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Published November 03 2010

Dalrymple to become ND’s next governor

BISMARCK – North Dakota, meet your next governor and first lady.

With Tuesday’s election of Gov. John Hoeven to the U.S. Senate, Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple and his wife, Betsy, will become the state’s leading couple after Hoeven resigns in the coming weeks.

It will be the first time in 75 years that a North Dakota lieutenant governor takes over as governor.

Jack Dalrymple said he feels honored and privileged to be among the few people in history to serve as North Dakota’s governor.

“I know that I will really look forward to the opportunity to do what I can to make a difference for our state,” Dalrymple said.

Now that the election is over, Dalrymple spoke more candidly with Forum Communications about his plans as governor and where he’s at in the selection of a new lieutenant governor.

Gov. Dalrymple

After 26 years in state government – 16 in the Legislature and 10 as lieutenant governor – Dalrymple doesn’t expect a big learning curve for his new job.

As governor, he said he plans to continue the same themes emphasized by the Hoeven administration: creating good-paying jobs, reducing taxes and setting aside money for the future.

Dalrymple sees infrastructure having a bigger role in the governor’s office under his leadership – not only infrastructure in western North Dakota, but also the eastern part of the state.

“It’s a big, big challenge, and I think that going forward it’s going to be a major piece of our economic development effort,” he said.

Dalrymple also wants to create a division of energy development within the state Commerce Department, saying managing energy needs an equal amount of emphasis as the department’s other divisions.

North Dakota needs to focus on managing all of its growth well and continue moving forward economically, he said.

“These are not shortcomings of the past or anything like that,” Dalrymple said. “The picture for the future is always a bit different, and we know now that going forward these are going to be higher priorities than ever.”

The next No. 2

Dalrymple said he’s thought privately about his selection for a lieutenant governor and what traits he’s looking for in a partner. State law allows Dalrymple to appoint someone to the office.

Dalrymple said he’s looking for someone familiar with state government, experienced in public service and preferably familiar with the legislative process.

“Somebody who is reasonably articulate, somebody that I can work with on a daily basis … somebody that would be compatible with our existing governor’s office,” he said.

The appointee needs to be familiar with North Dakota issues and bring some knowledge helpful to policy development, he said. Not to mention be interested in the job in the first place.

“So it’s a lot of qualifications,” Dalrymple said. “I’m optimistic that there’s a good person out there. I don’t think there’s going to be a long list of choices.”

He aims to announce a lieutenant governor after he officially becomes governor.

Betsy Dalrymple

The state’s next first lady hasn’t determined yet what her platform will be, but said early childhood education and volunteerism are important to her.

Betsy Dalrymple grew up near Detroit but has known her husband since they were children. Their families vacationed at the same place in Florida.

She attended school at Briarcliff College in New York and taught elementary school in Fargo before becoming a stay-at-home mom to their four daughters.

Since then, she’s been active in volunteering, serving on the school board in Casselton for nine years and on the Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation. She’s also been active with the Junior League of Fargo-Moorhead, Red River Human Services and the North Dakota Protection & Advocacy Project.

As the state’s second lady, Dalrymple said she didn’t have an official role, but tried to attend as many events as possible with her husband.

She’s not sure yet how much her life will change as the state’s next first lady.

“It’s a little intimidating to think about it,” she said. “I feel so humbled and honored by the opportunity to serve the people of North Dakota.”

The future

In the coming weeks, the Dalrymples will prepare to move into the governor’s residence. There’s also the question of staffing and which members of the governor’s office will go with Hoeven to Washington, D.C.

Dalrymple expects he’ll learn about the protocols and security for the governor. He also hopes to get out across North Dakota to host meet-and-greet receptions so residents can get to know him.

“Normally, coming off a campaign, you’ve spent a fair amount of money engaging the public about who you are as a candidate,” he said. “There’s probably some gaps to fill there in terms of just making sure that the public does know who I am.”

With his years of experience as a former state lawmaker, Dalrymple plans to be active with the 2011 Legislature.

But when the topic turns to 2012 and whether he’ll seek his own term as governor, Dalrymple’s plans aren’t clear.

He said he’ll consider the matter further a year from now, though he did say there’s nothing that would preclude him from considering it.

“It’s way too early to really talk about that or think about that. As of Nov. 3, I am totally focused on doing a terrific job serving as the governor of North Dakota for two years,” he said. “I think I can make a difference. I’m really planning on applying myself very diligently to the job and that is going to be my entire focus.”

Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.