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Panel picks 3 finalists for state higher ed board

North Dakota Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle looks at an application Friday for an opening on North Dakota's Board of Higher Education in a North Dakota Supreme Court conference room in the judicial wing of the North Dakota state Capitol in Bismarck.

BISMARCK (AP) -- An oil field geologist, a tribal college administrator and a retired school principal were chosen Friday as finalists for one of two short-term openings on North Dakota's Board of Higher Education.

A screening committee recommended Kathleen Neset, owner of Neset Consulting, of Tioga; Carmelita Lamb, chairwoman of the teacher education department at the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa tribal community college in Belcourt; and Scott Halvorson, a Bismarck school board member and former school administrator.

Five people applied for the open position. The three finalists' names will be forwarded to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who will choose one to finish the term of former board member Claus Lembke.

The Board of Higher Education oversees North Dakota's university system, which has 11 colleges and more than 45,000 students. The board now has two vacancies among its eight voting members.

Wahpeton attorney Richie Smith and Lembke, a Bismarck lobbyist for the North Dakota Realtors' association, both quit recently, saying they were no longer willing to shoulder the workload. The terms of both men end in June 2013.

Neset's application came in after Wednesday's 5 p.m. deadline, though she had been told the deadline was Thursday, said Wayne Sanstead, North Dakota's superintendent of public instruction and chairman of the screening committee.

Another applicant, Rebecca Dorwart, an internal auditor for MDU Resources Group Inc. of Bismarck, withdrew her name from consideration late Thursday, Sanstead said.

The screening committee's members are Sanstead; state Rep. David "Skip" Drovdal, R-Arnegard, the speaker of the North Dakota House; Bismarck Republican state Sen. Ralph Kilzer, the Senate's president pro tempore; Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle; and Dakota Draper, president of the North Dakota Education Association.

Halvorson and Lamb were among the three finalists when Dalrymple made his last appointment to the board in April. He chose Don Morton, a Microsoft Corp. executive in Fargo and a former football coach at North Dakota State University, to succeed Mike Haugen.