- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The North Dakota Senate’s oldest and perhaps its most beloved member has announced he’s resigning his seat due to poor health.

“It’s the last thing I wanted to do but I’m in decline,” 83-year-old John Andrist, R-Crosby, told The Associated Press. “I’ve been thinking about it all summer and I’ve finally decided I couldn’t do my best.”

The retired newspaperman and publisher was first elected to the Senate in 1992, serving District 2 in the northwestern corner of the state. Andrist said he will step down effective Nov. 30. Next week, he plans to move across state to an assisted living center in Fargo, the city where three of his five children live. His wife, Elaine, died in 2008. They were married 57 years.

“I’m not liking it,” Andrist said of the move from his hometown. “I’m doing it because I conceded it’s probably the best thing for me to do.

Andrist, who was an avid runner, said the effects of a stroke he suffered two years ago hamper his balance and sap his energy. And, he said, “my age-related memory problems are worsening.”

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said Andrist told him last month that he was stepping down. Wardner said he and other lawmakers were unsuccessful in lobbying him to reconsider.

“His mind is as good as it’s ever been. He is a role model for legislators and the type of person we want to exemplify,” Wardner said. “I think he was concerned that during the rat race of the session he wouldn’t be able to keep up. His sense of humor, wealth of experience and common sense will be missed.”

Andrist has been known for being an advocate of rural North Dakota and a leader in helping to solve problems created by the rapid growth of western North Dakota’s oil and gas industry. His district is in the heart of the state’s oil patch and includes Divide and Burke counties, most of Williams County and a northwestern portion of Mountrail County.

Andrist is past-president of both the North Dakota Newspaper Association and the National Newspaper Association. He has been writing newspaper columns for more than 60 years in Crosby for the Journal, where he got his start as a reporter in 1950. He wrote a heartfelt farewell column this week.

“Alas, I have come to the conclusion my constituents deserve more than I can provide,” he wrote.

There are two years remaining on Andrist’s term. A Republican from the district will be appointed to fill the seat for the remainder of the term, Wardner said.

Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, said Andrist’s retirement “is a loss for the senate.”

“John Andrist is a true gentleman and every one of his colleagues has the utmost respect for him,” Schneider said. “I think he is of a generation when politics was more civil. I hope we all can learn a lesson from Sen. Andrist.”

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