Peterson won’t seek sixth term as N.D. state auditor

BISMARCK - For the first time in more than four decades, someone not named Robert Peterson will lead the state auditor's office in North Dakota after the November 2016 election.

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BISMARCK – For the first time in more than four decades, someone not named Robert Peterson will lead the state auditor’s office in North Dakota after the November 2016 election.

Current Auditor Robert R. Peterson, a Republican, said Wednesday he will retire next year and will not seek a sixth term in office.

Peterson was first elected to the post in 1996, succeeding his father, Robert W. Peterson, who had held the post for 24 years and is the longest-serving auditor in state history.

“I don’t need to tie the record,” Peterson said in an interview in his third-floor Capitol office, where a hand-carved wooden “Bob Peterson” nameplate he inherited from his father sits on his desk.

North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Kelly Armstrong – calling  Peterson “an institution” in the auditor’s office – said two party members are “very interested” in the job, which will pay $105,770 annually for the next officeholder.


He expects a contested race for the auditor nomination at the GOP convention in April and is optimistic about the party’s chances of holding on to seat.

The Democratic-NPL Party has known for some time that Peterson didn’t intend to seek re-election, and some party members have expressed interest but no one is ready to announce, Executive Director Robert Haider said. No Democrat has held the office since 1894.

“We think it’s time for a change,” he said.

Peterson, 64, said he made the decision to retire about two years and let his management staff know then that he was leaning that direction.

“Auditors, we like to plan things,” he said.

He said he announced his retirement now to give others more time to consider a run for the office.

Peterson was born in Fargo and graduated from Williston High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and also took accounting classes at the University of Mary in Bismarck.

Prior to becoming state auditor, he worked as an accounting and budget specialist for the state Land Department from 1978 to 1996. Before that, he was an assistant retail manager for Super Valu Stores in Bismarck for two years.


He said he was encouraged to follow in his father’s footsteps in 1996 and has done so for almost two decades. But Peterson said the most satisfying aspect of his time in office has been bringing in good staff and “getting the job done,” even as it’s become more complicated with changes to accounting standards.

The auditor’s office inspects the finances of state agencies and the North Dakota University System. It also has divisions that conduct audits of local governments and federal royalty payments from oil, gas and coal leases located within the state.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Peterson has done “an outstanding job” as state auditor.

“His record is one of effective and dedicated service to the people of North Dakota,” he said in an emailed statement. “He continued a legacy of honorable public service that began with his father.”

Peterson is married to his wife of 36 years, Kathleen. They have a 26-year-old daughter, Brynn.

He said he’s in good health and wants to do some traveling in retirement.

“It just feels like it’s right. You have to feel that this is the time to walk away and do something else,” he said.

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