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A great leader was lost, will be missed

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Rep. William (Bill) Kretschmar this week. He will be greatly missed.

Rep. Kretschmar or "Kretsch" as he was known to many of his friends and colleagues was long referred to as the "Dean of the House" of Representatives in North Dakota. Having served there, with the exception of a four-year hiatus, since first being elected in 1973, his experience and institutional memory were very valuable during those many years.

So knowledgeable was he that he was the obvious choice to be the House "Parliamentarian", the one an unsure Speaker (the Speaker of the House is new every session) could turn to for a ruling on a difficult matter concerning House Rules, Parliamentary Procedure or Mason's Manual (the governing book for legislative procedure, similar to Roberts Rules of Order for many other types of meetings).

Rep. Kretschmar, himself, served a term as Speaker of the House, as well.

When I first came to the Legislature, in the 1995 Session, Rep. Kretschmar chaired the Judiciary Committee, the "A" Committee to which I was assigned. His able leadership, knowledge, and expertise, tempered by kindness, mutual respect, and approachability, set the standard--not only for that Committee and that Session, but for my entire Legislative tenure--of what a Chairman should be.

Privileged to be charged with the responsibilities of a chairman, myself, on the Constitutional Revision and Administrative Rules Committees and of the Council of State Governments, in succeeding years, I was very mindful of the standard he'd set and of the principles which made him such an excellent chairman and have, in many ways, tried to pattern my leadership style, as a chairman, after his own.

In recent years, roles were reversed. I now have the honor of chairing the House Judiciary Committee, where he once set the example for this freshman legislator. What's more, he remained on the Judiciary Committee, under my leadership, for years until his absence from the Legislature, beginning this year. It was a true case of the student learning from the master and putting what he'd learned into practice.

During those recent years, Rep. Kretschmar was called upon often for his legal and legislative expertise, as the Committee did its work. He occupied a seat of honor at the Committee table but, more importantly, in the hearts of those who knew him and those with whom he worked. As I've told my Committee members each Legislative Session, I learned more about how to be a good chairman from Rep. Kretschmar than from anyone else.

My relationship with Rep. Kretschmar actually dates back years before I came to the Legislature, however. My father was an insurance agent who served on the board of directors of an insurance company which Bill Kretschmar served as its attorney. I first met him during those years, probably when I was in high school.

Years later, when my father passed away, scanning the many who had shown up to pay their respects, there was Bill Kretschmar in the crowd.

After I was elected, he was one of the first legislators I approached to rekindle that acquaintance and begin our tenure together as colleagues.

Rep. Kretschmar was a true gentleman who carried himself with humble competence and demonstrated grace and respect both toward his colleagues and the public who we serve. He set the standard--which we still follow in North Dakota--of how to disagree (as we inevitably will--and did, from time to time) without being disagreeable.

That long-standing principle, sadly, is largely lost on the national scene and in many states, today. Because of people like Bill Kretschmar, it still lives in North Dakota.

Kretsch, we'll miss you more than you know. Rest In Peace.

Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-13

West Fargo