[Constitution, Article V, Section l; NDCC Chapter 54-07]
The office of the Governor was created by the North Dakota State Constitution in 1889. The Governor was elected to a two-year term until passage of a constitutional amendment in 1964 established a four-year term of office. A constitutional amendment approved in 1974 requires the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor to be elected on a joint ballot.
The Governor is the chief executive officer of the state and has general supervision over all executive branch state agencies. In addition to serving as commander-in-chief of the state's military forces, the Governor has the authority to convene special sessions of the State Legislature; veto legislation and line items on appropriations bills; recommend legislative measures; and grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons for all offenses except treason and impeachment.
The Governor of Dakota Territory had duties similar to the present chief executive. As required by the Organic Law of 1861, the Governor of Dakota Territory was appointed by the President of the United States and served a four-year term. The Governor of Dakota Territory was commander-in-chief of the militia; was superintendent of Indian affairs until 1871; was empowered to grant pardons and reprieves; appointed notaries public; and could approve or veto legislation passed by the Territorial Legislature.
Thirty-two men have served as Governor of North Dakota from statehood in 1889 to 1985. Twenty-five were Republicans, six were Democrats, and one, Eli C.D. Shortridge (1893-1894), a Populist. Two North Dakota Governors have been removed from office: Lynn Frazier was recalled along with the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor in 1921, and William Langer was removed from office in 1934 following a federal felony conviction. Two Governors, Frank A. Briggs (1898) and Arthur Sorlie (1928), died in office.
The Governor of Dakota Territory and the state of North Dakota have had the authority to appoint many officials to numerous territorial and state agencies, boards, and commissions.
Similarly, the Governor has been a member of numerous state boards and commissions.
The Governor serves as chief executive of the state and commander-in-chief of its military forces, except when they are called into service of the United States; calls the Legislative Assembly into special session; delivers the state of the state address and the budget message at the beginning of each legislative session; exercises veto power over acts of the Legislative Assembly; appoints certain state executive officers and members of boards and commissions including those regulating occupations and professions; holds authority in conjunction with the Board of Pardons on matters of extradition, pardons, reprieves, and commutations of sentence, except in cases of impeachment or treason.
1861 As required by the Organic Law of 1861, the Governor of Dakota Territory was appointed by the President of the United States and served a four-year term and had duties similar to a present chief executive. President Abraham Lincoln appointed Republican William Jayne (1861-1863) former Whig as the first governor of Dakota Territory, and the second Territorial Governor was Republican Newton Edmunds (1863-1866). Serving from 1866-1869 was Republican Andrew Jackson Faulk a former Democrat, and Republican John A. Burbank was appointed the fourth Territorial Governor and served from 1869-1873.
1871 The Governor of Dakota Territory was commander-in-chief of the militia, superintendent of Indian affairs until 1871, empowered to grant pardons and reprieves, appoint notaries public, and approve or veto legislation passed by the Territorial Legislature. Republican John A. Burbank was appointed the fourth Territorial Governor who served from 1869-1873, the fifth was Republican John L. Pennington (1874-1878). Sixth to be appointed was Republican William A. Howard (1878-1880) a former Whig who died in office. Republican Nehemiah G. Ordway (1880-1884) was appointed as the seventh Territorial Governor. He moved from Yankton to Bismarck and started construction of new territorial capitol. The eighth Territorial Governor was Gilbert A. Pierce (1884-1886) Republican who vetoed the bill to move the capitol to Bismarck. Louis K. Church was appointed the ninth Territorial Governor serving from 1887-1889, and the first Democrat to serve as Governor of Dakota Territory.
1889 Arthur C. Mellette was the tenth Territorial Governor, a Republican who served seven months as the last Governor of Dakota Territory and the first Governor of South Dakota. The North Dakota State office of Governor was established by North Dakota Constitution. The qualifications of the Governor included that the individual be a citizen of the United States, qualified elector of the state, at least thirty years old, and a resident of the state of North Dakota for five years immediately prior to election.
1893 Eli C. D. Shortridge ran for Governor in 1892 on a “fusion ticket” composed of Populists, Democrats, and the Farmers’ Alliance bringing together a single political party. Shortridge was in office from 1893-1894 and his Lieutenant Governor was Elmer Wallace, a Democrat-Independent. Shortridge was the first Governor to live in the executive mansion. In 1893 the state purchased the house from Asa Fisher for use as the official residence of North Dakota Governors.
