Grand Forks Sen. Ray Holmberg receives prestigious Henry Havig Award at Chamber event

Since 1977, the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Chamber has presented the Henry Havig Award to a local resident who excels at community service. It's the highest honor a person from Greater Grand Forks can receive for community service.

Senator Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, gives an acceptance speech after being named the 45th recipient of the Henry Havig Award for Community Service, on Monday, Dec. 28. Adam Kurtz/Grand Forks Herald

A long-serving state legislator has been awarded the Greater Grand Forks business community’s most prestigious award.

Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, was honored as the 45th recipient of the Henry Havig Award for Community Service during a reception at the Ground Round restaurant on Monday, Dec. 28. He was presented the award before a gathering of previous Henry Havig Award recipients, as well as several event sponsors.

“If you look at Sen. Holmberg’s record and all the things that he's been able to be part of bringing back to Grand Forks and making happen for Grand Forks, he's certainly deserving,” said Chamber President/CEO Barry Wilfahrt. “He's benefited everybody in this community from being really the quarterback on the water treatment plant funding, to the law school, medical school and Grand Sky."

Wilfahrt noted the impact of those local projects and said Holmberg has been "leading in every one of those areas.”

Holmberg grew up on a farm near Cummings and is a UND graduate. For years, he worked at Grand Forks Central High School, first as a teacher from 1976 to 1984 then as a guidance counselor until 2002.


Holmberg was first elected to the North Dakota Senate in 1976, and he's been reelected 11 times. In 2003, he became chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a position in which he has served longer than any other senator in state history. At 44 years, Holmberg is the longest-serving senator from Grand Forks and the third longest-serving senator in North Dakota history.

Throughout his tenure in the Legislature, Holmberg has led numerous efforts to improve Grand Forks and state residents' lives, including leading the charge for tuition reciprocity between North Dakota and Minnesota, in 1983.

After the Flood of 1997, Holmberg worked to help secure a $52 million aid package from the Legislature for flood protection and to assist in Grand Forks’ rebuilding efforts. In 2015 and subsequent sessions, Holmberg also worked to secure $70 million in funding for the city’s $153 million water treatment plant. He was instrumental in allocating the necessary funding to help establish Grand Sky, the nation’s first drone tech park and UAS airport.

Holmberg also has worked to get funding for several projects at UND, including for the medical and law schools, and the new Nistler College of Business building, as well the university’s steam plant. He led the effort to get the North Dakota Museum of Art recognized as the state’s art museum. The Rural Art Initiative brings the museum’s permanent collection to rural towns across the state.

"Looking at the long list of community leaders, movers and shakers all, who have been named before me is a humbling experience and I can only say thank you, thank you so much," Holmberg said in his acceptance speech.

The Havig Award is usually presented at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting, which draws more than 500 attendees. This year's award ceremony was held privately, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The award is named after longtime business and community service advocate Henry Havig, and was first presented in 1977. The award is considered the highest honor a person from the Greater Grand Forks area can receive for community service. Past recipients determine who will be honored, through nominations from the community.

All-time winners, and the year for which they were awarded, are: Charles Goodman, 1977; Hugo Magnuson, 1978; Edward Lander, 1979; Thomas Clifford, 1980; Lawrence Bue, 1981; Harry Rice, 1982; Jean Kiesau, 1983; Clarence Sande, 1984; Edward Christenson, 1985; Don Miller, 1986; Ray Bostrom, 1987; Richard Fiala, 1988; Richard Wold, 1989; James Dalglish, 1990; Don Lindgren, 1991; Earl Strinden, 1992; Thomas McElroy Jr., 1993; John Marshall, 1994; Curt Magnuson, 1995; Patrick Dooley, 1996; James Gjerset, 1997; Ken Towers, 1998; Don Larsen, 1999; Walter Swingen, 2000; Hal Gershman, 2001; Robert Kerr, 2002; Marlan Helgeson, 2003; Bob Peabody, 2004; Greg Gerloff, 2005; Randy Newman, 2006; Dr. Robert Boyd, 2007; Dave McFarlane, 2008; Gordon Caldis and Gerry Joyce, 2009; Don Fisk, 2010; Wes Rydell, 2011; Judi Paukert, 2012; Henry Tweten, 2013; Jim Hansen, 2014; Duane Hafner, 2015; Marijo Shide, 2016; Lonnie Laffen, 2017; James R. Bradshaw, 2018; Kristi Magnuson Nelson, 2019; Ray Holmberg, 2020.


Ray Holmberg
Ray Holmberg

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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