BOWMAN, N.D.-After serving for nearly three decades in the North Dakota Senate, Bill Bowman has made the decision to step away.

Bowman, who served in District 39, which stretches from Williston down to Bowman, said he has decided to retire due to health reasons, but added it was an extremely hard decision.

"I just can't do a good job if I stay there," he said. "I loved it. I loved what I did and I love the rural people. It was a tough decision for me to make."

Bowman was elected to the North Dakota State Senate in 1990. In his first three legislative sessions he served on the Human Services and agricultural committees and served as chairman of the Agricultural committee during the 1995 session. In 1997 Bowman was appointed to the Senate Appropriations committee where he would serve for 11 sessions and became vice chairman.

Bowman said he enjoyed the challenges of tackling an issue, when knowing he and his fellow legislators were on the right side of it.

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"I liked the challenges of an issue I knew we were on the right side of," he said. "You had to prove it to the rest of the Assembly. ... I don't like to brag about stuff like that but it's a rewarding experience when you put your heart and soul into it."

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner described Bowman as a "hard worker" who was "always looking out for the average people."

"He's a people man. He wanted to make sure that things were done right and fair," Wardner said. "He was very fiscally conservative but he had a heart of gold."

Bowman was always a supporter of the oil and gas gross production tax, a certain part of which was promised back to the counties, cities and school districts in western North Dakota. Wardner said Bowman was a "champion" of trying to get money back out to the western part of the state, especially during the oil boom.

"Serving in the Senate for Bill was never about him, it was always about doing what he could for western North Dakota and southwestern North Dakota," Wardner said.

Bowman said the agricultural sector is western North Dakota's "base." He said he was fortunate to be able to work on the research and extension budget during his time in the Legislature, which allowed him to understand what was going on in the industry and where it was going in the future.

"That's where everybody in western North Dakota makes their living is off the land and if the farmers do good then the people in the small towns do good," he said.

Ultimately, Bowman said he hopes that whoever is elected to his seat loves the Legislature as much as he has.

"I just hope that whoever takes my spot enjoys it as much as I did then I'll be happy," he said.