1906 John Burke a Democrat was elected in 1906 and stayed in office until 1912. Republican Robert S. Lewis (1907-1911) served as Lieutenant Governor and during the last term of John Burke, Republican Usher Burdick was elected Lieutenant Governor (1911-1913).
1909 An act in 1909 required the Governor and other elected officials to reside in Bismarck the home of the state capitol (S. L. 1909, Ch.216).
1934 Lieutenant Governor Ole H. Olsen completed the first term of William Langer who was removed from office. In 1936 voters reelected Langer for a second term.
1935 Democrat Thomas H. Moodie was removed from office on February 16, 1935, and Republican Lieutenant Governor Walter Welford completed the term and was elected for a second term from 1935-1936.
1939 Democrat John Moses served as Governor from 1939-1944. Two Republicans, Jack Patterson (1939-1941) and Oscar Hagen (1941-1943), and one Democrat, Henry Holt (1943-1944) served with Moses.
1960 Democrat William L. Guy was Governor from 1961-1972. Four Lieutenant Governors served during that time including Republican Orville Hagen (1961-1963), Republican Frank Wenstrom (1963-1965), Democrat Charles Tighe (1965-1969), and Republican Richard Larsen (1969-1972). The Governor’s Residence was completed replacing the old mansion.
1965 The Governor was elected to a two-year term until 1964 when a constitutional amendment was passed. Legislation declared that elected officials serve four-year terms (S. L. 1965, Ch. 475).
1967 The Governor became the responsible party in order to secure federal funding for the Federal Highway Safety Act of 1966 (S. L. 1967, Ch. 383).
1971 The Governor working with the State Highway Commissioner had emergency powers [NDCC 54-07-01.1] to act in matters supporting national defense. Duties of Governor were spelled out (S. L. 1971, Ch. 266). The Governor had the authority to appoint the majority of members to certain boards, committees, and commissions within the first six months into the first term (S. L. 1971, Ch. 492). Members were expected to resign on the first of January during the newly elected Governor’s first year. A list of boards, committees, and commissions were identified. Members were to send a written acknowledgement to the Governor (S. L. 1971, Ch. 492).
1973 An amendment to 1971 legislation listed additional boards, committees, and commissions (S. L. 1973, Ch. 416).
1974 Voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor to be elected on a joint ballot (S. L. 1975 Ch. 605).
1981 A candidate for Governor and other holders of public office were required to file a statement of interest with the Secretary of State and the Legislative Assembly. Local city officials filed with the county auditor (S. L. 1981, Ch. 241).
1987 A new section of the Century Code relating to the duties of the Governor and the Secretary of State concerned filing of legislative bills (S. L. 1987, Ch. 259, Ch. 549). In a general election held November 4, 1986 voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing the newly elected Governor and Lieutenant Governor to start on December 15 instead of the first day of January (S. L. 1987, Ch.776). Governor George Sinner appointed Lloyd Omdahl as Lieutenant Governor to complete the term of Ruth Meiers who died in office. She was the first women to serve as Lieutenant Governor.
1989 The Governor signed a bill to continue appropriations for publishing of the North Dakota Blue Book (S. L. 1989, Ch. 28).
2001 Bills received by the Governor from the Legislative Assembly had to be signed within five legislative days (S. L. 2001, Ch. 477).
2009 Four new sections to the Century Code related to the creation of the North Dakota Youth Council [NDCC 54-07]. Sixteen members were appointed by the Governor (S. L. 2009, Ch. 461).
2010 Republican John H. Hoeven resigned on December 7, 2010 following his election to the US Senate. Republican Lieutenant Governor John (Jack) Dalrymple filled the unexpired term and became Governor. He was reelected Governor in 2012. Republican Drew H. Wrigley was appointed Lieutenant Governor to fill the unexpired term of Dalrymple.
2011 Numerous proclamations commemorating the members of the military, including women who have served in the military, and firefighters were issued by the Governor.
