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10 applicants submit names for state board seats

GRAND FORKS—10 people, including a Grand Forks legislator and a former UND professor, have applied to fill two seats on the board that governs North Dakota's colleges and universities.

The seats are those of incumbent members Kevin Melicher and Mike Ness, whose four-year terms on the State Board of Higher Education are due to expire June 30. Both men are voting members of the SBHE and were appointed by former Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

Ness, a retired K-12 school superintendent and teacher from Hazen, did not apply for another term on the board, to which he was appointed in February 2015. Melicher, a Fargo optometrist appointed to the board in 2014, applied for another four-year term.

Beyond Melicher, the list of candidates released Wednesday, April 4, by the Department of Public Instruction—the state office that fields SBHE applications—includes nine individuals of varying backgrounds from across North Dakota.

Another one of the applicants, though not an incumbent, has also served on the board. That's Tyrone Langager, a retired Minot physician who served at one point as SBHE president before leaving the organization in the mid-1980s.

Other candidates are drawing from their experiences in law, business or education in hopes of guiding the North Dakota University System.

That group includes Rich Becker, a Grand Forks lawmaker who serves as a Republican in the state House and made a career as a marketing consultant. Becker said he's long been interested in serving on the SBHE and the timing felt right to put in a bid.

He's joined in the applicant pool by former Democratic state Sen. Tom Seymour, who represented a Minot district where he also served as professor emeritus at Minot State University. Seymour now lives in West Fargo and serves on the board of directors for the Cass County Electric Cooperative.

Fellow applicant Kristin Hedger also has some political experience. Hedger serves as vice president of Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing, a company based in western North Dakota that produces components for the aerospace industry. Before that, she served as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. and made an unsuccessful bid to unseat Secretary of State Al Jaeger in the 2006 election.

In the realm of education, the applicants include Allan Skramstad, who currently lives in West Fargo but previously worked as a professor, aviation instructor and safety expert at the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. From the K-12 level, there's Jill Louters, of Sheyenne, who serves as the superintendent of the New Rockford-Sheyenne school district south of Devils Lake. There's also La Lynda Nelson-Blotsky, of Williston, who is vice principal of the Williston Trinity Christian School.

Finally, the legal side of the applicant group includes attorneys Gregory Stites, of Bismarck, and Daniel Traynor, of Devils Lake. Both men are graduates of the UND School of Law.

From here, the applications will be reviewed by a nominating committee chaired by DPI chief Kirsten Baesler, the North Dakota school superintendent. Baesler will eventually recommend finalists to Gov. Doug Burgum, who will make the ultimate choice on board appointees.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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