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Longtime North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) died suddenly at the age of 68, his spokeswoman Liz Brocker said in a statement on Friday.
"It is with the utmost sadness that the Office of Attorney General announces that Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem passed away unexpectedly on Friday January 28, 2022," Brocker said.
"We know Wayne was a widely respected and well-known public figure, but we ask that his family be allowed time to grieve in private. Funeral arrangements are pending with Bismarck Funeral Home, for both public and private services," she added.
Allan Stenehjem, the attorney general's brother, told The Bismarck Tribune that the incident was not COVID-19 related. The statement from Brocker did not specify what had caused the sudden death.
Stenehjem, who was set to retire after his current term, served for 21 years as the state's attorney general, the longest tenure for that position in North Dakota's history, a press release from North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) noted.
Before serving as the state's attorney general, he had served in both chambers of the state legislature for two dozen years, including a stint as the state Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, the release from the governor's office noted.
"Like so many North Dakotans who treasured his friendship and admired him for his more than four decades of exceptional service to our state, we are absolutely devastated by the passing of Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem," Burgum said in a statement. "Wayne embodied public service, both as a dedicated legislator and the longest-serving attorney general in our state's 133-year history."
The governor also directed that flags be flown at half-staff to honor the late North Dakota attorney general.
Among the accomplishments he touted as attorney general, he included establishing and chairing a human trafficking commission, creating a state crime lab and his role in a $30 million settlement following a Mandan diesel spill that happened in 1985, The Bismarck Tribune reported.
Other North Dakota lawmakers took to social media to commemorate the state's longtime chief enforcement officer.
"Kris and I are saddened to hear of the passing of North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. I considered him a close friend and trusted colleague. Wayne was a true patriot, dedicating his life to public service and our great state. He always fought for what was right," Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) tweeted.