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North Dakota DOT chief resigns; 5th Cabinet member this summer to announce departure

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Gov. Doug Burgum's Cabinet will see a fifth departure this summer when state Transportation Director Bill Panos steps down Sept. 9.

Panos announced his pending resignation Wednesday. He said in a letter dated Tuesday to Burgum, "My decision comes after months of reflection on my family needs and personal goals and at no cost to my hopefulness for North Dakota's future or the impact I know it can have."

Burgum announced that Deputy Director of Engineering Ron Henke will serve as interim director.

“Under Bill’s outstanding leadership, the Department of Transportation has made significant progress in many areas including traffic safety, strategic planning and improved access for constituents, especially to online services,” Burgum said in a statement. “We are deeply grateful for his service, which has positioned the NDDOT for success in an environment of rapid technological change and significant infrastructure investment in North Dakota and across the nation."

The governor in August 2019 appointed Panos, who became the third DOT director to serve in Burgum's Cabinet. Panos' two predecessors each retired.

The DOT has a two-year budget of $2.2 billion and is authorized for 982 full-time equivalent positions. 

Panos is the fifth Cabinet member in eight weeks to announce his or her departure.

Workforce Safety & Insurance Director Bryan Klipfel plans to retire Dec. 31 after 13 years leading the agency, following his 30 years with North Dakota Highway Patrol, the last four as superintendent.

Chief People Officer Stacey Breuer resigned last month, effective Aug. 12, to return to work at Doosan Bobcat North America.

Office of Management and Budget Director Joe Morrissette is retiring Aug. 31, though he will stay on part time through the legislative session next year.

Former Commerce Commissioner James Leiman resigned in June to take a position with a global think tank, but he will continue working for the state part time to help with economic development projects.

Burgum since the start of 2021 has appointed new leaders for the Health Department, Corrections and Rehabilitation, Game and Fish, Parks and Recreation, and Indian Affairs.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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