Has roots in North Dakota--father immigrated from Norway in 1923, coming first to Grand Forks to live with earlier immigrant relatives.
Fascination with airplanes led him to enlist in the Air Force as a private. Upon commissioning as a second lieutenant, first assignment was flying the RB-45C Tornado, the Air Force's first multi-engine jet reconnaissance bomber. Many years later would be directing a $70 million government program to search for missing American military personnel, among them crew members of a similar RB-45C shot down by Russian MIGs over Korea. Had superb mentors who channeled him into many different career fields--aircraft operations, aircraft and missile maintenance at various levels of Air Force organization, plans, engineering, and personnel. These assignments often put him into staff jobs, particularly in the Pentagon, where skills in management, research, writing, and interpersonal relations were honed.
Commanded a fighter aircraft unit during the war in Southeast Asia. Close-air-support and search-and-rescue missions flown on a daily basis became a major focal point for future work as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Matters, appointed by the President in 1994. Flew 241 combat missions in the A-1H/J Skyraider over Vietnam and Laos, and received a number of decorations, among them six Distinguished Flying Crosses, sixteen Air Medals, and the Bronze Star Medal. During Air Force career, flew 4,200 hours, mostly in jet aircraft.
Upon being selected for promotion to Brigadier General, was assigned to Moscow, USSR, as the Defense Attache running the Defense Intelligence Agency's operation during 1975-1977. This took on even greater significance when seventeen years later he was appointed the senior official for the Department of Defense on the US-Russia Joint Commission for POW/MIA Matters.
In May of 1994, he agreed to run the federal government's POW/MIA program--the search for the fullest possible accounting of missing Americans from all previous wars.
A dozen or so trips to Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) included participation as a principal member of three Presidential Delegations in constant negotiations with the leadership of those countries. During this time, diplomatic relations were established with the Vietnamese government, largely as a result of office's analysis of Vietnamese cooperation and progress on the POW/MIA issue.
Work on the US-Russia Joint Commission, in spite of numerous plenary sessions in both Moscow and Washington, was disappointing, seeing very little progress and cooperation on the part of the Russians. A major success was realized in the process of leading a U.S. Defense Department/State Department delegation to meet with a North Korean delegation directly for the first time in over forty years to explore the possibility of mutual cooperation on the POW/MIA issue. Over a period of eighteen months, concluded agreements for U.S. teams of experts working inside North Korea, researching, investigating, and excavating crash sites and burial grounds in search of those 8,100 plus Americans still missing from the Korean War.
Traveled approximately half a million miles conducting business with those governments as well as the governments in the former Soviet Republics and in Eastern Europe. Traveled extensively throughout the United States, meeting with family members and veterans organizations in all of the major metropolitan areas to reestablish good lines of communication and build bridges of mutual confidence, which had been neglected for too long. Testified on numerous occasions before Congress on progress concerning this issue. Public speaking became second nature, telling the story and receiving valuable feedback to help do a job better.
BSE (Mechanical Engineering), University of Michigan.
MSE (Aerospace Engineering), Air Force Institute of Technology.
Graduate of Harvard Business School's Advance Management Program.
JD, University of North Dakota School of Law.
After retiring from the United States Air Force, farmed for a few years. Graduated from law school at UND in 1981. As a third year law student, interned with then-House Majority Leader Earl Strinden during the 1981 legislative session.
As the elected State's Attorney for Griggs County during 1983-1993, appeared in court almost weekly. Prosecuted a wide range of criminal cases, including homicide, DUI, child abuse, juvenile cases, child support, and commitments. Several cases, mostly DUI convictions, were argued on appeal before the North Dakota Supreme Court. Dealt with the tax protester individuals in 1983, and in a related and somewhat historic case commenced an action to have the sheriff of Griggs County removed from office. In that instance, worked closely with the Governor's special prosecutor to bring the matter to a hearing. The Governor concurred with the Judge's recommendation that he be removed.
City Attorney for Cooperstown, and counsel for the Cooperstown Municipal Airport Authority and the Griggs County Hospital-Nursing Home Association, dealing with a wide range of issues.
