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After nearly 30 years, Gary Malm has one more Grand Forks County Commission meeting

When Gary Malm decided to run for the Grand Forks County Commission almost 30 years ago, his wife, Carol's, only condition was that she would not campaign for him.

Gary Malm in his home on November 12, 2018. Photo by Bonnie Meibers/Grand Forks Herald

When Gary Malm decided to run for the Grand Forks County Commission almost 30 years ago, his wife, Carol's, only condition was that she would not campaign for him.

Malm went on to be elected and re-elected seven times, totaling nearly 28 years of service. Each time, Carol held to that one condition. Malm's last meeting as a county commissioner is Tuesday.

Gary and Carol met in Climax, Minn.

Carol was married to farmer who was killed in a car crash shortly after Gary moved there.

"Her and I went together for a while and I said 'Well, either we have to cut it off or get married,' " Malm said. "So she decided she wanted to get married."


As the couple grew older, Gary has started to rely on Carol for things he used to be able to do himself.

"She keeps track of all the dates, all the places I'm supposed to be," Malm said, looking at Carol with a smile.

When he was first elected to the commission, after teaching at Grand Forks Central High he would run to the county building for meetings. As time passed, he began to drive there. Now his wife drives him because he no longer can.

"I've got to keep her happy because she's a wonderful person and she's so good to me, so when she says something-I used to say 'If you say jump, I'll say 'how high?' " Malm said. "If you said jump now I'd end up on the floor and then we'd have to call 911."

Busy career

Malm starts many of his mornings at the Grand Forks Senior Center, drinking coffee with his friends. About six of them gather.

Malm has been many things in his 81 years, a teacher, a soldier, a grandfather.

Malm graduated from UND in 1958 and went to teach in Kensal, N.D.


"We had a very large faculty there," Malm said. "The superintendent, the principal and myself."

Malm then taught in Climax, where he met Carol. The couple moved to Grand Forks, where Malm would teach economics at Central High.

"I told my wife we'd be in Grand Forks for four or five years and then we'd move on to something else," Malm said. "And we stayed until I retired."

Malm taught a total of 41 years.

Before meeting Carol, Malm was drafted into the Army. He served two years. Eight months of which he spent in Germany at the Berlin Wall.

"We were called STRAC, Strategic Army Corps," Malm said. "We said it was Stupid Troopers Running Around Circles."

Malm said he met a lot of interesting people in the service. One of his buddies, from New Boston, Ohio, still sends him a note about once a year, checking to see if Malm is still alive.

"And I just write him back, 'Yes, I'm still alive,' " Malm said.


Carol already had three children when she and Gary got married.

"I had a ready-made family!" Malm said.

Gary and Carol had one son together. He died of cancer six years ago.

They have three surviving children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Commissioner Malm

Malm is known for asking "Where is the money coming from?" or "Is it in the budget?" during presentations to the commission.

Malm said that if someone hadn't suggested to him that he run, he never would have.

"If I asked you what a county commissioner does, would you know?" Malm said.

In his time on the commission, Malm helped build the new jail, the Thompson Bridge and renovated the county building after the 1997 flood.

He also helped to reorganize the structure of staff in the county, which he said made it more efficient. Malm and his fellow commissioners at the time replaced a couple of elected positions in the county with hired staff.

"That was a real asset because when you hire someone you hire someone with the skills to do the job, that wasn't the person always being elected," Malm said.

Malm also serves on the Airport Authority Board, the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Metropolitan Planning Organization and served on the Park Board for 14 years.

After this week, Malm will be done with all of his involvements.

"I'll be glad to be done," Malm said. "But I'm not sure if my wife is looking forward to having me around so much."

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