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Longtime Friend to Education Named 2017 Alumnus of the Year

bobmartinson.jpgIn 1972, the North Dakota Republican Party engaged in a big push to get "women and kids involved" in running for office, Bob Martinson says. That year, he was the kid.

In 2017, Martinson became the longest serving legislator in the state. A veteran of 22 legislative sessions, he still gets excited going into every session. "It's like the first day of school," he says.

A self-described "hometown guy", Martinson enrolled at Bismarck Junior College in 1965 after graduating from Bismarck High School.

"To me, BJC was a logical choice. It's always been a good school."

The faculty left a strong impression. He cites Mike McCormack, Doris Orr, Paul Swanson, Judy Engen, and of course Jane Grey Smith as teachers of note. He particularly remembers Smith's energetic force on campus.

He describes how she'd encourage the students to push themselves on stage, holding her hands about a foot apart noting "it's this big" then spread her arms as wide as they would go and tell the students "and it needs to be THIS big."

"If I had a gazillion dollars I'd have a center for the performing arts named after Jane Grey Smith," he says.

He graduated from BSC in 1967 and says his education more than prepared him to go on to the University of North Dakota, and later the University of Mary where he earned his four-year degree in 1972.

Martinson enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1969, and retired as lieutenant colonel. He put in active duty time, and trained in Germany, Korea, Honduras, Panama and Ecuador.

"I'm a patriot, and thoroughly enjoyed the military."

He had a variety of staff positions in the Guard from maintenance officer to head of the state medical unit.

"Every time you learn your job they transfer you to another position."

He's applied that flexibility outside of the service as well. Over the years he's owned a pub, worked in sales, been involved in filmmaking, advertising, and photography. He's also worked in the oil industry as a land man.

Legislatively, Martinson was the North Dakota House Majority Leader from 1993-95. He serves on the Appropriations Committee as well as the committee's Education and Environment Division. He also chairs the House Procedural Committee on Employment.

He stepped down from office in 1997 to serve as the North Dakota Tourism Director, then ran again in District 35 in 2000. The behind the scenes nature of his role in the Tourism department was great fun, Martinson says.

"That was the best job in the world. It's a small ad agency and the state is your client. I love everything about it," he says.

Martinson and his wife, Dr. Jodi Roller, travel widely, and Martinson engages people wherever he goes, Roller says. He doesn't just make nice with his neighbors in line, across the counter or across the aisle, he makes friends with them. "He really cares about people. he helps them out and goes the extra mile," Roller says.

As a legislator, Martinson believes in supporting children and elderly and in the importance of education.

He remains a fan and supporter of his alma mater. "A community college is more in tune with the community than a big school is. Education is key to the future.