First woman to serve as ND Senate Minority Leader, Joan Heckaman, to retire at end of term

Bismarck, ND – North Dakota Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman has announced that she will retire at the end of her term after being redistricted out of District 23. Senator Heckaman is the first woman to serve as either minority or majority leader in the North Dakota legislature. As news of this announcement became public, Dem-NPL lawmakers and party officials share their fond appreciation for Senator Heckaman and her dedication to public service and rural North Dakota.

House Minority Leader Josh Boschee said, “Sen. Heckaman is a leader who exemplifies service over self. She has been an incredible mentor to me and so many more North Dakotans. Her leadership will be greatly missed and her legacy will be impactful for generations to come! The loss of Joan in the Senate is an enormous loss for North Dakota.”

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Erin Oban remarked, “Joan Heckaman is one of the most genuinely kind, respectful, and honest people I will ever know. To her core, she sees the good in and affords trust and kindness to everyone she encounters, whether a legislative colleague of either party, a member of the public, or a friend. Her leadership style is exactly what one would expect from a lifelong special ed teacher—calm, patient, and always building up the strengths in each individual for the success of the whole. Joan has served selflessly, and I’m a better person for having the opportunity to learn from her and serve beside her. The ND Senate and the people of District 23 will miss her effective, tireless work, but I’m certain we all wish her well in a well-earned retirement. I know I do.”

North Dakota Democratic-NPL Executive Director, Tyler Hogan said, “Senator Heckaman is one of the rarest treasures in politics: the selfless public servant. Joan has always cared about her district, her neighbors, and North Dakota first and foremost. It has never been about herself, it has always been about fighting for others. I cherish her service, her mentorship, and her friendship.”

Democratic-NPL Vice-Chair Kari Breker added, “As the first woman Senate Minority Leader, Joan has been an excellent role model for women in politics, especially for women in rural North Dakota.”

Senator Kathy Hogan said, “Joan has been a model example of what a legislator should be. She always does her homework, works effectively with people from all political perspectives, and is a strong advocate for children and the vulnerable. This is the second great loss of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Senate Caucus. Senator Heckaman is a classy, hard working effective Senator Minority Leader who gets work done.”

Representative Karla Rose Hanson noted, “This is another big loss in the ND Senate and for the state as a whole. Sen. Heckaman is a calm, wise force—advocating for rural North Dakotans at every turn. Her leadership will be missed by all.”

Representative Mary Schneider mentioned, “This breaks my heart, she is deservedly respected by both chambers and both parties.”

“She’s been an inspiration, and a great advocate for Rural North Dakota,” added Representative LaurieBeth Hager

Communications Director Laura Dronen said, “I first met Senator Heckaman at a church basement kumla feed, which she’d driven over an hour to attend. She is always willing to put in the miles to make sure she hears from her constituents. Joan is an exceptional advocate for rural North Dakota. To say it’s a little irksome that she was moved to a district where she wouldn’t be able to run in 2022, would be an understatement.”

“I have known Senator Heckaman for several years, and she has always voted in a level-headed manner to serve the interests of all of her constituents. As I understand, she is the only Senate Minority Leader in the nation to be gerrymandered out of her district. I know lines have to be drawn in the process, but other districts have been carved out to ensure Republicans are safe in their districts, while hers is simply deleted. People think these things happen in other areas across the nation, but the map was drawn with the intent to unseat Sen. Heckaman. This is a great example of the good ole boys and Burgum picking their constituents and not constituents picking their representatives!” said Democratic-NPL Party Chairman Pat Hart

This is not the first time a Democratic-NPL Senate Minority Leader was redistricted out of their home district. In 2011, then-Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor was pushed into a district with another Democratic-NPL Senator.