- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - After nearly 32 years of public service, outgoing Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple says he feels fortunate to have been in office during a time of historic change in North Dakota.

“We have really checked off the list of virtually everything we’ve been working on the last number of years,” said Dalrymple, who has served the state in various capacities since 1985.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., counts Dalrymple and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley as longtime friends who have been solid leaders during their time in office.

“That’s a long record of service to the people of North Dakota,” Hoeven said of Dalrymple’s decades in public life.

Hoeven said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Dalrymple stay involved in some capacity after retirement. He praised Dalrymple’s expertise in agriculture policy and credited that proficiency to his work on a family farm. Hoeven said the governor’s attention to education funding was also impressive.

Jack knows more about education funding than anyone I know,” Hoeven said.

In fact, Dalrymple counts among his proudest achievements the advancements in education funding, tax cuts and improvements to statewide infrastructure.

The K-12 funding formula enacted during the 2013 session increased per-student state aid and provided property tax cuts. For higher education, the funding formula is based on credit hours completed.

In addition, road improvements and flood protections have seen substantial upgrades during his time as governor, according to Dalrymple.

“I’m proud of our incredible progress we’ve made in infrastructure,” he said, indicating those investments leave the state well-positioned for when oil activity returns.

Dalrymple’s final year in office was marked by an economic downturn that involved lowered oil production and slumping commodity prices. Reductions in state revenue led to two rounds of budget cuts to address a nearly $1.4 billion budget shortfall.

The last months of Dalrymple’s term were dominated by the Dakota Access Pipeline protest movement, in which opponents of a $3.8 billion, four-state pipeline project populated camps in southern Morton County. Protests against the project, which has been halted pending a more in-depth environmental impact statement, have led to more than 500 arrests and millions of dollars in law enforcement expenses since August.

Dalrymple dismissed any notion that the past year may have tarnished his legacy.

“I don’t get to write the script on these things,” he said, indicating that the establishment of rainy day funds clearly came in handy this year. “Because of our planning and our foresight, we were prepared to put together a budget, a balanced budget, while still meeting our priorities.”

Many have characterized the pipeline protest as a historic event, which has provided multiple challenges to all involved.

“No one would ever have anticipated the number of people who would have come from across the United States,” Dalrymple said.

Following a recent meeting with tribal leaders to discuss how to repair the resulting strain in tribal-state relations, Dalrymple said he is optimistic incoming Gov. Doug Burgum will be successful in future efforts.

Though it is unclear what political work he might take on in the future, Dalrymple indicated that he and his wife, Betsy Dalrymple, plan to spend more time on the family farm as well as with their children and grandchildren, The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2hLuUKS ) reported.

“I’ve never had this much spare time,” he said.

State officials were quick to praise Dalrymple’s time in office.

Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said Dalrymple’s years working with appropriations served him well as lieutenant governor and later as governor. Dalrymple understood the need to work with lawmakers and not to overreact to surprises in the political arena.

“He made an excellent governor because he knew the legislative process,” Carlson said. “He’s always had a calm demeanor.”

Carlson said he received an early education from Dalrymple on keeping things in perspective during one of his first sessions in the early 1990s. Carlson stood up on the House floor and sounded off against a bill with what he considered excessive spending. He said Dalrymple stood up and tried to calm him down and consider the bigger picture over spending levels. Carlson ultimately voted against the bill, but he considered it a lesson learned.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., wished Dalrymple and Wrigley well in a statement.

Gov. Dalrymple and Lt. Gov. Wrigley are true public servants,” she said. “It’s been a privilege and honor to work with them over the years and to call them my friends. I know that even though they will no longer be in public office, they will continue to serve our great state in many other ways.”

North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Kelly Armstrong said the two have been tremendous assets to the GOP and the state.

“They’ve handled their positions with grace. We’re going to miss them both. It’s a changing of the guard,” Armstrong said. “I have no doubt they’ll remain active at the party level.”

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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