BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today announced that North Dakota Commerce Commissioner James Leiman has resigned from the position effective June 30 but will continue working for Commerce on a part-time basis to drive economic development projects in the state. Burgum has appointed Deputy Commerce Commissioner Shawn Kessel to serve as interim commissioner until a replacement for Leiman can be appointed.
Burgum appointed Leiman as commerce commissioner in March 2021. Prior to that, Leiman had served as the Department of Commerce’s director of Economic Development and Finance (ED&F) for three years. Leiman informed the governor that he has accepted a position as chief development officer with the Institute for Economics and Peace, a global think tank.
Leiman will continue working for Commerce on a part-time basis focusing on economic development projects, including retaining critical relationships and building capacity across Commerce and the state to ensure continued growth in economic development and diversification.
“Over the last four years, James has made a tremendously positive impact on our state’s economy and business climate, bringing billions of dollars of projects into the pipeline for North Dakota,” Burgum said. “We are grateful that he will continue to help drive economic development in the Department of Commerce, and we wish him all the best as he transitions to his next endeavor.”
At Commerce, Leiman has played crucial roles in efforts to develop North Dakota’s abundant natural gas resources, attract new capital to the state, find new markets for exporters, commercialize intellectual property, grow the tech sector including autonomous technology, increase foreign and domestic investment in North Dakota, and establish the nation’s first statewide network for flying unmanned aerial systems beyond visual line of sight.
Shawn Kessel will serve as interim commissioner effective July 1. He previously served as interim commissioner after former Commissioner Michelle Kommer returned to the private sector in October 2020. Kessel joined the Department of Commerce in 2018. He is a past Dickinson city administrator and past president of the Western Dakota Energy Association, North Dakota League of Cities and North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund.
The commerce commissioner position will be posted immediately.
The Department of Commerce works to improve the quality of life for North Dakota citizens by leading efforts to attract, retain and expand wealth. Commerce serves businesses and communities statewide through committed people and partners who offer valuable programs and dynamic services. The department has four divisions: Tourism, Economic Development, Workforce Development and Community Services.