Governor names Bismarck lawyer labor commissioner

2013-05-16T11:39:00Z Governor names Bismarck lawyer labor commissionerBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK, N.D. - Gov. Jack Dalrymple has appointed Bismarck attorney Bonnie Storbakken as commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Labor.

Storbakken, who was introduced during a press conference Thursday, will take over the department on May 27. She replaces Tony Weiler, who has been heading the department since September 2010 and is leaving to take over as executive director of the State Bar Association of North Dakota.

Storbakken is a University of North Dakota School of Law graduate and has owned and operated Storbakken Law and Mediation since 2007.

“Bonnie brings a broad legal experience and expertise in mediation services, which will help serve as a strong foundation as she works to protect the rights of North Dakota citizens,” Dalrymple said.

Storbakken takes over an office with 12 staff members and a budget of just under $2 million. The department will add one new staff member and see an increase to a slightly more than $2 million budget in the 2013-15 biennium.

“I’m looking forward to offering the people of North Dakota a voice,” Storbakken said.

The office oversees enforcement of laws relating to employee wages and working conditions. Human rights laws in the state’s Human Rights Act and Housing Discrimination Act also are enforced through the office. Storbakken has no prior experience working with the department.

“It’s a different take on what I do already,” Storbakken said.

In her career she has dealt with divorces, adoptions and work on estates before moving on to mediation. She has also worked as an attorney for the State Bar Association, providing services for low-income residents.

“My ambition was to help people in conflict,” Storbakken said of her work. “That’s my niche. That’s where I fit in.”

She said her background in mediation should be an asset in the office, which has seen an increased workload as the state’s population and economy have grown in recent years.

The Legislature passed a law during the 2013 session that will rename the department. On Aug. 1, the department will become the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

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