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Saying goodbye to Barbara Reyelts: Newsmakers and coworkers remember her career

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DULUTH, MN -

As we've been reporting this week, KBJR is losing Barbara Reyelts to retirement.

Over her 38-year career, Barbara Reyelts became synonymous with investigative, hard-hitting journalism.

As she steps into her next chapter, even those who've had to answer her toughest questions say job well done.

We're hearing from three Mayors and a former co-worker about the legacy of one of the toughest journalists the Northland has ever seen.

"She's a tough interviewer, and Barbara's always had that reputation," said former Duluth Mayor John Fedo.

John Fedo and Barbara hit the Duluth scene around the same time.

She a young reporter, he Duluth's youngest Mayor at the time.

"She always seemed to find a unique perspective," said Fedo.

As Mayor, Fedo was no stranger to Barbara's reputation for holding government officials accountable, but he says there was always purpose behind her quest for the facts.

"She was always there to get her story, and to help people in the city of Duluth and the area understand better about what was happening in the city government," said Fedo.

Current Duluth Mayor Emily Larson recalls the first time Barbara interviewed her, about 6 years ago, on the set of Northland Issues.

"I instantly admired how she carried herself.  She walked in. She had total command of that interview," said Larson.

Larson says interviewing with Barbara taught her a valuable lesson in politics.

Be prepared.

"Every time she interviewed me she had done the homework, she had read the back-story, she knew the history. She wasn't afraid to ask tough questions," said Larson.

Larson says she knows Barbara's legacy as a journalist is all over our nation's media landscape.

"I know speaking with journalists who leave the market, one of the things they'll say is how much they've learned from Barbara," said Larson.

Former Mayor Don Ness has known Barbara and her family since he was kid.

He played sports with her son Dave and remembers the reaction when Barbara would show up at games.

"There was always this awareness, because she was a local celebrity. And when she'd come to the games there was a little bit of buzz in the air," said Ness.

Don and Barbara's relationship changed over the years, as he ascended the political ladder.

He recalls one pretty consistent struggle she had with that.

"She always had a hard time with the transition, my transition from Donny to Don. So whenever I would show up for an interview the Donny part would always come out," said Ness.

Don says one of the wonderful things about Barbara is her genuine love for a city she's called home for nearly 40 years.

"Barbara was not just a person on TV, kind of with a distance to the community that she and Steve and the entire family really embraced life in Duluth," said Ness.

Even former co-workers say what we saw all those years on TV was only part of the story.

"I got to see all sides, from the mom, the grand-mom, to certainly News Director, the reporter, the hockey-mom," said former KBJR Sports Director Tom Hanson.

And though she'll always be remembered as a hard-hitting pioneer in Northland broadcasting, former KBJR Sports Director Tom Hanson says it's her heart and generosity that make her a community treasure.

"My wife went through several cancer-related surgeries. And at the time it was difficult on me personally, and our family, but she always understood. She couldn't do enough to help me and our family out, and I'll never forget how kind and generous she was to me and my family," said Hanson.

Generosity, intelligence and tenacity. That's the stuff of legends and icons, and that's Barbara Reyelts.

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