Dr. Gary B. Blodgett, longtime Mason City orthodontist and state legislator, died May 19, 2021. His 50-year professional and political career included service in the Bush administration in Washington, D.C. and numerous North Iowa Republican causes and campaigns.
Since 1968, when he assisted with Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign, Blodgett was extensively involved in politics and government. In 1972, he raised funds for President Nixon’s re-election; in 1976, he raised funds for President Gerald R. Ford and helped to organize Ford’s Iowa efforts. Between 1980-92, he was actively engaged in the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush. Until 2014, when Alzheimers disease finally slowed him down, he raised money for Gov. Terry Branstad and was a mainstay in GOP circles.
He served as Deputy Majority Leader in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1993-2001 while chairing several standing Committees. Blodgett promised voters he would serve four terms and did so, voluntarily retiring from the Legislature in 2001.
President George W. Bush in 2001 appointed him to the position of federal Administrative Judge. In this capacity, Blodgett adjudicated legal cases under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Provider Reimbursement Review Board. As a presidential appointee Blodgett presided over hundreds of legal cases involving health care policy. Shortly after his 2001 inauguration, President George W. Bush jokingly asked Blodgett if there was “anything in his past” which might jeopardize his being named to a position in the new administration. Blodgett, known for his dry sense of humor, shocked Bush by replying that he had “served two years in a Texas prison.” Blodgett then told the President that his “prison time” was as a general dentist, at the La Tuna federal correctional facility, in El Paso, Texas.
In late 2007, he resigned from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC, returned to Clear Lake, and retired.
Blodgett practiced orthodontics until 1992, when he was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives.
While serving in federal and state office, Blodgett frequently observed that “successful private sector experience, prior to serving in elective or appointive capacities, is essential to public service.” He disdained career politicians who, prior to entering government, “hadn’t met payrolls or created real-world jobs.” As a Legislator, he sometimes took positions opposed by most conservative lawmakers, concerning issues like education and the environment. Blodgett’s son, Todd, said his father was “always a straight shooter, who never left any doubt about where he stood - on anything. He plainly expressed his views without hesitation. Diplomacy wasn’t his thing; compared to my dad, Donald Trump is like a politically correct, professional mediator. But his frankness was respected and he never lost an election for public office. The voters always knew he was well-informed, trustworthy, smart and honest.”