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Searches begin for new Job Service North Dakota head, land commissioner

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Job Service North Dakota's interim leader of three years is stepping away, returning full time to another head position.

Meanwhile, the search has begun for a new state land commissioner.

State Workforce Safety & Insurance Director Bryan Klipfel led Job Service, the state's workforce and unemployment agency, as interim executive director since January 2019. He will leave that role Dec. 31 and lead WSI full-time, which he's done since 2009. Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday announced the search for a new Job Service leader, which is a Cabinet position. 

“Bryan has done a tremendous job as Job Service North Dakota executive director, stepping up in a huge way when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the economy and created once-in-a-generation workforce and unemployment challenges for our citizens and businesses,” Burgum said in a statement.

Klipfel took over on an interim basis when Burgum appointed then-Job Service Executive Director and state Labor Commissioner Michelle Kommer to head the state Commerce Department.

Governor's spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the delay in hiring a permanent Job Service head "was primarily about maintaining stability and continuity with Bryan’s strong leadership through some challenging times for the agency, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the oil price crash, which both greatly affected workforce and unemployment claims in North Dakota, as well as the 2021 legislative session."

Job Service processed more than 280,000 unemployment claims since the pandemic struck the state in March 2020, paying out more than $1.25 billion. The number of claims equaled almost 14 years' worth, according to the governor's office.

Job Service also has been crucial in addressing North Dakota's yearslong workforce shortage through hiring events, job fairs and an employment campaign, according to the governor's office.

“I am appreciative of the opportunity given to me by Governor Burgum to work with such a resilient and talented Job Service team," Klipfel said in a statement. "The pandemic put a spotlight on this team, and I am so proud of what they have accomplished over the past three years. I am leaving them in good hands with a strong leadership team who will continue building on their mission of meeting workforce needs.”

The executive director position is posted online at The application deadline is Nov. 15. 

The 2021 Legislature set a $65.4 million two-year budget for Job Service, which has 156 full-time employees.

Land commissioner

A search also is underway for a new commissioner to lead the Department of Trust Lands. Land Commissioner Jodi Smith announced this week that she is resigning to take another job.

The Board of University and School Lands, chaired by the governor, met Friday to begin the search. The five members decided to each appoint a designee to form a search committee.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the board should "move along as swiftly as we can."

Smith's last day is Oct. 28, and she says she's willing to help out longer to ensure a smooth transition. She has served as land commissioner for four years and will next work for the group managing the Red River diversion project.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or


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