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Odermann, Ness among nominees for SBHE seat

Two men in western North Dakota are among the final three candidates for a seat on the North Dakota Board of Higher Education. The state Department of Public Instruction unanimously endorsed Belfield rancher James Odermann and Hazen Public School...

Two men in western North Dakota are among the final three candidates for a seat on the North Dakota Board of Higher Education.
The state Department of Public Instruction unanimously endorsed Belfield rancher James Odermann and Hazen Public Schools Superintendent Mike Ness as finalists to fill a seat vacated by Kirsten Diederich, who resigned from her position as the board’s chairperson last month.
Alice Hoffert, a retired University of North Dakota administrator from Grand Forks, was also endorsed unanimously.
Odermann, who also owns a public relations firm, said he applied for the position because he thought there were transparency issues with the board that “really bothered me.”
“I don’t know if I have all the answers, but I certainly thought that I had some experiences that I might be able to help,” Odermann said. “If I can, I’m surely willing to share those talents.”
Most recently, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem found the State Board of Higher Education was in violation of the state’s open meetings law when at a meeting last year the board asked attendees to leave while members discussed certain issues plaguing the board. Stenehjem said it was unlikely people attending the meeting felt they had a real choice to stay when Diederich asked attendees to leave, even though she said they could stay. The higher education board and university system have faced other allegations of open records and meetings violations.
The university system is also backing a bill that would allow the higher education board to consider the hiring or firing of the chancellor in executive session unless the chancellor or candidate being considered asks for the discussion to be public. It would also make the records and interviews conducted for evaluations of college and university presidents private with only the final performance reviews being public record.
Odermann was among the final three candidates for the higher education board once before when he applied for an open seat 15 years ago, he said, adding he wants to make North Dakota a better place.
Diederich explained her decision to step down from the board as not wanting to be a distraction, but said she felt she had accomplished “some great work in the last year and a half.”
“I was becoming a center of attention, and that’s not where I need to be,” she previously told Forum News Service. “Our institutions and our system should be the center of attention, not a single board member.”
Terry Hjelmstad replaced Diederich as chairman of the board.
The three nominees will be forwarded to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who will make a recommendation to the state Senate on who should fill the position. That person will serve the remainder of Diederich’s term, which ends June 30, 2018.
Ness did not immediately return a message for comment.
Of the seven people who originally applied for the position, two from Grand Forks withdrew. They were director of the Community Violence Intervention Center Kristi Hall-Jiran and attorney Richard Olson.

Baumgarten is the news editor of The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-456-1210.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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