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Five finalists named for N.D. Historical Society director

BISMARCK -- A search committee that initially considered only internal candidates for the next director of the North Dakota Historical Society but later opened up the search amid objections to the process narrowed the list of applicants to five p...

BISMARCK - A search committee that initially considered only internal candidates for the next director of the North Dakota Historical Society but later opened up the search amid objections to the process narrowed the list of applicants to five people Thursday.
The finalists include two internal candidates who have worked closely with the $51.7 million expansion of the North Dakota Heritage Center: Expansion Coordinator Claudia Berg and Museum Division Director Chris Thompson.
Rick Collin, who worked for the Historical Society from 1995 to 2012 as communications and education director, also made the cut. Collin most recently worked as strategic engagement director at Bismarck advertising firm Odney and will be teaching history this fall as an adjunct professor at the University of Mary.
The other two finalists are Wyoming State Museum Manager Helen B. Louise and Charlene Porsild, co-director and chief development officer of the Santa Fe Indian Market.
The committee plans to meet Sept. 2 to review the results and decide which names to recommend to the full State Historical Board for interviews.
Forty-two people applied to fill the director’s chair after current Director Merl Paaverud retires in November after 13 years at the helm.
Assistant Director David Skalsky said 24 applicants met the minimum job requirements. He and Paaverud applied a scoring system to narrow the list to five candidates “who we felt really met the qualifications the board would consider,” Skalsky said.
On a 100-point scale, Porsild scored the highest with 85 points, followed by Collin with 80 and the other three finalists tied at 75.
The search committee directed Skalsky on Thursday to conduct background checks on the five finalists, including checking with their references and past and current employers. Board chairman Calvin Grinnell appointed five board members to the search committee. Diane Larson, who chairs the search committee, said Wednesday that the committee’s initial decision to post the job internally “was what we were directed to do.”
But board member and state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt objected to the process and called for more openness, and a majority of board members decided at a special meeting Aug. 1 to expand the search. They also set Aug. 20 as the application deadline for the job, which has a salary range of $95,000 to $115,000.
Larson, a state representative from Bismarck, said Thursday she doesn’t believe there’s a preference for an internal candidate.
“I think that there are some real advantages to hiring somebody that’s in here that knows what’s been going on, and there are some real advantages to bringing in somebody new with expanded vision that could bring something new to it,” she said.

Nowatzki is a reporter for Forum News Service. Contact him at 701-255-5607 or at mnowatzki@forumcomm.com .

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