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Ex-Fargo mayor Furness applies to be ND university chancellor

BISMARCK - Bruce Furness, ex-mayor of Fargo, is among the 15 candidates who have applied to lead the North Dakota University System through a vote next fall on whether to eliminate the State Board of Higher Education.

Bruce Furness

BISMARCK - Bruce Furness, ex-mayor of Fargo, is among the 15 candidates who have applied to lead the North Dakota University System through a vote next fall on whether to eliminate the State Board of Higher Education.

The board hopes to have an interim chancellor in place by September to fill in for Hamid Shirvani, the ousted chancellor whose two remaining years on his contract were bought out for nearly $1 million in June amidst criticism of his management style by legislators and others.

Furness said he applied because his name was suggested to the consultants running the search.

Perhaps that's unsurprising given his history of helping stabilize a state agency in crisis. In 2008, Furness was hired as the interim director and CEO of North Dakota's Workforce Safety and Insurance division by then-Gov. John Hoeven. He led the office following a period of high turnover and alleged illegal activity.

Furness noted similarities between the University System and WSI - mainly a loss of credibility.


"All of the problems [NDUS has] had with transparency is a big one. They've lost credibility with legislators and some of the staff," Furness said.

Furness said he addressed similar problems as head of WSI for a year by being more transparent and instilling confidence in the current staff.

"If the current system stays in place, they just need to execute and get along," Furness said. "Each of the institutions has presidents that are good and it's just a matter of trying to work together."

While Shirvani and the presidents of the state's colleges and universities were struggling for control, Furness said he thinks the presidents should have the authority to make decisions on their campuses.

He sees the role of the chancellor as collaborating with the presidents to set, track and measure goals and ultimately, evaluating them and holding them accountable.

The board began accepting applications in June.

The consultant team running the search, led by Narcisa Polonio, executive vice president of the Association of Community College Trustees, will recommend as many as eight candidates and the board will decide who to interview later this month, University System spokeswoman Linda Donlin said.

Donlin said the board will then narrow the list down to three or four candidates they want to interview. The board hopes to fill the position by late September, she said.


It's unclear how long the interim chancellor will be in the position. The interim chancellor will serve at least until the outcome of the November 2014 vote to abolish the State Board of Higher Education is known, Donlin said.

Despite the uncertainty and recent controversy surrounding the University System, a wide mix of higher education professionals and state leaders applied for the position -including acting Chancellor Larry Skogen, who was appointed by the board to serve with the wake of the Shirvani buyout.

Skogen, who is also the president of Bismarck State College, said last week he's happy with progress that's been made in the University System during his tenure and, "I didn't feel it would be right to jump ship now."

Other applicants include:

- Shane Goettle, North Dakota's commerce commissioner from 2005 to 2010 and state director for Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., in 2011. Goettle now is the assistant city attorney for Minot and co-owner and director of JAG Gravel in western North Dakota.

- Michael Hillman, North Dakota's vice chancellor of academic and student affairs since July 2003 and the previous vice chancellor of academic affairs.

- Kendall Blanchard, now in his seventh year as president at Georgia Southwestern State University and finalist for the North Dakota chancellor position nine years ago.

- Gordon Davies, who most recently was a senior adviser on the Lumina Foundation's "Making Opportunity Affordable" project to increase access to higher education.


- Ruben Lackman, a 20-year teacher at Mandan High School who retired in 1999 and also taught classes at Bismarck State College and the University of Mary.

- David Lee, a substitute teacher for Bismarck Public Schools from 2008 to 2012 and superintendent of Halliday (N.D.) Public School from 2006 to 2008.

- Duane Pool, an affiliate faculty member at Colorado State University and adjunct faculty member at Bismarck State College who also taught economics at the University of Mary and Rasmussen College in Bismarck.

- Michael Renk, who retired in January after 15 years as the vice president for administrative affairs at North Dakota State College of Science.

- Henry "Bud" Wessman, chairman of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine's Department of Physical Therapy from 1967 to 1993 and appeals resolution consultant for Noridian Administrative Services since 2009.

- Jack Young, owner of Roanoke, Ind., personal financial adviser company Trust Financial Solutions since 2006.

- David Pollick, who currently works at a Pennsylvania-based firm specializing in planning and design services for college campuses.

- Thomas Henry, a longtime senior level administrator at higher education institutions in Arizona, Wyoming, Indiana, Colorado and Indiana.


- Scott Hoaby, a Fargo native who most recently teaches American Politics at the College of the Canyons in Valencia, Calif.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599

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