North Dakota Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman said Thursday she will leave the Senate when her term expires next year.

New legislative district boundaries approved by lawmakers last month moved her out of District 23, said Heckaman, who has served in the Senate since 2007.

Heckaman, D-New Rockford, was the first woman to serve as Senate minority leader, according to a news release from North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party (NPL).

Pat Hart, Democratic-NPL Party Chair, said the gerrymandering was intentional.

“As I understand, she is the only Senate Minority Leader in the nation to be gerrymandered out of her district,” Hart said in the news release. “I know lines have to be drawn in the process, but other districts have been carved out to ensure Republicans are safe in their districts, while hers is simply deleted.”

Heckaman’s colleagues and others praised her work in the Senate

“Her leadership style is exactly what one would expect from a lifelong special ed teacher – calm, patient, and always building up the strengths in each individual for the success of the whole,” Assistant Senate Minority Leader Erin Oban said in a statement. “Joan has served selflessly, and I’m a better person for having the opportunity to learn from her and serve beside her.”

“Sen. Heckaman is a leader who exemplifies service over self,” House Minority Leader Josh Boschee said. “She has been an incredible mentor to me and so many more North Dakotans."

Both parties in the Senate will elect new leadership when they return to Bismarck on Jan. 4 for the legislative session. Senate Majority Leader Rick Wardner announced Wednesday he was not seeking another term in 2022.