Heidi Heitkamp Says She’d Consider Being President of the University of North Dakota


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp concedes the North Dakota senate race, at an election night event in Fargo, N.D., Nov. 6, 2018. (Hilary Swift/The New York Times)

I wrote previously that if former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp wanted the president’s job at the University of North Dakota she should be considered for it.

Of course, current UND President Mark Kennedy still has the job, even though he’s the sole finalist for a new job in Colorado. But it’s clear he’s worn out his welcome in North Dakota. Even if things don’t work out in Colorado, I suspect Kennedy won’t be in his current job long. And even if he doesn’t leave, it seems doubtful his contract (which expires in June of next year) will be renewed.

So the job of UND President is likely going to be open. The question is, would Heitkamp want it?

It seems she would. “It’s not something that, number one, is available right now, but, you know, I would never say never to any kind of opportunity” she said when asked about it. “I love UND. Why would you automatically discount an opportunity if it would present itself?”

“Never say never” isn’t quite the same as “I want the job.” Heitkamp, who never misses the opportunity to focus attention on herself, could be playing coy with us. Teasing that she would consider the job, even though she’s not that serious about it.

The UND gig – which is likely to pay in the ballpark of $350,000 per year – likely means a pay cut from her post-Senate private sector career. Heitkamp’s latest initiative is working for the One Country Project where she, as someone who lost an election last year in Trump country, would try to teach Democrats how to appeal to Trump voters.

A paycheck is a paycheck, I guess.

Also serving as a state official would open Heitkamp up to a lot of accountability, under state open records law, she didn’t face even as a U.S. Senator.

But hey, who knows. Maybe she is serious. And if she is, those eventually tasked with choosing the next UND president should give her serious consideration.

Of course, she should have to apply for the job the same as everyone else, but she fits the mold for the sort of leadership higher education in North Dakota needs. Which is someone with deep North Dakota roots, who is committed to the state and not using the position as a stepping stone to something better somewhere else.