North Dakota's longest-serving state's attorney currently in office retires

MAYVILLE, N.D.--Stuart Larson remembers watching episodes of "Perry Mason" when he was young. When he saw the show about a defense attorney defending falsely accused suspects, Larson said he knew he wanted to grow up to be a lawyer.

MAYVILLE, N.D.-Stuart Larson remembers watching episodes of "Perry Mason" when he was young. When he saw the show about a defense attorney defending falsely accused suspects, Larson said he knew he wanted to grow up to be a lawyer.

"In the real world, you don't always have those Perry Mason moments, but they pop up eventually," he said in a phone interview on Friday, his last official day as the Traill County state's attorney.

The 66-year-old announced his retirement in October after serving the county for 38 years, the longest any elected state's attorney currently serving a county in North Dakota has served. The honor of the longest-serving state's attorney is believed to belong to the late Fabian Noack, who served multiple terms from 1959 to 2002 for Foster County, according to his obituary. Noack died Dec. 12, 2014, at age 84.

Larson, who grew up in Cloquet, Minn., a city of about 12,000 residents 20 miles west of Duluth, graduated in 1975 from UND before moving to Hillsboro, N.D., and joining the Vinje and Engelman law firm in Mayville, N.D. It wasn't long before he ran for the Traill County state's attorney post in 1978.

He won the election against incumbent Dewel Viker Jr. of Hillsboro, according to a report in the Hillsboro Banner. He then took office in January 1979 and was re-elected nine times, spending almost his entire career prosecuting cases for Traill County while serving as a legal representative for the County Commission.


The post is part time, meaning Larson continued with his private practice, as well as doing taxes for clients.

He said his time as a prosecutor has been spent seeking justice for victims, though he noted justice is not always black and white. He also said the justice system is about dealing with people and treating them with respect.

"One of the keys to overall justice is treating people well so they are not antagonized by the criminal system," he said.

He said Hillsboro was a great place to raise his family of two daughters with his wife, Kathy. He noted that the small-town atmosphere means you'll likely hear about issues impacting your children.

"In my case, the extreme happened because my girls didn't date in high school because (I) scared the crap out of all of their boyfriends," he joked.

But all joking aside, he said a small town such as Hillsboro offers an excellent education through its schools, with the community accepting his family as one of their own.

He also noted the location of Hillsboro, which sits halfway between Grand Forks and Fargo.

"One of the neat things is we are 45 minutes from either way, from two great communities: Grand Forks and Fargo," he said. "There are a lot of communities in this country that can't be rural, can't be small-town, and have that kind of connection if you want to go someplace with great services. That has turned out to be a great asset."


Larson, who has moved to his retirement home near the lake in Park Rapids, Minn., with his wife, will be replaced by Steele County State's Attorney Charles Stock, who was appointed by the Traill County Commission to complete Larson's term. Since Larson retired halfway through his 10th term, the seat will be up for election in November 2018.

What he said he will miss the most is the people he has gotten to know over the years. He had lunch with law enforcement officers once a week over the past 15 years.

"It's been a good 40 years. There are excellent people working in our courthouse. I had a really good working relationship with our county commissioners, all 20 of them," he said of past and present commissioners.

"It's people you are going to end up missing."

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