Quick, when did Kay Cann of Fargo serve in the North Dakota Legislature? How about Gate City Bank CEO Steve Swiontek? How long ago was Gerald Nye a U.S. senator? Was there really a judge named Gudmundur Grimson?

Trivia to some, interesting history to others, an education for all: That's the value of the 1989 North Dakota Blue Book's 88-page back section, "Dakota Decision Makers."

Now, at last, after 16 years, this most worthwhile part of the North Dakota Blue Book is being updated.

The Blue Book, the all-purpose North Dakota reference book, has been published every two years since 1995, and was published irregularly before that. It contains "information about North Dakota that is not readily available in other publications," as Secretary of State Al Jaeger explained in 2003, when the last edition was released.

"Dakota Decision Makers," an 88-page compendium, made its first - and apparently only - appearance in the 1989 centennial edition of the Blue Book. Edited by Curt Eriksmoen, it was the last Blue Book put out by Secretary of State Ben Meier before he retired after 34 years in office.

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Decision Makers is an alphabetical listing of everyone who has ever been a territorial or state legislator, district or Supreme Court judge, statewide office holder, member of congress, or staffed the 1889 constitutional convention. It shows hometowns, dates of birth and death (if known), offices held and for how long.

Its purpose is best described by the introduction to the list: "So readers can quickly determine in what capacities the various decision makers have served. (With) nearly 10,000 entries involving over 3,500 people ... it may be a difficult task [without the list] for the reader to sort through all of this material to find out where and when their favorite decision makers served."

It's a fascinating read and a great one-stop tutorial of North Dakota's past for anyone with an interest in political science, state government, genealogy or history.

Interestingly, many present-day state legislators' ancestors show up in the compilation from previous legislative sessions, decades ago: Traynor, Maragos, Boucher, Kelsh, Bowman, Belter, Stenehjem, Trenbeath, Tallackson.

Just one for-instance, Fred J. Traynor, who served in the state House in 1909-10, is an uncle of the current Sen. Jack Traynor, R-Devils Lake.

You'll also find people who rose to prominence in business or other fields have a stint of legislating in their past, such as Swiontek (House 1977-84), Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota CEO Mike Unhjem (House, 1975-86) and Wahpeton entrepreneur Ed Shorma (House 1965-66).

One name poignantly links a peaceful small-town North Dakota of the past to present day, urban terrorism. The late Fargo movie theater operator Gordon S. Aamoth, state House from 1957-70 and speaker in 1967, is the namesake and grandfather of Gordon McCannel Aamoth, 32, who grew up in Minneapolis and died on the 104th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Compiling and updating Dakota Decision Makers takes a massive amount of work, as does every part of the Blue Book. But we submit that the listing is more useful to more people and far more interesting than some inclusions in recent Blue Books that contained no Decision Makers.

I mean, come on - a 53-page glossary of agricultural terms? ("Aggregate measure of support: Indicator of the amount of domestic support for agriculture. AMS refers to a measure of the gap between domestic and world prices multiplied by the quantity supported, plus any other commodity-specific transfers." Whew!)

The new Blue Book is currently at the printer's and will be released this fall. Books are sold through the state Heritage Center's gift shop.

Oh, and Kay Cann was in the House in 1975-76. Gerald Nye was U.S. senator from 1925-45. Gudmundur Grimson was a district judge from 1926-49 and a Supreme Court justice from 1949-58.

Cole is The Forum's Capitol correspondent in Bismarck. She can be reached at forumcap@btinet.net