Kalk Will Be Leaving Public Service Commission Creating Opening for Burgum’s First Appointment

Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk speaks at the NDGOP convention in 2012.

Yesterday I broke the news that Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk was considering a job at the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center.

When I spoke to Kalk about the situation he said he had a press release prepared to go out as soon as he was formally offered the job.

Well, he was offered the job, because in my inbox this morning is a press release from Kalk.

You can read the whole thing below. The salary for a member of the PSC is about $108,000 per year. The position at the EERC was paying in the ballpark of $175,000 per year. I’m not sure how much Kalk, specifically, was offered but you can bet it’s significantly more than he’s making now.

And Kalk seems enthusiastic about the work he’ll be doing there. “Now more than ever we need to ensure our nation is able to be energy secure while conserving our precious natural resources. I’m excited to be joining a superb team of professionals and supporting the vision of the EERC which is To lead the world in developing solutions to energy and environmental challenges,” he says in his release.

Good for him.

Meanwhile, this leaves an opening for Governor Doug Burgum to make an appointment. Kalk was last elected in 2014. His six-year term expires in 2020. Burgum will need to appoint someone to finish that term, though whoever that is will need to have their confirmation confirmed on the 2018 ballot.

Who might Burgum appoint? It’s not clear, but yesterday I floated the name of former state Rep. Blair Thoreson of Fargo who ran a campaign for the PSC back in 2012 but was defeated for the NDGOP nomination by current Commissioner Randy Christmann.

Still, Christmann and Thoreson ran a collegial campaign, and after hearing a lot of the buzz about Kalk’s departure last night, it seems Thoreson is a strong contender. Thoreson lost his re-election bid in November, but his campaign had strong backing from Burgum so there is a relationship already existing.

I haven’t heard any other names being floated for appointment yet, but this news is still pretty new.

UPDATE: Andrea Travnicek and state Senator Jessica Unruh are two other names I’m hearing.

The former was a policy adviser for Governor Dalrymple. You can get an idea of her background on her LinkedIn page.

Unruh represents District 33 in North Dakota’s coal country. Indeed, she works as an Environmental Specialist for Coteau Properties at the Freedom Mine.

Both would be strong picks, but I’ve got to think that Unruh might be a little hurt by the fact that Christmann is already on the Commission and represented District 33 when he was in the state Senate. Would Burgum be inclined to have two Commissioners from Mercer County?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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