BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum released the following statement today regarding the passing of longtime North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Stenehjem was the longest-serving attorney general in North Dakota history, having held the position for 21 years. He was elected as the state’s 29th attorney general in 2000 and was re-elected in 2004, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018. Stenehjem also served in the North Dakota Legislature for 24 years, including four years in the House and 20 years in the Senate, where he was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1995-2000. He announced on Dec. 17, 2021, that he would not seek another term in office as attorney general. Stenehjem died today at age 68.
“Like so many North Dakotans who treasured his friendship and admired him for his more than four decades of exceptional service to our state, we are absolutely devastated by the passing of Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem,” Burgum said. “Wayne embodied public service, both as a dedicated legislator and the longest-serving attorney general in our state’s 133-year history. As the top law enforcement officer in North Dakota for over two decades, Attorney General Stenehjem always put the safety and well-being of our citizens first. North Dakota is a safer place because of his unwavering commitment to law and order, his loyalty to his team members and his utmost respect for our men and women in uniform. State and local governments also are more transparent thanks to his strong enforcement of North Dakota’s sunshine laws.
“On a personal level, Wayne was extremely proud of his small-town roots, his ties to UND and time spent practicing law in Grand Forks, and especially his Scandinavian heritage. His dry Norwegian humor was at its sidesplitting best at Norsk Høsfest in Minot during the induction ceremonies for the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame – an honor he himself received in 2007. Most of all, he was a loving husband and father, often sharing photos of his travels with Beth and beaming with pride as he would carry a plate of her Scotcheroos into a meeting or talk about son Andrew’s military service and latest adventures.
“It was an honor and a privilege to serve alongside Wayne on the North Dakota Industrial Commission and state Land Board. No matter how complex or contentious the issue, we all benefited from his incredible intellect, legal expertise and professionalism. He cared deeply about North Dakota and wanted only the best for its citizens. Kathryn and I extend our deepest condolences and prayers to Beth, Andrew and the entire Stenehjem family, his current and former colleagues from the Attorney General’s Office and Legislature, his friends throughout state government and the entire law enforcement community as we grieve this terrible loss.”
Burgum has directed all government agencies to fly the United States and North Dakota flags at half-staff until further notice and encourages North Dakotans to do the same at their homes and businesses, in honor of Stenehjem and his longtime service to the state.