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Gov. Doug Burgum launched a quest to do things differently on his first day in office. Meeting with members of his Cabinet, he announced his primary focus will be on reinventing how state government does business and provides services, adding that all options are on the table.

“We’ve got a chance to really think differently,” Burgum said. “That’s the quest we’re on.”

Burgum laid out a general framework of his priorities and goals for nearly 15 minutes at the onset of his first Cabinet meeting on Thursday. He briefly allowed reporters to attend but took no questions.

During the meeting, Burgum offered few details but briefly touched on the Dakota Access Pipeline protests; his spokesman said a video, in which he outlines his policy on the situation, would be posted on Facebook today.

Burgum commended law enforcement for doing a great job in response to the anti-pipeline protest movement, which has drawn international attention, in southern Morton County near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation boundary.

“There’s another battle that’s been going on,” Burgum said in reference to social media messaging which has taken place during the demonstrations opposing the $3.8 billion pipeline. 

Burgum said a massive amount of information, much of it inaccurate, has been thrust into the public sphere regarding the protests, which have led to more than 570 arrests and cost the state millions in law enforcement costs since August.

“We have to be more sophisticated,” Burgum said of the state getting its message out.

On his watch, the state is going to redefine how it delivers basic government services, adapting to the changing world and the technology that affords the opportunity to do so, according to Burgum.

He said gone are the days when agencies will define success in the legislative session by getting more funding for operations.

Meetings in which requests for more funding will be short; those who come forward to discuss innovative ideas will be fit into his schedule no matter how late the hour, he said.

The goal, Burgum said, is “to stop defending institutions and start reinventing them.”

How warm a reception his fellow Republicans in the party’s supermajorities in the Legislature give to his vision of state government remains to be seen.

Burgum’s predecessor, Jack Dalrymple, outlined a $13.475 billion 2017-19 budget proposal during the Legislature’s organizational session earlier this month with funding set at 90 percent levels of ongoing spending for all state agencies. Burgum is expected to offer some changes to that proposal.

“That’ll be laid out on Jan. 3,” Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said of details of the extent of Burgum’s budget changes.

Burgum’s State of the State Address is slated for Jan. 3, the first day of the legislative session.

As he entered office, Burgum has kept 11 of 17 Cabinet members from the Dalrymple administration. He’ll also be keeping Ron Rauschenberger, who served as chief of staff for governors Dalrymple and John Hoeven, as a senior adviser for an interim period.

He named several members of his senior staff on Wednesday, adding the positions of chief operating officer and chief administrative officer to the upper tier of his office leadership team.

The chair of his transition team, Jodi Uecker, will take the COO position while JoDee Hanson, who has worked with Burgum for years in the private sector, will step into the CAO role.

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(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.)

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