CAMBRIDGE (AP) -- State Rep. Jim Rostberg, is a quiet, courteous family man who is committed to community service, said his constituents in Isanti County and his colleagues in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Rostberg, 43, was charged Friday with three felony counts of criminal sexual misconduct for allegedly sexually fondling a teen-age girl. Rostberg's lawyer, Douglas Sauter, said his client denies the allegations and intends to plead innocent.
People who know the Isanti Republican were shocked when they heard the news.
''Jim is one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to know,'' said Debbie Bray, president of the Isanti Area Chamber of Commerce.
''He's the last person you'd expect to be involved in anything like this,'' said Beverly Puffer, editor of the County News in Cambridge. ''He's courtly to women in an old-fashioned way and respectful to the point of almost being amusing.''
Rostberg is well-known in Isanti County, an area about an hour north of the Twin Cities where potato farms are giving way to homes for working-class commuters looking for small-town living.
A Navy veteran, Rostberg is Isanti County's veterans service officer and director of emergency management. Married and the father of two, he is active in civic and church groups and frequently volunteers for community services, such as managing an emergency fund for the Cambridge American Legion and serving in the Civil Air Patrol.
''He's popular, he's well-known and he's well-liked,'' Bray said.
In the Legislature, the slender man with thinning, sand-colored hair is a backbencher. Now in his third term, he rarely speaks on the House floor or in committee, and he has not carried any major pieces of legislation.
''He's quiet and a hard worker'' who doesn't seek headlines, said Rep. Jim Rhodes, R-St. Louis Park, chairman of the Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Committee, of which Rostberg is vice chairman.
Rostberg works on somewhat obscure issues, such as improving law enforcement communications systems, providing affordable housing in vacant state buildings and developing a skilled work force.
''He prides himself on his nonpartisanship,'' said Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis. He gets along with DFL lawmakers, ''but when he votes, he toes the party line.''
He considers himself an environmentalist and occasionally deviates from the Republican position on feedlot and groundwater issues, said Rep. Betty McCollum, DFL-North St. Paul, who has worked with Rostberg on environmental legislation.
Although Rostberg's views and personality were well-known in the area, some are now questioning those perceptions.
''I'm not too sure who Jim Rostberg is anymore,'' said Puffer.
Rostberg was arraigned Friday and posted bail. He was arrested late Thursday afternoon by Anoka County sheriff's deputies who had called him off the House floor during a session.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.