Meet a Member
Relationships Key to Judge’s Sense of Service, Leadership
By Krista Rinehart, CSG Toll Fellows Program Director
North Dakota District Judge Daniel Narum’s role model for entering public service seems, at first blush, to be a typical one.
“I entered public service because of my father’s influence,” he said.
But unlike many public servants who note a desire to follow in a parent’s footsteps as a driving force in their decision to enter the public sector, Narum’s father never held an elective office nor worked for the government.
“He spent his life bettering our community and offering to help anyone in need,” Narum said. “He used solar energy and recycled long before these were popular.”
Dennis Narum should be remembered for “spending a lifetime building a community in which his friends could live,” his eulogist said at his funeral.
While Daniel Narum didn’t grow up learning to pound the pavement and knock on doors or watching his father attend public rallies and events, the lessons he learned from his service-oriented father led to the same outcome.
“That sense of community is an important part of my vision for America and for North Dakota,” said Narum. “I learned from my father, service to one’s community is what creates and sustains a community. So I serve.”
Narum’s life of leadership began early, when in 1987 he entered the U.S. Navy prior to attending college. He credits his time in the Navy with preparing him to lead later in life.
“I believe that my military service put me on a path toward leadership,” said Narum. “As a young enlisted man, I was continually given leadership assignments that were usually reserved for those of a higher rank. As I succeeded at these assignments, my confidence grew exponentially and I began to see myself as a leader. It is a profound paradigm shift—beginning to see yourself as a leader.”
After completing his military service and education, Narum entered private practice as an attorney in Lamoure, N.D., where he found yet another strong role model—Theodore F. “Ted” Kessel, who founded the law firm where Narum was a partner before becoming a judge.
“Ted was my close friend and mentor,” said Narum. “Ted was a gentleman lawyer of the highest order and a lifelong public servant. I aspire to the leadership and public service standard Ted set for me. It is a high bar!”
Narum was selected as a member of the 2010 Toll Fellows class, where he made connections that are proving the test of time and distance. Narum recently completed the relay event at the Fargo Marathon with Tolls classmate Laura DeVivo of North Carolina, who represented the legislative branch. The pair finished third and are already training for next year’s marathon with high hopes for a first or second place finish.
The cross-country friendship is just one unique aspect of the bonds forged at the Toll Fellows program each year. Because the leadership program brings together people from all three branches of state government, participants often form cross-branch friendships.
Fostering interbranch cooperation and relationships is important in governance, Narum said. He believes it’s also important for judicial officials to educate other leaders on the role the judiciary plays in our government and lives.
“We need to invite executives and legislators in to our mysterious world for a day,” said Narum. “Having them spend a day, or even a session in court, provides a concrete experience that will help them understand the needs of our system and where all of those resources go that we keep asking them to provide.”
For someone whose relationships and personal experiences have guided his path to leadership and service, communication and relationship building are key to Narum’s philosophy of governance.
“Public education is the key to an informed constituency,” said Narum. “We judges need to get out and speak to civic organizations and groups and even school children to educate them about our branch of government.”