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West Fargo Fire Chief Dan Fuller unveils the department's long-term strategic plan at the central fire house on Monday, June 17, 2019. Wendy Reuer / The Forum

Short list of North Dakota ethics commission candidates shows varying backgrounds

BISMARCK — A tribal college president, a fire department chief and the former mayor of a North Dakota oil boom town are among 12 candidates favored for the state's new ethics commission.

A selection panel composed of Gov. Doug Burgum and Senate leaders from both parties has cut down the initial list of almost 70 applicants over the course of three meetings in recent weeks. The panel must come to a consensus on five commissioners.

Though the selection committee has slowly trimmed its choices down, Burgum previously cautioned that people who weren't initially selected could still be in the mix.

The selection committee hadn't set a date for its next meeting as of Tuesday morning, July 16.

The ethics commission, which was created through the passage of a constitutional amendment last year, will be able to write rules on rules on transparency, corruption, elections and lobbying as well as investigate allegations of wrongdoing.

Here's a quick look at the background of the remaining candidates, based on applications and resumes provided by Burgum's office:

Ronald Goodman, Oakes

Goodman was a lawyer in private practice before becoming a county judge in the early 1990s. He was North Dakota district judge from 1997 to his retirement in 2009, when he became a surrogate judge. He still holds that position. He said he worked for “several years” in the state’s human service system as a drug and alcohol counselor and program supervisor. He’s a U.S. Air Force veteran.

“I feel my varied background as a lawyer/judge, my work as a counselor, and my military background will assist the commission if I am appointed,” he wrote.

Cynthia Lindquist, Devils Lake

Lindquist is the president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College in Fort Totten, N.D., a post she has held since 2003. The tribal college has an average enrollment of about 200 students and an operating budget of $12 million. She previously worked in the University of North Dakota's medical school and as the executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, which acts as a liaison between state and tribal governments.

Lindquist said she has “diverse professional experiences at national, state, local and tribal level” and “will commit to helping the commission to fulfill its intent for the people of North Dakota.”

Paul Richard, Fargo

A licensed attorney, Richard was the executive vice president of Sanford Health in Fargo from 2013 to 2018, which made him the “overall Fargo market leader.” He said the market’s operations were in excess of $1 billion in annual revenues, and his tenure included the opening of a massive new medical center in 2017. He previously was Sanford’s chief legal officer and general counsel for MeritCare Health System, which merged with Sanford in 2009.

“My career experience includes providing advice and counsel in areas of professional ethics, corporate governance and regulatory compliance," he wrote.

Ward Koeser, Williston

Koeser retired as mayor of Williston in 2014 after 20 years at the post. His tenure saw a surge of oil development in the Bakken, bringing rapid population growth and stress on government services. He’s now president of the Northwest North Dakota Community Foundation and the Williston State College Foundation.

“Ward is a man of strong ethics, honest and down to earth. He looks at both sides of an issue before giving an opinion and that opinion is usually on point,” Roger Cymbaluk said in a reference letter.

David Anderson, Bismarck

After retiring from the North Dakota National Guard, where he worked as Army chief of staff and then Army commander, Anderson took a job as coordinator of military student services at the University of Mary, where he’s been since 2015. In 2003 and 2004 he commanded the first North Dakota Army Guard unit to serve in Iraq.

“I believe my experience would greatly assist the establishment of the ethics commission to serve the best interests of the state, doing so without a political agenda, independent of ideologies and protecting free speech," he wrote.

Bill Knudson, Mandan

A retired businessman, Knudson had an appraisal company that completed appraisals “for most banks in Bismarck and Mandan.” He was involved with the local chamber of commerce for “a number of years.”

“I believe that if asked bankers in the community would agree that I was ethical and fair in my valuation analysis," he wrote.

Kenneth Christianson, Fargo

Christianson is a psychologist at Neuropsychology Associates and a clinical professor at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of North Dakota’s medical school. He also co-founded an “ethics review study group,” which he described as a “journal club that has met twice monthly since 2002.” His past employment includes working as a psychologist at Sanford Health and various roles at the North Dakota State Hospital.

Marilyn Foss, Bismarck

Foss described herself as a semi-retired attorney who has “worked in government relations in North Dakota for more than 35 years, working with the Legislature as an assistant attorney general, appointed state official and registered lobbyist.” She served on attorney standards and ethics committees for the State Bar Association of North Dakota. In the 1980s, she was the commissioner of what’s now known as the state Department of Financial Institutions.

“My goal as member of the ethics commission would be to develop administrative rules that are practical and protective of legislator and citizen interests and clear in the their interpretation and application," she wrote.

Daniel Fuller, West Fargo

Fuller has been the chief of the West Fargo Fire Department since 2015, where he’s “working hard to keep up with the challenges being one of the fastest growing cities in the state presents.” A native of Massachusetts, Fuller joined the U.S. Air Force and was assigned to the Minot base. He later worked as a senior firefighter in Minot and as well as a flight paramedic on a part-time basis.

“Since my time serving on active duty, I’ve continued to internalize the core value of integrity, which to me means doing the right thing, even when no one else is looking," he wrote.

Clarice Liechty, Jamestown

Liechty became the first woman to be Jamestown’s mayor when she was elected in 2006. She was previously the director of what’s now known as the North Dakota Grain Growers Association in the late 1980s. Her resume says she's involved in farming and real estate.

Liechty said she's known for "studying the issue, asking questions and listening."

Shirley Meyer, Dickinson

A farmer and rancher, Meyer served in the Legislature as a Democrat as recently as 2011 and was a regional director for then-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for six years. Her resume includes a six-year stint on the North Dakota Beef Commission.

Jeffrey Risk, Minot

Risk is the commissioner of the Mon-Dak Athletic Conference, which is composed of eight state, community and technical colleges in North Dakota and Montana. He worked for almost 30 years as a physical education instructor in Minot and later served as the Nedrose High School athletic director. He was previously a member of the state’s teacher licensing board.

“As a retired educator, athletic director and official I have been applying black and white rules to gray situations my entire career. I do not have a law degree but do possess an extra dose of a lost commodity — common sense," he wrote.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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