willmar and gain the perspective of people far removed from the Washington, D.C., area.

Make that very far. After hearing about the strong Norwegian ties in the area, she was planning a short jaunt over to Sunburg too.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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