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Linda Butts, Published December 14 2013

Letter: Gender lens too narrow

As a longtime appointed female state employee, I have read with interest commentaries about the gender balance of women on state boards. They make strong statements about the makeup of the property tax task force and the heritage fund, saying they should include more women.

I take exception to such a broad statement, as one cannot draw a conclusion about Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s appointments through such a narrow lens. A better basis to draw a conclusion would be to examine the makeup of people on the governor’s senior policy team and other appointed positions.

The governor’s senior policy advisers are the closest to him in terms of the administration’s overall policies and day-to-day decisions. Of eight top advisers, more than half are women, including his advisers on education, agriculture, tax policy, water, environmental issues and human services.

It’s also informative to look at his choices to run the largest state agencies. These include the Department of Human Services and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Both are run by women. I was proud to be appointed as one of three deputy directors in the Department of Transportation, another very large agency, and as the director of economic development and finance. In each case, I was the first female to serve in these positions.

Another insight comes from looking at names he has advanced in higher education. Since becoming governor, Dalrymple has made three appointments to the Board of Higher Education. Two of these, Kathy Neset and Kari Reichert, are highly regarded women.

It can be very easy to take a narrow look at a situation and criticize. What’s more important though is looking at the whole picture. I have always felt the Dalrymple administration is “gender blind” in its appointments. The governor looks first at one’s skills and asks that person to serve, no matter the gender.

Butts is a deputy director with the North Dakota Department of Transportation.