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[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.

2013       A new section added to the Century Code [NDCC 54-03] concerned the review of Presidential Executive orders by the Governor (S. L. 2013, Ch. 399) and another section related to the appointment of a special commission that would preside over removal meetings (S. L. 2013, Ch. 342). Another new section along with reenacted sections related to the oil and gas production tax (S. L. 2013, Ch. 408).  Legislation concerned the composition and duties of the Devils Lake Outlet Management Advisory Committee of which the Governor is a member.  A designee may serve on the Committee for the Governor (S. L. 2013, Ch. 489).
2015 Legislation allowed for a new residence to be completed by November, 2017. An amended section of the Century Code [NDCC 16.1-13-08] related to the process of filling a vacancy for the office of US Senator by the Governor (S.L. 2015, Ch. 164). Legislation also introduced an act to amend and reenact sections [NDCC 54-40.2-04; NDCC 54-40.2-05; NDCC 57-51.2-01; and NDCC 57-51.2-02] of the Century Code relating to legislative confirmation of state-tribal tax collection agreements and the authority of the Governor to enter agreements relating to taxation and regulation of oil and gas exploration and production within the boundaries of the Fort Berthold Reservation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation, or Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians Reservation.  Certain trust properties outside reservation boundaries were included in this act (S. L. 2015, Ch. 421).

2017       An act to amend the Code relating to the balance in the budget stabilization fund and the authority of the Governor to order transfers from the budget stabilization fund to the general fund under the provisions as listed in the Century Code (S. L. 2017, Ch. 394). Also during the 2017-2018 interim a study was to be conducted by the Governor into the operations of the Department of Financial Institutions and the Securities Department to determine the feasibility and desirability of combining the agencies into a single Department. The report was to be submitted to the Legislative Management regarding the findings and recommendations by July 1, 2018 (S. L. 2017, Ch 33).

[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.
30169    State Budget Board Reports, 1955-1965.
30171    State Constitution Analysis, ca.1889.
30172    Sheriffs' 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.

Governors' Papers

10106  Frank White Papers, 1892-1946.
10175  John Burke Papers, 1911-1921.
10421  John Moses Papers, 1900-1944. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
10489  William L. Guy Papers, 1920s-2004.
10787  Arthur A. Link Papers, 1970-1972.
10864  John E. Davis, Papers, 1911-1973.
11035  Clarence Norman Brunsdale Papers, 1889-1976.
11065  Walter Welford, Papers, 1901-1937.
20089  William Langer, Papers, 1896-1953.
20115  George Shafer Letter, 1932.
20293  John Moses Papers, 1936.
20914   Frank A. Briggs Papers, 1898.
30176  John Moses Records, 1939-1942.
30177  Fred Aandahl Papers, 1944-1952.
30178  C. Norman Brunsdale and John E. Davis Records, 1945-1960.
30179  William L. Guy Audio-Visual Materials, 1961-1972.
30180  Allen I. Olson Records, 1981-1984.
30181  Arthur A. Link, Records, 1973-1980
31233  William L. Guy Records, 1961-1972.
31602 George A. Sinner Records, 1975-1993.
31888  Edward T. Schafer Records, 1993-2000.
32073 John Hoeven Records, 2000-2010.
32346 Jack Dalrymple Records, 1987-2015.

South Dakota Governor
32368 Governor Andrew E. Lee, 1896-1902

North Dakota Governor’s Papers, 1889-1897. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
John Burke Papers, 1906-1942. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
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)
George Shafer Papers, 1928-1948. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
William Langer Papers. 1900-1959. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
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)
Fred Aandahl Papers, 1935-1961. (University of North Dakota microfilm)
John E. Davis Papers, 1937-1960. (University of North Dakota microfilm)

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.

First Lady
32017 Office of First Lady Nancy Schafer, 1992-2000
32404 Office of. Office of the First Lady, Betsy Dalrymple, 2010-2016

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, 1893-1963.
30189    Kidder County vs. Northern Pacific Railroad Company Tax Case Records, 1898-1900.
30190    Court Documents, 1888-1949.

30191    Outgoing Letters, 1895-1915.
30192    Record of Senate and House Bills Received by Governor’s Office, 1891-1929, 1955-1967.

Lieutenant Governor
31811    Ruth Meiers
31812    Lloyd Omdahl

30193    Correspondence, 1889-1897.
30194    General and Special Orders, 1891-1895.

Public Service Inquiry Commission
30195    Records of Public Service Inquiry Commission, 1907.

State Agencies
30187    Minutes of State Agencies, 1933-1980.


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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