In private civil practice, focused on real property, probate, estate planning, tax preparation, and family law. Represented plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits, generally associating with a Fargo attorney.
For a time mediated for the North Dakota State Ag Department on behalf of financially distressed farmers. Interested in Alternate Dispute Resolution, recently became certified as a mediator by the Justice Center of Atlanta.
The essence of the government's search for answers concerning its missing military personnel hinges on the discovery of compelling evidence as to a person's fate. For example, mitochondrial DNA now often plays a conclusive role in those cases where other evidence of an artifact nature (an aircraft ejection seat, or pieces of a parachute harness, or a bailout bottle found during excavation of a jet fighter crash site) is not otherwise sufficient.
Background as a lawyer undoubtedly helped in his interaction with the Secretary of Defense. Secretary Perry presented him with the Secretary of Defense Award for Outstanding Public Service.
Has served on various corporate boards, currently as a director on the Cooperstown/Griggs County Economic Development Corporation, the Griggs County Hospital-Nursing Home Association, and the Cooperstown Community Activities Authority.
An elder of Zion Lutheran Church in Cooperstown, and also a member of the local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
Speaker on numerous occasions around the State concerning his experiences in the former Soviet Union, and recent experience with the POW/MIA issue.
Member and supporter of the North Dakota Museum of Art and the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Member of the Griggs County Council on the Arts (GCCA) since its inception. Has sung approximately fifteen years in the annual GCCA Christmas Concert Choir in Cooperstown, directed by Helen Sayer.
Married to JoAnne.
Resides on Volden Farm, near Luverne, North Dakota.
Three of four children graduated from NDSU. Fourteen grandchildren.
Plants trees--hundreds of them--spruce, cedar, lilacs, poplar, cottonwood, birch, Russian olive. Reads--historical biographies, military history, novels by Dale Brown, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, etc. Music is an ever-present element. The Scriptures, and portions of the Old Testament in particular, are an all-important part of study.
Plays a supporting role to JoAnne as she celebrates her tenth summer as owner-manager and the creative and artistic innkeeper of Volden Farm Bed & Breakfast (www.broadvu.com/voldenfarm).
Strengths you would bring to the Court
The perspective of a generalist rather than a specialist, with a good foundation in the law and the practice of law in North Dakota.
Breadth and depth of education and experience in several disciplines, i.e., law, engineering, management, aviation, federal government, international diplomacy, international security affairs, national defense, and agriculture.
A good listener, slow to speak, always ready to learn, one who admittedly doesn't have all the answers.
A person of even temperament who handles stress well; patient, but having a great preference for clear and concise argument and direct answers, even if it be an "I don't know."
One who generally enjoys whatever work he finds himself in, willing to put in long hours as necessary, but who strives to find a good balance between family and work, not only for myself, but for those who may be my direct reports.
Greatly enjoy the intricacies of case law, and would look forward with anticipation to the research and writing aspect of the Court.
I have been told on occasion during my meetings with the POW/MIA families and veterans that they appreciated the sincerity and openness they found in me as a high level government official. Even in our sometimes difficult meetings with activists and those who viewed the government as an evil entity, invariably I found the counsel and wisdom of Proverbs 3:3, "Let not kindness and truth forsake you---," to be effective and even rewarding at times.
I am comfortable in representing an agency of the government in public forum, e.g., public speaking, and could foresee opportunities for such in our schools and universities.
Serve as an example that even an average law student can aspire to lofty heights.
An eagerness to continue to acquire wisdom and knowledge in the law.
A commitment to continue many years of public service in this new and honorable capacity.
A man of faith and religious conviction born of a life's experiences, including such as a life-threatening tractor rollover accident, and a fighter pilot's "long hours of boredom interspersed with moments of stark terror." This part of my life is very personal to me, I am not a crusader. It's just a central, essential part of what I am, tempered by a clear realization of my frailties.
Last, but not least, the support and encouragement of JoAnne, my life-long partner and reality check these many years.