[Constitution, Article V, Section 2; NDCC 54-08]
The office of Lieutenant Governor was created in 1889 by the North Dakota Constitution. Qualifications were the same as the qualifications for Governor. The term of office was for two years. A constitutional amendment which was passed in 1964 changed the term of office of elected officials to four years (S. L. 1965, Ch. 475). In 1975 (S. L. 1975, Ch. 605) a constitutional amendment required the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to be on a joint ballot. Also in 1975 legislation stated that the powers and duties of the Lieutenant Governor were to serve as president of the Senate and to vote on issues of the Senate when the vote was equally divided. Any additional duties were prescribed by the Governor. If during a vacancy in the office of the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor was impeached, displaced, resigned, died, or ill with mental or physical disease, or otherwise incapable of performing the duties of office, the Secretary of State was to act as Governor until the vacancy was filled or the disability removed (S. L. 1975 Ch. 605). When acting for the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor received the same compensation. Other functions were prescribed by the Governor.
According to the 2011-2013 North Dakota Blue Book, the Lieutenant Governor acts as chief executive in case of the Governor's death, resignation, or on other occasions when the Governor is unable to fulfill his responsibilities. The Lieutenant Governor serves as president of the Senate and in the event of a tie casts the decisive vote, assumes other functions as prescribed by the Governor; chairs the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee. The Lieutenant Governor chairs the North Dakota State Investment Board, leads the state’s highly successful trade office and participates in a variety of boards, committees, and commissions as the Governor’s representative. Since statehood there have been thirty-one Republican, five Democrat, one Democratic-Independent, and two women (one Democrat and one Republican) who have held the office of Lieutenant Governor. Republican Anton T. Kraabel served twice and Republican C. P. Dahl served three times. Neither man served consecutive terms.
1889 The office of Lieutenant Governor was created by the North Dakota State Constitution [Constitution Article V, Section 2].
1891 Legislation required the president of the Senate to assume duties if both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor were unable to perform the duties (S. L. 1891, Ch. 84).
1893 Legislation required a Lieutenant Governor to receive the entitlements and compensation given to the Governor, if he/she needed to serve as “acting” Governor” (S. L. 1893, Ch.93).
1894 The Lieutenant Governor was Elmer Wallace, a Democrat-Independent who served with Governor Eli Shortridge who was elected as a Populist candidate.
1911 Governor John Burke a Democrat was elected in1906 and continued in office until 1912. Republican Robert S. Lewis (1907-1911) served as Lieutenant Governor and during the last Burke term Republican Usher Burdick was elected and served from 1911-1913.
1964 Originally the Lieutenant Governor served a two-year term. However, an initiated measure allowed voters to elect officials to a four-year term [Constitution, Article V Section 1].
1965 A legislative act declared that elected officials serve four-year terms (S. L. 1965, Ch. 475).
1975 Legislation called for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to be elected on a joint ballot (S. L. 1975, Ch. 605). During an election in 1974 the initiated measure passed allowing the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor to be from the same political party and to be elected on a joint ballot [Constitution, Article V Section 4].
1984 Ruth Meiers was the first woman elected to serve as Lieutenant Governor. In 1974 she was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives and served for four terms before she was drafted in 1984 by the Democratic-NPL women’s caucus to be the running mate of George Sinner. In 1986 she was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer and died in office on March 19, 1987. She served from 1985-1987. Lloyd Omdahl completed her term.
