UPDATE: Glassheim announces retirement from Legislature

Grand Forks Herald

Eliot Glassheim thanks the crowd for celebrating his achievements on Saturday, May 02, 2015, at the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks, N.D. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)
Eliot Glassheim thanks the crowd for celebrating his achievements on Saturday, May 02, 2015, at the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks, N.D. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

Longtime Grand Forks Rep. Eliot Glassheim announced Saturday he will not seek another term in the North Dakota Legislature.

Glassheim’s retirement announcement follows a year of ups and downs for the 77-year-old. In April, a possible infection led to a hospital stay for Glassheim, who has lived with lung cancer for some time.

“Though my health has improved in the past few months, I am unable to give 100 percent effort, which the voters of District 18 have come to expect from me,” he wrote in an email announcing his retirement.

Serving in the House of Representatives in the 1975 session and again since 1993, Glassheim has been a familiar face to many both at the Capitol and in Grand Forks. Interacting with many people on both sides of the aisle at home and in Bismarck is something he considered a highlight of his career as a representative.

Grand Forks City Councilman Eliot Glassheim. Archive photo from 2012

Grand Forks City Councilman Eliot Glassheim. Archive photo from 2012

“In some ways it was hard, but I’ll miss walking around my district and knocking on doors and leaving my brochures or talking to people if they were home,” Glassheim told the Herald Saturday. “It was challenging sometimes, but it was fun in retrospect.”

Often in the minority as a member of a Republican-controlled House, Glassheim said he is still proud to have made a number of accomplishments during his tenure.

Some of those achievements include securing funding for the new UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences building, developing a funding mechanism that allowed Northeast Human Service Center and Grand Forks County Social Services to share a building and conceiving the state department of tourism’s Learning Vacation Program.

“The thing that I’ve always liked is problem-solving,” Glassheim said. “When people came with problems, I would try to think of ways the Legislature could help, but I was thwarted sometimes because my way to solve a problem did not match with the majority, so that was a little frustrating.”

‘A loss’

Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, called Glassheim a “gentleman” who is respected in both chambers of the Legislature and within both political parties.

“He has many Republican friends who disagree with him on issues, but they are his friends because he believes what he says,” he said. “He’s not a posturer.”

Holmberg said he was not surprised by Glassheim’s announcement in light of his health problems, which interrupted his work in the last legislative session, “but his wit and his mind are always there, even when he’s hurting.”

“It’s a loss to the Legislature,” Holmberg said.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, has served alongside Glassheim for seven years and said his absence in the Legislature is one that will be felt for a generation.

“The impact that Eliot had in the Legislature transcends political affiliation,” he said of his mentor and friend. “Republicans, Democrats alike look at him as a statesman, a scholar and as the embodiment of what representative democracy is all about.”

Mock recalled that Glassheim didn’t speak often on the floor, declining to jump up and share his point of view on every bill heard by the House over his 26 years representing Grand Forks.

“Eliot spoke rarely, but when he spoke everybody in that chamber listened,” he said. “They listened. They hung on every word and took everything he said with heartfelt consideration.”

While it’s a moment that Mock said is a difficult one, he added he is glad that Glassheim is putting his health and family first.

Following last year’s health scare, friends and colleagues organized a celebration for Glassheim, with Mayor Mike Brown declaring May 3, 2015, as “Eliot Glassheim Day” and revealing a portion of Third Street in Grand Forks would be honorarily known as Eliot Glassheim Way.

Brown called Glassheim a role model and praised him as a mediator and calm, thoughtful presence on the City Council, on which he served for 30 years.

“Eliot has always been an ideal statesman,” he said Saturday. “I was very pleased to have him as a mentor in my early mayoral term.”

Brown said Glassheim’s years of public service left a mark on Grand Forks.

“The community will never be able to repay the years of service he has given us,” he said.