Hanson at home in Bemidji: A BHS and BSU grad, Beltrami County Attorney says he’s here for the long haul

BEMIDJI--David Hanson finally has his dream job. After losing his 2014 bid to become Beltrami County's lead attorney, Hanson bided his time in nearby Clearwater County. But when Annie Claesson-Huseby--who defeated Hanson four years ago by just 55...

David Hanson took over as Beltrami County Attorney Jan. 2 and he plans to run for the position again this fall. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI-David Hanson finally has his dream job.

After losing his 2014 bid to become Beltrami County's lead attorney, Hanson bided his time in nearby Clearwater County. But when Annie Claesson-Huseby-who defeated Hanson four years ago by just 556 votes-left her position as Beltrami County Attorney to become a Ninth District judge, the Bemidji native was eager to try again.

"An opportunity arose. I had to jump at it," Hanson said. "It's the job that I ran to do three years ago, it's one I'm very passionate about. And when opportunity opens the door, you've got to go through it."

The Beltrami County Board chose Hanson to fill the vacancy in November. He came out ahead of federal prosecutor Clifford Wardlaw and Assistant Beltrami Attorney Katie Nolting, with three of the five county commissioners voting to hire him.

Though he has lived in St. Paul, worked in other counties and had his own private practice, Hanson considers Bemidji home. He grew up here and graduated from Bemidji High School before attending BSU.


After college he worked in construction before attending law school at the University of St. Thomas in the Twin Cities. After getting his law degree, Hanson moved back up north to work as an assistant Clearwater County attorney, later moved with his wife to St. Paul, but quickly returned.

"Once we started having kids we moved back north," Hanson said. "I mean it's my's here, and I just love the area. It really is home, is the best way to say it."

Though he's only worked as the Beltrami County Attorney since Jan. 2, Hanson hopes to be in it for the long haul. He's already decided to run for the position this fall, when his term is up.

"I've got four little kids that are going to grow up in Bemidji," Hanson said. "The ability to make a true difference, and again hopefully affect crime rates, hopefully affect things like recidivism and things like, you know, mental health and chemical addiction here in my home county...that's what I'm most excited about."

Opioid crisis

During his tenure Hanson hopes to address the opioid crisis, the lack of courthouse staff and the county's high crime rate. He hit the ground running and, in February, convinced the county board to join more than a dozen counties and American Indian tribes and file a lawsuit against national opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Hanson hopes the suit will result in a settlement or judgement that would give the county money to be used for addiction services such as a drug court.

"Over time, opioid manufacturers and distributors have used aggressive marketing to consumers and to, frankly, doctors, to market them to sell their products without the foresight of the risk that's involved," Hansons aid. "More of the larger counties in the state of Minnesota are doing this. We would be foolish if we didn't join in on it."


Hanson also plans to address what he says are "drastically low" staffing levels within the county attorney's office. In a memo submitted to the county board, Hanson asked for an additional attorney. According to the memo, the case-to-attorney ratio was 481-to-1 last year, and that there were 442 uncharged cases when he took office. The new attorney's salary would be covered by the budget. He is set to speak at the Tuesday, March 20, county board meeting.

Aside from those two initiatives, Hanson plans to work on getting to know people and learning about the county's needs.

"Right now I'm still in that transition phase, and so I've got my listening hat on," he said. "It's very much an observation mode, and then once I've gathered my information, make the changes and go forward."

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