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Dave Olson, Published January 24 2014

2 Fargo Republican legislators say they won't seek re-election

FARGO – Two Fargo legislators whose terms expire at the end of 2014 announced Friday they will not seek re-election.

District 41 Sen. Tony Grindberg and District 45 Rep. Joe Heilman, both Republicans, issued separate news releases announcing their intentions.

Grindberg has served in the North Dakota Senate since 1992. He is the aerospace business manager at Appareo Systems.

He said in his announcement that it is the right time to focus on a new career.

“My plans are to remain involved with strategic community-based initiatives that I know can positively impact our community by using my public service experience and leadership skills,” Grindberg said.

Heilman was elected to the Legislature in 2010 at the age of 25.

He also works for Appareo Systems in business development.

“I am proud of the work we have done in the Legislature to reform education funding formulas, provide opportunities for young families to thrive, and provide significant tax relief to our citizens,” Heilman said in his release.

In a phone interview, Heilman said that after serving as the president of the North Dakota State University student body during the 2008-09 academic year, he decided to run for the Legislature to be a voice for the state’s younger residents.

He said he believed he was able to do that during the two legislative sessions he took part in, though he added that the first session was largely a learning period, during which he gained knowledge on how the system worked.

Grindberg said in a phone interview that highlights of his legislative career included his role in developing Renaissance Zone legislation, which he said had a profound impact on the Fargo community.

He said he was also proud of reforms in higher education that resulted in more outreach with industry and greater fairness in the state’s education funding.

Heilman and Grindberg said their roles and responsibilities at Appareo Systems were a major factor in their decisions to not seek re-election.

Appareo Systems is a custom engineering firm working primarily in the aerospace and defense industries.

Grindberg, who is a pilot, said he’s excited about the growing role Appareo Systems will play in the aviation industry, including the area of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones.

“It just allows me to come back to one of my first passions and to concentrate on one thing and yet still have my commitment to this community.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of initiatives, and I’m still going to be involved, just not going to Bismarck for three months every other year,” Grindberg said.

Robert Harms, chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, described Grindberg and Heilman as good legislators.

“We hate to lose them as candidates, but they’ve served the public and the party well,” Harms said.

He said finding new candidates will happen on the district level, adding, “I think both districts will field good candidates.”

Harms said Grindberg’s knowledge of how things work in Bismarck made him an expert on several fronts, particularly water issues.

“It will be difficult to lose that experience,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555