Schafer Column: Remembering Governor Guy, A Humble Public Servant


Nancy and I were sad to hear about the death of Governor Bill Guy. I am thankful for his commitment to the state of North Dakota and proud of his impact on the policies and directions that affect our lives. His political skills changed the face of politics in our state and solid leadership delivered programs and services that improved the lives of our citizens. He will be missed as an example of how an elected official can serve with honor and integrity. Bill Guy was faithfully married for over 70 years, raised a wonderful family and continued to be active in trying to improve our communities after his time in office. And while we were on different ends of the political spectrum, I always enjoyed spending time with Governor Guy.

I recently had the wonderful experience of spending 6 hours in a car with him where we were captive without distractions and free to have an open and honest conversation.

When I offered to give him a ride to Bismarck from Fargo for an Historical Society event we were both participating in, I thought it might be a quiet ride. After all, we had different political views, had taken shots at each other during campaigns and were from different generations.

However, after I returned Bill to his Fargo home I told Nancy; “That was just one of the best experiences I have had in a long, long time!” To spend many hours exclusively with a man of Governor Guy’s stature and experience was an opportunity of a life time indeed.

During the drive he talked about his military service and I had this vision of a young, strapping lad in uniform doing whatever it takes to defend our freedom. Bill told me about his first job and then when he started his first business. He was all about hard work, making the best of things and trying to provide a better life for his family. His son Bill the 3rd was a classmate of mine in Bismarck and I know the Governor was able to help his wife Jean raise a wonderful family.

But I was most impressed with his talk about getting into politics and his desire to help make North Dakota a better place. Bill Guy talked about the rigors of campaigning and the difficulty of the political system. We talked about getting elected and then having the responsibility to deliver to the people the policies and ideas talked about in the campaign. He was open with his feelings about wins and losses and how it is important to just keep moving forward. We could share frustrations with the legislature and how you deal with members of your own political parties when they have different views.

As the Governor weaved the stories of his life together for me, I could see the consistency of his ideals and unwavering principles throughout his life and how that made him a person who could be trusted and relied upon. He loved and cared for his family, his community and his state and his presence made us all better people.

Governor Bill Guy was humble about his impact on North Dakota. However it is easy to see by those who followed him that his work and efforts for the people of the state he loved so much, will continue to provide positive results for many generations to come. I am proud to have known him.