- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Dec. 14

Trump stirs North Dakota political pot

President-elect Donald Trump could still scramble North Dakota’s political landscape.

Both Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., have been mentioned for Cabinet posts. The positions Cramer has been considered for have been filled, so it’s not likely he’ll leave Congress. Heitkamp reportedly is on the list for agriculture secretary. If she’s asked to take the post and accepts, it could result in North Dakota Democrats losing the only office they hold in the state. It could create a scenario where Cramer runs for the Senate and a host of Republicans compete for the House seat.

The agriculture secretary’s position remains important to North Dakota. Having someone with the president’s ear when setting farm policy could benefit the state. The new farm bill will impact North Dakota in numerous ways and having Heitkamp as ag secretary would be a positive. When Ed Schafer served as agriculture secretary the possibilities excited everyone.

Whether Heitkamp would leave the Senate and likely allow Republicans to increase their majority remains uncertain. The opportunity to shape farm policy might be intriguing to Heitkamp. One wonders if she would be comfortable working with Trump.

There’s no doubt Cramer is comfortable with Trump. An early supporter of the new president, Cramer seems content in Congress. Running for the Senate would be the next logical step. Facing re-election to the House, even when the competition is weak, every two years can become a drag.

If Cramer should run for the Senate, there are a number of Republicans being mentioned for the House race.

Sen. Tom Campbell, R-Grafton, already has indicated he wants to run for the Senate or House depending on what Cramer does. Other potential GOP candidates are Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck and outgoing Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley. There are a number of other Republicans holding state offices that might be tempted to run.

The Republicans could create an interesting race for the House. The Democrats, unfortunately, don’t have any potential candidates for the Senate or House that appear capable of mounting a serious campaign.

If neither Cramer nor Heitkamp get a Cabinet post we could see Cramer challenge Heitkamp in 2018 and the Republicans battle for the House nomination.

Some might argue that Trump’s trying to find a way to get a Democrat out of the Senate so his party can increase its majority. It’s possible, and it’s also possible he’s looking for a Democrat for his Cabinet or just the best person for each post.

If Heitkamp should become ag secretary she would provide a strong farm voice to the Cabinet. There haven’t been many North Dakotans in the Cabinet with two of the most recent being Schafer and Tom Kleppe.

It shouldn’t be long before we have the answers.


Minot Daily News, Minot, Dec. 15

Best wishes for new city manager

Heralding a new era for Minot, Tom Barry began this week as city manager.

Barry is busy meeting with city staff and catching up to speed on the city’s major issues. Barry brings a wealth of experience - diverse experience even - to the position as well as obvious intellect and energy. During a visit to town before his hiring, he impressed Minot Daily News and clearly also impressed the city council, who chose him from a field of excellent candidates. Barry’s hiring reflects well not just on him, but also on the vision of Mayor Chuck Barney and his colleagues on the city council.

It will surely take some time before Barry can begin to make his imprint on the city, but he most certainly will. This is an ideal time for a manager with energy and vision, given that the city both faces distinct challenges and has terrific opportunities. On the challenges front, there is the economy and need for reform in planning, zoning, business regulation and personnel. On the opportunity front, there are resilience grant projects, brownfield development opportunities, an improved downtown and a new airport facility. Trinity Health’s plans for a new facility and the future of its properties near downtown could end up either an opportunity or a challenge.

In total, there is much happening in the months and years ahead that make it both more interesting and more of a challenge than what one might find in other cities its size.

There is also every reason to believe Barry will take to both the challenges and opportunities with enthusiasm and innovation.

Good luck, Mr. Barry, you have Minot’s best wishes.


Williston Herald, Williston, Dec. 11

Kalil deserves credit for long service

On Tuesday, an era ended when Dan Kalil went from being a county commissioner to a private citizen.

His two decades on the Williams County Commission spanned some of the most important in the county’s history. When he started, no one really expected oil to ever reach the levels it had in the 1980s. Before his term was over, it had far exceeded those levels and then prices had fallen again.

Throughout the boom and bust cycles, Kalil, who is a farmer, kept the best interests of the county in mind. In the profile the Herald published last week, no one, even those who sometimes disagreed with him, disputed his good intentions and his commitment to the county.

In a world where national politics has become so polarized that neither side can recognize the good traits in the other, it is refreshing to see that at least on the local level, people who disagree can still realize that both are doing what they think is best.

The growth that came with the boom was messy and sometimes painful. Williams County, and indeed all of western North Dakota, was ill-prepared for the influx of people that started in 2009 and peaked in 2014.

But despite that pain much has been accomplished. One half of a truck reliever route has been finished, and another is now in the planning stages. Many important infrastructure projects have been completed, and the county is much better prepared for when the next boom comes.

Spending more than 20 years at any endeavor is impressive. To do so in a position like county commissioner, which demands far more work than its part-time description implies, is even more so.

Kalil showed remarkable commitment to his position and to the county in general throughout his 24 years in office. Despite the demands his family and his farm put on his time, he put the county first.

He has seen firsthand both boom and bust, and his commitment to ensure he would leave the county in better shape than he found it is an example that all public officials would do well to follow.

We wish him the very best in retirement. We hope that every person seeking public office in the area will do their best to learn the importance of service by looking at his long career in office.

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