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Kyle Potter, Published November 01 2013

Fedorchak launches bid to stay on Public Service Commission

BISMARCK – Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak announced Friday she will run for the job in 2014.

She’s no stranger to the job, but it won’t quite be a re-election campaign.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple appointed Fedorchak to fill the spot vacated by Rep. Kevin Cramer in December, after he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Though Cramer’s term didn’t expire until 2016, North Dakota law says appointed officials must face the voters in the next general election.

If elected next November, Fedorchak would stay on as one of three commissioners of a public agency that has surged in importance in the past decade, largely due to increased oil production in North Dakota.

In addition to overseeing mining and utility companies, the Public Service Commission regulates in-state oil pipelines, grain elevators, telecommunications and auctioneers. Its budget has more than doubled in the past decade.

In an interview, Fedorchak said she’s happy to make her case before the voters as to why she deserves a full, six-year term. She will be in Bismarck and Fargo on Monday morning to start her campaign. No challengers have announced a bid for her seat.

She said her mix of political and business knowledge and policy acumen have made her a good fit for the commission in the past 10 months and make her the right candidate for 2014. Having lived in nearly every corner of the state helps, too, she said.

“I think that gives me a really good understanding of our state and our people,” she said.

In a statement, Dalrymple called Fedorchak “a dedicated advocate for the people of North Dakota.”

“Commissioner Fedorchak is serving with distinction during this historic time of economic growth throughout the state,” Dalrymple said.

After graduating from the University of North Dakota, Fedorchak eventually entered politics in 1995, when she joined former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer’s staff as his primary spokeswoman. After Schafer retired in 2000, Fedorchak left politics and started her own marketing and communications business.

When Dalrymple picked her to take Cramer’s spot on the Public Service Commission, she was serving as Sen. John Hoeven’s state director.

Fedorchak said her 10 months on the commission have given her insight to what North Dakota needs to continue capitalizing on a growing economy while still ensuring North Dakotans have access to reliable and affordable utilities.

Among her priorities, she said, is to increase public awareness about the commission’s activities; improve the agency’s responsiveness by adding staff or streamlining when possible; and use the commission’s role as a utility regulator to try to reduce flaring in the oil-producing Bakken region.

“This takes constant diligence,” Fedorchak said of her work. “There is lots of change in the industry. We have to really be focused on keeping an eye on what these changes are.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kyle Potter at (701) 241-5502