ND Attorney General Stenehjem passes away at age 68

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 2:30 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - UPDATE : The State of North Dakota is in mourning Friday. Gov. Doug Burgum has directed flags to be flown at half staff.

The State Attorney General’s office has announced that Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has died. He was 68 years old.

Stenehjem’s brother Allan said he fell this morning and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, and that he had been dealing with an ulcer. Funeral arrangements are pending with Bismarck Funeral Home.

By anyone’s standards, Wayne Stenehjem was a public servant of the highest measure. In fact, most of his life has been spent in service to North Dakotans. He served in the state House and Senate for 24 years before his 22-year tenure as Attorney General. Last month, I got a chance to interview him when he announced his retirement, which allowed him to reflect on his career.

Wayne Stenehjem ran in six statewide elections, and in his words, it was “an incredible honor” to gain that kind of approval from the citizens of North Dakota.

“I am honored to have had that support in this position,” said Stenehjem in December.

Despite his having gained that approval, he often shined the light on his colleagues at the AG’s office. “The people and staff that I have here could not be better,” he said.

He wasn’t one to toot his own horn, but that didn’t stop everyone else from praising him. When he announced his retirement last month, I spoke to Senator John Hoeven, who served as governor for twelve years of Stenehjem’s tenure.

“He was just very good to work with, and I think, always tried to do the very best he could for the people of North Dakota,” said Sen. John Hoeven in December.

As Attorney General, he was the top law enforcement official in the state. Before Stenehjem was Attorney General, Former Gov. Ed Schafer knew him as the state senator from District 42 representing Grand Forks.

“Wayne Stenehjem was the ultimate public servant. I mean, he started serving when he was just a kid, you know, in college. And I think that was quite amazing, because he always, when you had political disagreements, or differences of opinions, he was always calm, always kind, always respectful, and he looked at it as ‘this is my service to the people of North Dakota,’” said Former Gov. Ed Schafer.

In addition to those we spoke to, as news of his passing was announced, condolences poured in from North Dakotans around the state. And although their words are varied, the sentiment is the same: “He stood up for the rights of the people in the state and that’s just who he is,” said Stenehjem’s brother, Allan.

Something obvious to those that knew him is that Wayne Stenehjem is a family man. Entering retirement, he was eager to spend time traveling with his wife, and the last three times I saw him, he told me with pride again and again that his son had just completed an Ironman triathlon.

UPDATE: North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was responsive after being taken to the hospital.

“He is in the hospital and they’re treating him. The next 12 hours are crucial.”

That’s what Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s brother Allan said following Stenehjem’s hospitalization Friday morning. As of 3 p.m., Stenehjem is responsive and awaiting test results.

Allan confirmed that Stenehjem fell this morning in his home and was found before being taken to the hospital. Allan said he had been dealing with an ulcer and that inflammation might have been the cause of Stenehjem’s fall.

“If it were his heart, that would be one thing. An ulcer, you know, you have an ulcer that’s inflamed, it causes problems, that’s different than if you are not in good health. He’s in great health. I just don’t want to send a message that it’s a dire situation, because I don’t think it is. But he’s strong, you know, he’s a strong son of a [expletive],” said Allan.

At 2 p.m., Allan said the next 12 hours are crucial. Stenehjem announced in December he wouldn’t seek re-election when his term is up in 2022.

When asked what he plans to do after retirement, he said he’s going to spend time with his wife, especially riding his bicycle. We’ll have more on this story as it unfolds.

ORIGINAL STORY: North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was responsive after being taken to the hospital.

Stenehjem’s brother Allan Stenehjem confirmed to Your News Leader that Stenehjem was found at his home on Friday morning at 8:27 a.m. and was brought to a hospital in Bismarck.

Allan says Stenehjem is responsive and awaiting test results. He says the condition was caused by an inflamed ulcer. Allan says Stenehjem is in “great” health and doesn’t think this is a “dire” situation. According to doctors, the next twelve hours are ‘crucial.’

Stenehjem is the longest-serving Attorney General in state history. He announced his retirement in December.

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