The head of the North Dakota Tax Department is leaving his position at the end of the year to join the public affairs division of an advertising agency in the state.
Tax Commissioner Cory Fong submitted his resignation Tuesday morning to Gov. Jack Dalrymple. His last day will be Dec. 31.
In January Fong will join Odney Advertising's public affairs division, consulting on behalf of businesses throughout the state. After nearly 20 years in state government Fong said it was time for him to move on to the private sector.
“They approached me and we’ve been having discussions on and off for the last few months,” Fong said. “It represented a great opportunity for me.”
Fong’s departure leaves an opening that will need to be filled by the governor. A spokesman for the governor said more information on the process of filing Fong’s position will be released within the next couple of days.
Fong was tapped in 2005 by then-Gov. John Hoeven to lead the tax department. He was elected to full terms in 2006 and 2010. His position is on the 2014 ballot.
“I think the timing is good for me. This opportunity a year from now would not be there,” Fong said.
He said the office was modernized during his tenure through technology upgrades and improved efficiency. Fong said his previous experience as deputy director of the North Dakota Department of Commerce helped improve the tax department’s work with businesses.
Then there is the issue of tax cuts.
“We’ve obviously been a part of the tax relief discussion,” Fong said.
More than $1.1 billion in tax cuts were approved by lawmakers earlier this year. This comes on the heels of tax packages of $400 million passed in 2009 and nearly $500 million in 2011.
He also has past experience as deputy secretary of state, director of elections, and deputy director of the North Dakota Republican Party. Fong also was campaign manager for Hoeven’s 2004 gubernatorial campaign.
Fong will be joining former Commerce Commissioner Shane Goettle at Odney. Goettle joined Odney in spring 2012 to help get the company’s new public affairs department up and running.
“Shane and I had discussions about this. He’s been instrumental in helping me make this decision,” Fong said.
Dalrymple’s office released a statement Tuesday praising Fong’s work with the tax department.
“During his eight years leading the tax department, Commissioner Fong has overseen the administration of record tax relief for the people of North Dakota,” Darlymple said. “While I’m sorry to learn that Cory will leave office, I understand and support him in his decision to pursue new opportunities in the private sector.”
Fong indicated that although he’s leaving public office for the private sector he wouldn’t rule out pursuing public office again.