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PRAIRIE PEOPLE: Week ending Dec. 1

Jamestown High principal wins Milken Award

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Adam Gehlhar, principal of Jamestown High School, recently received the Milken Educator Award, which has been described as the “Oscar of teaching.”

Gehlhar (pronounced GAY’-lur) was presented with the honor Nov. 21 during an assembly at Jamestown High, where he is in his second year as principal. He is the first North Dakota Milken recipient since 2009 and the third in the past 10 years.

The high school assembly’s purpose was vaguely described to preserve the surprise for Gehlhar, who will receive an unrestricted $25,000 prize from the Milken Family Foundation. The foundation chooses award recipients from across the country.

Gehlhar’s eyes reddened when the announcement was made, to cheers from his colleagues and students who chanted his name. “I’m still kind of in disbelief,” he said afterward. “I don’t know that I deserve all that honor or credit. It is not about me, it is about the kids.”

Gehlhar was a teacher and administrator in the public schools in West Fargo, N.D., before he moved to Jamestown. He began as an instructor at the district’s STEM Center (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and later worked as an assistant principal at West Fargo High School and Cheney Middle School.

In West Fargo, Gehlhar created an internship program through which students worked with a number of businesses and professionals, including engineers, architects and lawyers. He organized “You’re Hired,” a day-long exercise in which teams of students used an engineering design process to solve problems.

Gehlhar is a graduate of North Dakota State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in social science education and a master’s in secondary education leadership. He served for 12 years in the Army National Guard, including two combat tours in Iraq. A combat engineer and squad leader, Gehlhar was named the 2005 Soldier of the Year for the 141st Engineer Combat Battalion.

– Forum News Service


Growth & Justice names Jane Leonard as president

ST. PAUL – Jane Leonard, a Minnesota policy leader with more than three decades experience in philanthropy and community development, has been selected by the Growth & Justice Board of Directors to succeed Dane Smith as president, beginning Jan. 1.

Growth & Justice is a nonpartisan center for policy research and advocacy that focuses on building both a more equitable and a more prosperous economy for Minnesota.

Since 2014, Leonard has served as the broadband grants administrator for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mass communications and journalism, Leonard worked as a journalist and researcher in the early 1980s for the Norman County Index (a newspaper in rural northwestern Minnesota), the Metropolitan Council and major agribusiness cooperatives.

From 1984 to 1998, she held a variety of leadership positions in community development for the state of Minnesota. From 1998 to 2007, she served with and led a variety of nonprofit enterprises focused on technology and community development, including the Minnesota Regional Network, Community Technology Advisers, and MN Rural Partners Inc.

From 2007 to 2009, she served as the executive director of the Minnesota Statehood Sesquicentennial Commission. And from 2009 to 2014, Leonard served in succession as strategic collaboration manager for the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, senior manager for the Bush Foundation and as the principal in her own consulting firm.

– Growth & Justice


Knudson appointed to Northeast Central Judicial District judgeship

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum has appointed Grand Forks attorney Jay Knudson to a judgeship in the Northeast Central Judicial District, effective De. 18.

Knudson fills the vacancy created by Justice Jon Jensen’s appointment to the North Dakota Supreme Court earlier this year.

Knudson’s legal experience includes work in criminal, civil, domestic relations, juvenile, immigration and financial arenas. He has represented clients in state courts, including the North Dakota Supreme Court, as well as the 8th Circuit and 3rd Circuit Federal Courts of Appeals, Federal Immigration Court and Federal Bankruptcy Court.

Prior to his appointment, Knudson practiced law at Zimney Foster in Grand Forks representing financial institutions since January 2017. From January 2015 to December 2016, he served as the judicial referee/magistrate judge for the Northeast Central Judicial District Court, and from 2011 to 2015, he worked with the North Dakota Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents. He previously worked in private practice.

A former president of the Grand Forks County Bar Association and current member of the Grand Forks Community Corrections Advisory Board, Knudson has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Law.

Knudson, who grew up on a farm near Clifford, N.D., earned his law degree with distinction from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 2004 and a bachelor’s degree in business administration, also from UND, in 2001.

Knudson’s community involvement includes prior roles on the board of directors for United Day Nursery and the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals.

– North Dakota governor’s office


Three at KLJ earn professional license

Bismarck, N.D. – Matt Anderson, Dustin Maier and Wade Frank, all employees at the engineering firm KLJ, recently earned professional licenses.

▇ Anderson, a surveyor, earned his professional land surveyor license in North Dakota. He received an associate’s degree in land surveying and civil engineering from St. Cloud State Technical College. He is a certified survey technician, Level III and works in KLJ’s Moorhead, Minn., office.

▇ Maier, an engineer, earned his professional electrical and computer engineering license in Nebraska. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from North Dakota State University and completed his post-graduate work at the University of North Dakota. He has earned his professional engineering license in nearly 20 states.

Maier works in KLJ’s Bismarck office.

▇ Frank, an engineer, earned his professional engineering license in Colorado. Frank earned a bachelor’s in civil engineering degree from North Dakota State University. He is registered as a professional engineer in Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Florida, and South Dakota. Frank is based in KLJ’s West Fargo office.

KLJ currently has 25 office locations throughout North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, and Florida. For more information about KLJ, visit


Libby joins Houston Engineering

FARGO, N.D. – Devon Libby has joined Houston Engineering, Inc.’s Maple Grove, Minn., office as a GIS Technician, a position from which he’ll be involved with drainage, hydro-conditioning, and PTMApp projects.

Libby also will support HEI’s team with data and map creation along with GIS analysis on science and engineering projects.

Originally from Mankato, Minn., Libby attended Minnesota State University – Mankato, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in geography and will be completing his master’s in geography this month. He previously worked for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a stream habitat intern.

Houston Engineering is a multidisciplinary civil engineering and consulting firm.


Dahlberg to serve as VCSU interim president

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – Margaret Dahlberg,vice president for academic affairs at Valley City State University, has been appointed interim president of VCSU by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, effective Dec. 16.

Dahlberg succeeds Tisa Mason, who resigned the VCSU presidency to accept the presidency of Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan.

Dahlberg is returning to a familiar role as interim president. She served in that same capacity from July–December 2014, between the departure of former president Steve Shirley to Minot State University and the arrival of Mason.

Formerly professor of English and chair of the communication arts department, Dahlberg was appointed interim vice president for academic affairs in April 2009. In January 2010, she was named vice president for academic affairs.

Dahlberg holds three degrees in English: a doctorate and a master’s degree, both from the University of North Dakota, along with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Platteville.