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Lars Sponheim

Lars Sponheim, 2004
Personal data
Date of birthMay 23, 1957(age 59)
Place of birthHalden, Norway
Political partyLiberal Party
Member of Parliament for Hordaland
In office1993 - 2009
Minister of Trade and Industry
In office17 October 1997 - 17 March 2000
Succeeded byOdd Eriksen
Preceded byGrete Knudsen
Minister of Agriculture and Food
In office19 October 2001 - 17 October 2005
Succeeded byTerje Riis-Johansen
Preceded byBjarne Håkon Hanssen
Governor of Hordaland
In office19 March 2010 - 19 March 2016
Preceded bySvein Alsaker

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Lars Sponheim (born 23 May 1957) is a Norwegian politician. He was leader of the Liberal Party from 1996 to 2010. He was a member of the Storting from 1993 to 2009, and a government minister from 1997 to 2000 and from 2001 to 2005. He is the current County Governor of Hordaland, serving since March 2010.

Sponheim was born in Halden, Østfold. In 1981 he achieved a degree in agricultural science at the Agricultural University of Norway. From 1988 to 1991, he was mayor of his home municipality, Ulvik in Hordaland. He is also a farmer, and with his family he runs the ancestral farm, Sponheim, in Ulvik. He was elected to parliament as the Liberal Party's only representative in the 1993 election. During his campaign he pledged that he would walk from his home in Ulvik to Oslo if elected, which he did. During his first term in parliament he tried to carve a place in Norwegian politics for the Liberal Party, who had been out of parliament since the 1985 election, and to make the party a potential partner in a new non-socialist government. In this he succeeded in the 1997 elections when the Liberal Party gained 5 new seats in parliament and became junior partner in the centrist first cabinet of Kjell Magne Bondevik. Sponheim became party leader in 1996, succeeding Odd Einar Dørum, before stepping down in 2010. He is the longest serving leader in the partys history.

In the first cabinet of Bondevik, from October 1997 to March 2000, Sponheim was Minister of Trade and Industry. His main project in this position was to reduce the number of laws and regulations restricting business, especially small business. In the second Bondevik cabinet, from October 2001 to October 2005, he was Minister of Agriculture and Food. He used this position to promote Norwegian food in general and local agricultural specialties in particular, and to implement reforms aimed at making Norwegian agriculture more competitive. He also gained a lot of publicity for criticizing Norwegians traveling to Sweden in order to buy cheaper food, calling it "Harry".

Sponheim was elected to a fourth consecutive term in the Storting in the 2005 election.

In the 2009 election, the Liberal Party suffered a major defeat and lost eight out of their ten seats in parliament, including Sponheim's seat in Hordaland. Following this defeat, Sponheim announced on the election night that he would resign as party leader when the Liberal Party convenes in the spring 2010. On 19 March 2010, it was announced that Sponheim would become the new County Governor of Hordaland, replacing the retiring Svein Alsaker. As county governor, Sponheim came into a dispute with the Bergen city government when he agreed with the opposition that the 2011 budget for Bergen illegally considered extraordinary dividend from BKK as regular income, and not as income which must be used for investments.

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