1992 Rosemarie Myrdal was North Dakota Lieutenant Governor from 1992-2000.
2010 Drew H. Wrigley was appointed Lieutenant Governor. Wrigley served as North Dakota US Attorney from 2000-2009.
30153 Incoming Letters, 1889-1920; 1918-1920.
30154 Outgoing Letters, 1889-1907.
30155 Subject Files, 1889-1905.
30156 Office Register, 1950.
30157 Insurance Index, 1903-1924; 1937-1939.
30158 Northern Pacific Railroad Company Right of Way File, 1913.
30159 Desk Diaries, 1955-1956.
30160 Correspondence Concerning Social Security Benefits, 1950-1972.
30161 Proclamations, 1902-1978.
30162 Appointment Files, 1889-1905.
30163 Proclamations Received from Other States and Territories, 1890-1904,1917-1918.
30164 Official Signatures of Officers of Various States and Territories, 1891-1903.
30165 Farm Loan and State Deposit Verification Correspondence, 1913.
30166 Permanent Fund Investments Schedules, 1913.
30167 Removal of Public Officials Files, 1939-1974.
30168 Reports of State Agencies and Institutions, 1892-1924.
30169 State Agency Budget Proposals, 1941-1943.
30170 State Budget Board Reports, 1955-1965.
30171 State Constitution Analysis, ca.1889.
30172 Sheriff’s Jail Reports, 1896-1904.
30173 Scrapbooks, 1961-1967.
30174 Poll Book from Contested Elections, 1886, 1888, 1898, 1904.
30175 Insurance Policies, 1890-1896.
30187 Minutes of State Agencies, Boards and Commissions, 1933-1980
30695 Reports Register, 1903-1917.
30770 Executive Record, 1884-1913.
30771 Appointment Registers, 1893-1944.
30772 Record Index, 1889-1906.
30775 Ledger, 1931-1965.
30775 Removal of Public Officials Docket, 1930-1933.
North Dakota Governor’s Papers, 1889-1897. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
10106 Frank White Papers, 1892-1946.
20914 Frank A. Briggs Papers, 1898.
10175 John Burke Papers, 1911-1921.
John Burke Papers, 1906-1942. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
10864 John E. Davis, Papers, 1911-1973.
Louis Hanna Papers, 1907-1908. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
Lynn Frazier Papers, 1919-1920. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
Arthur Sorlie Papers, 1924-1928. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
20115 George Shafer Letter, 1932.
George Shafer Papers, 1928-1948. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
William Langer Papers. 1900-1959. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
20089 William Langer, Papers, 1896-1953.
Ole Olson Paper, 1934-1935. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
Thomas Moodie Papers, 1934-1935. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
Walter Welford Papers, 1935-1936. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
11065 Walter Welford, Papers, 1901-1937.
10421 John Moses Papers, 1900-1944.
20293 John Moses Papers, 1936.
30176 John Moses Records, 1939-1942.
30177 Fred Aandahl Papers, 1944-1952.
Fred Aandahl Papers, 1935-1961. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
30178 C. Norman Brunsdale and John E. Davis Records, 1945-1960.
11035 Clarence Norman Brunsdale Papers, 1889-1976
John E. Davis Papers, 1937-1960. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
10489 William L. Guy Papers, 1920s-2004.
31233 William L. Guy Records, 1961-1972.
30179 William L. Guy Audio-Visual Materials, 1961-1972.
10787 Arthur A. Link Papers, 1970-1972.
30181 Arthur A. Link, Records, 1973-1980.
30180 Allen I. Olson Records, 1981-1984.
31602 George A. Sinner Records, 1975-1993.
31888 Edward T. Schafer Records, 1993-2000.
Banking and Financial Institutions
30182 State Examiner’s Reports, 1891-1938.
Board of Pardons
30776 Minutes, 1901-1951.
30777 Record of Commutations, Pardons, Rewards, and Restoration of Citizenship, 1895-1914.
30183 Outgoing Letters, 1905-1915.
30184 Criminal Case Files, 1889-1908.
30185 Extradition Files, 1889-1904.
30186 Transcripts of Testimony, 1941-1942.
George Washington Bicentennial Commission
30685 North Dakota State George Washington Bicentennial Committee Records, 1929-1932.
Governmental Survey Commission
30694 Minutes, 1941-1944.
30188 Special Investigations, 1893-1939.
30189 Kidder County vs. Northern Pacific Railroad Company Tax Case Records, 1898-1900.
30190 Court Documents, 1888-1949.
30193 Correspondence, 1889-1897.
30194 General and Special Orders, 1891-1895.
Public Service Inquiry Commission
30195 Records of Public Service Inquiry Commission, 1907.
30187 Minutes of State Agencies, 1933-1980.
Theodore Roosevelt Centennial Commission
30197 Records, 1957-1958.
31185 Scrapbook, 1958-1958.
Gray, David P. Guide to the North Dakota State Archives, 1985.
Laws of Dakota Territory.
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota Office of the Governor Website.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.
Sinner, George A. “Service is the Most Gratifying Work:”, ed. Robert Jansen. North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains, 75, no. 3 ( 2008 ): 15.
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