For some people, political and personal lives occupy distinctly different spaces. However, for Ruth Meiers, the political and personal were as inseparable as the bread and butter. In 1985, she became the first woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota. Given her career as a social worker, as well as being a mother of four, it’s not surprising that her favorite duty was being the chair of the Governor’s Commission for Children and Adolescents at Risk (CAAR).
The idea for this commission began in December of 1984. Advocates from the Mental Health Association, the Department of Human Services, the Supreme Court, and the North Dakota Association of Counties met with the Governor and Governor Elect to voice their concerns for children and adolescents at risk – such as those suffering from emotional neglect, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and more. It had been over 64 years since studies of troubled children were conducted in North Dakota.
Their voices were heard, and on this date in 1985, Governor Sinner issued an executive order for a commission to study these issues. The governor appointed members in May. Ruth Meiers strongly supported the commission, meeting with members often and making reports on their progress. She truly believed the work would have a positive impact on the state.
Over forty agencies gave presentations to the commission. Subcommittees then processed this information and presented it to the Governor on July 1, 1986. Unfortunately, this came four months after the initial deadline set by the legislature, leaving no time for additional funding for youth services. Consequently, Ruth Meiers didn’t see the fruit of the commission’s labors. She died in office of cancer in March 1987. A month later, the Legislature allocated one million dollars to fund child welfare programs at the Department of Human Services. With this money, they carried out many of the commission’s recommendations.
Today’s Dakota Datebook was written by Lucid Thomas, drawing upon the book Important Voices by Susan E. Wefald.