Longtime North Dakota State Veterinarian Susan Keller plans to retire at the end of June.
Keller, who heads the state Agriculture Department's Animal Health Division, has filled the role for nearly two decades.
“While serving two agriculture commissioners and many State Board of Animal Health members, I tried to remember to treat people as I’d want to be treated, because regulations must apply to everyone,” she said in a statement. “Warnings are given when mistakes happen, but regulations are needed to remind and motivate people to do what needs to be done, which ultimately helps protect all animals and producers’ livelihoods in North Dakota.”
Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said a search is underway for Keller's successor.
“Dr. Keller’s absence will definitely be felt both in the department and throughout the agriculture and animal health sectors in North Dakota,” he said. “She has been key in monitoring, managing and controlling contagious animal health diseases in the state. Her commitment to and comprehensive knowledge of the industry are valuable assets that will be difficult to replace.”
Keller, a Kansas native, earned her bachelor's and doctoral degrees at Kansas State University. She worked at clinics in Bowman and Mandan before starting her own practice on her family ranch. She operated that practice until December 1997, when she began her tenure with the Agriculture Department as deputy state vet. She was appointed state vet in 2004.
“Dr. Keller has been the epitome of state veterinarians,” Animal Health Board President Gerald Kitto said. “I’ve been a veterinarian in two states and have worked with several state veterinarians. She stands out among them.”
North Dakota Stockmen's Association Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson said the state's largest rancher group has worked closely with Keller through the years.
"As a livestock producer herself, Susan has a firsthand understanding of what the regulations mean to producers, and this has helped guide her approach to protecting our domestic herd,” Ellingson said.
Keller and her husband, Dwight, live south of Mandan on the Keller Broken Heart Ranch. They have three grown children, and Keller said she looks forward to working with and spending more time with her family.