Video: Burgum Takes the Reins Charging Cabinet to “Stop Defending” Government and “Start Reinventing”


North Dakota governor candidate Doug Burgum addresses supporters after winning the Republican vote in the primary election Tuesday, June 14, 2016, at Ecce Gallery in downtown Fargo. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Governor-elect Doug Burgum became Governor Burgum in fact today, and he launched his administration with a rousing speech to his cabinet.

The make up of that cabinet is largely unchanged from the outgoing Dalrymple administration, but the rhetorical mandate Burgum gave them today calls for a great deal of change.

Burgum charged the state’s agency heads with changing their attitudes from “did I get more money than I got last time to did I get better results than last time.”

He told them to “stop defending institutions and start reinventing them.”

He said those out looking to increase their budgets were going to find it hard to connect with him. “Those meetings are going to be hard to get,” he said.

Burgum also touched on the situation with the Dakota Access Protests. He praised law enforcement’s on-the-ground response to the protesters, but said there is “another battle” against the “misinformation” around the protests that the state hasn’t been doing so well with.

“That’s the world we as a state have to learn to play in,” he said referring to a media landscape heavily shaped by social media.

Our new governor certainly talks a good game. As a conservative a lot of these words are exciting to hear. They’re certainly a departure from the approach to governance we’ve seen over the last 16 years or so.

But then, Burgum has always been good at messaging. Like the job description for Burgum chief of staff Jodi Uecker sent out in a press release yesterday. They’re describing her job as “chief operating officer” with her role being working “closely with the governor and his appointed agency heads on strategic and cross-cutting initiatives designed to improve processes, spur innovation and reinvent the delivery of services to realign government for the 21st century.”

That’s certainly a mouthful of jargon. What it means in terms of practical policy outcomes remains to be seen.

There are many – mostly on the right – who have a fetish for bringing this sort of corporate philosophy to government. That’s understandable to a point. The private sector tends to be nimble and efficient while government tends more towards bloat and red tape.

But corporations can be bloated and bureaucratic too, particularly when they start believing their own mythology.

I hope that Burgum, even as he pursues what could be truly exciting and meanginful reforms, maintains a healthy respect for what government is.

Which is not a private business. It is not a corporation. He is not the CEO of North Dakota, Inc.