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Associated Press, Published September 03 2013

6 ND chancellor finalists to be interviewed Friday

BISMARCK — Some current and former state officials say an in-state candidate might be the best fit for interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System.

The state Board of Higher Education plans to interview the six finalists for the job individually on Friday, via video conference, University System spokeswoman Linda Donlin told The Bismarck Tribune. The board is still on track to name someone by Sept. 25 to fill the position following the departure of the previous chancellor, Hamid Shirvani. The board bought out his contract after months of turmoil surrounding his leadership style.

Whoever is chosen will serve at least until a November 2014 public vote on whether to abolish the board and chancellor's office and replace them with a three-member commission appointed by the governor.

Three of the candidates are from North Dakota — Larry Skogen, Bismarck State College president and acting chancellor; Shane Goettle, a former North Dakota commerce commissioner; and Bruce Furness, former mayor of Fargo, the state's largest city.

The out-of-state candidates are Kendall Blanchard, president of Georgia Southwestern State University and a candidate for North Dakota chancellor nearly 10 years ago; Gordon Davies, a former adviser with the Lumina Foundation; and Michael Wartell, former chancellor of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Former Higher Education board member Claus Lembke said Skogen has impressed him, and that Furness and Goettle also have track records as strong administrators. He said a conciliatory leader is needed after the turmoil of the last year, which included violations of the state's open meeting law by the board.

"There's got to be some peace-making," Lembke said.

Former board member Richard Smith says he doesn't know anything about the out-of-state candidates but that the North Dakota candidates all are strong leaders.

"They need to find someone who's a conciliator," he said of the board.

Some state lawmakers say the board has a tall task in working to restore credibility in the university system. Sen. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, a strong critic of Shirvani, said an out-of-state candidate would take more time getting comfortable in the chancellor role.

"The three in-state candidates each have proven leadership abilities," Grindberg said. "If I were a board member, I would be choosing from one of the three in-state candidates."

Former North Dakota Chancellor Bill Goetz, who was succeeded by Shirvani, said he believes the interim chancellor is more likely to come from among the in-state candidates. Whoever is picked should be able to work well with lawmakers, university presidents and the executive branch of state government, he said.

"There's going to be much more pressure . to make the right decision," he said.