A city of governors

The community of Casselton is unique in North Dakota and probably in the nation because in 132 years of statehood, Casselton, now with a population of 2,500, has produced five governors. Most places couldn’t do that in 260 years; yet, this little town 20 miles west of Fargo is known for this unusual fact.

Andrew Burke

In 1880 he and his wife, Caroline, arrived in Casselton, and he worked as a cashier with First National Bank, Casselton. On Nov. 4, 1890, he was elected governor by a popular vote. During his term, the Normal Schools at Valley City and Mayville were established and Fargo became the site of the state’s Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University). He was defeated in the gubernatorial race of 1892 and left the state a year later.

William Langer

William “Wild Bill” Langer was the valedictorian of his 1904 Casselton High School class. He earned a bachelor of law degree from the University of North Dakota but was too young to practice law. He served as North Dakota’s attorney general from 1916 to 1920, running on the Non Partisan League ticket. By the time he was elected governor in 1932, North Dakota was in dire economic straits. Langer issued moratoriums on foreclosures of farms and issued an embargo on wheat so it couldn’t be shipped out of the state.

After 15 months in office he was indicted by a federal grand jury for his policy of collecting 5 percent of administration employees’ salaries for political purposes, was sentenced, and removed from office. By the 1936 election, Langer had been acquitted of the felony charge and was again elected governor. In 1940 he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

William Guy

Bill Guy was born in Devils Lake and served in the Navy in World War II. He was elected governor in 1961 on the Democratic-NPL ticket and went on to serve two two-year terms and two four-year terms. Guy modernized state government by implementing the new Office of Management and Budget. He also established the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award as North Dakota’s highest recognition. In 1966 he was elected chair of the National Governor’s Conference.

George Sinner

George Sinner was born in Fargo and raised in Casselton. Sinner began his political career in the late 1950s. He was elected to the N.D. Senate in 1962 on the Democratic-NPL ticket. Sinner became North Dakota’s governor in 1985 and served two four-year terms. During his administration, there was a farm crisis in North Dakota caused by the worst droughts since the Great Depression and the state celebrated its centennial. There was some reorganization in state government, particularly in the Economic Development Commission.

Sinner served as co-chair of the US-Canada Task Force of the National Governor’s Association and chair of the Association’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. Following his second term as North Dakota governor, Sinner served as vice president of public and government relations for the Crystal Sugar Company in Moorhead, Minn. Throughout his career, he remained active in his farming operation near Casselton. Sinner has received honorary doctorate degrees from NDSU, the University of North Dakota, and his alma mater, St. John’s University.

Jack Dalrymple

Jack Dalrymple was sworn in as North Dakota’s 32nd governor on Dec. 7, 2010, after Gov. John Hoeven was elected to a U.S. Senate seat replacing Byron Dorgan. Dalrymple grew up near Casselton on the family farm, established in 1875 by his great-grandfather. He graduated from Yale University in 1970.

Dalrymple was elected in 1985 to represent a rural Cass County district in the North Dakota House of Representatives. He served eight terms, including six years as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. In 2000, he was elected lieutenant governor along with Hoeven, and he was re-elected in 2004 and 2008. Dalrymple was the founding board chairman of Carrington-based Dakota Growers Pasta Company.

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