BHE nominating committee rejects sitting Board member for reappointment

May 11, 2018

Board of Higher Education nominating committee members: ND United president Nick Archuleta (i); Chief Justice Gerald Vandewalle; House Speaker Larry Bellew (R-Minot); and committee chair, state school superintendent Kirsten Baesler. On the phone: Sen. Dave Oehlke (R-Devils Lake).
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A committee tasked to choose nominees for the Board of Higher Education has chosen six candidates for two open positions on the Board.

However, the Committee declined to nominate current Board member Kevin Melicher of Fargo for reappointment.

Melicher was eligible for a second four year term on the Board. Not one of the five members of the nominating committee suggested he be re-nominated.

Chief Justice Gerald Vandewalle is a member of that committee. Although he didn’t propose Melicher’s name for nomination, he did express some concerns. Vandewalle said it’s hard to get people to seek nomination to the board, and he worries about the message this action will send.

"It's a chilling effect," Vandewalle said.

The committee chair, state school superintendent Kirsten Baesler, said she understands Vandewalle’s point.

"I guess, right here, the decision I have to make today is to put forth the best candidates that are in this pool for our Governor to choose from," Baesler said.

Another board member, Mike Ness, was eligible for another four-year term – but he declined to re-apply.

The Committee’s charge is to forward three names to Gov. Doug Burgum for each vacancy. The Committee chose Jill Louters of Sheyenne, Gregory Stites of Bismarck and State Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot) for Melicher’s seat. It chose Daniel Traynor of Devils Lake, Shireen Hoff of Bismarck and State Rep. Richard Becker (R-Grand Forks) for Ness’ seat.

For any name to be forwarded to Burgum for appointment to the Board, four of the five committee members must agree. All but Streyl received unanimous support. The lone “no” vote for Streyle was from committee member Nick Archuleta, the president of North Dakota United, the union representing teachers and state employees.

Archuleta made this comment after the names were finalized.

"I think it's important that, as we move these names forward, I hope the Governor will choose somebody who's not going there with an agenda, or an ax to grind, but somebody who's there to make sure the Board functions better than it's functioned lately," Archuleta said. "I think we might have done that."