Burgum announces Governor’s staff, creates new model to deliver results

Thursday, December 15, 2016 - 12:00pm

As he takes office today, Gov. Doug Burgum has announced a new structure for the Office of the Governor of North Dakota, creating Chief Operating Officer and Chief Administrative Officer roles in an effort to make government more efficient and responsive. 

Jodi Uecker will serve as Chief Operating Officer. Uecker has chaired Burgum’s transition team since his election Nov. 8. As COO, she will work closely with the governor and his appointed agency heads on strategic and cross-cutting initiatives designed to improve processes, spur innovation and reinvent the delivery of services to realign government for the 21st century.

A native of Hettinger, Uecker worked in operations and senior leadership positions at Great Plains Software in Fargo from 1984 to 2001. After Microsoft acquired Great Plains in 2001, Uecker served as corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Business Solutions division.

JoDee Hanson, a native of Harwood, will serve as Chief Administrative Officer, overseeing communications, office operations, the policy team, constituent services and boards and commissions. Hanson, who served on Burgum’s transition team, has spent the last 28 years building teams and organizations with Burgum in the private sector.

Ron Rauschenberger will serve as senior advisor to Governor Burgum during a transition period.  Rauschenberger’s extensive experience, knowledge and background in state government will provide a bridge for the Burgum administration.  Rauschenberger has served the last 12 years in the role of chief of staff for Governors John Hoeven and Jack Dalrymple.

Bismarck attorney Leslie Bakken Oliver will serve as general counsel. Oliver earned her law degree with distinction in 1991 from the University of North Dakota School of Law. Following a one-year clerkship with the North Dakota Supreme Court, Oliver entered private practice. She is a shareholder with the Vogel Law Firm, concentrating her practice in employment and health care law.

Also named to Burgum’s staff:

  • Rebecca Ternes will be the director of agency operations, working closely with the COO. A Bismarck native, Ternes has served as North Dakota’s deputy insurance commissioner since 2005 and was vice president and manager of marketing and services for the North Dakota Bankers Association from 2002 to 2005.
  • Robert Lauf will serve as a policy advisor. Lauf, originally from Mayville, served as political director for the Burgum campaign. As a Truman Scholar, he previously worked at a healthcare nonprofit in Washington, D.C., with the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. 
  • Levi Bachmeier also will serve as a policy advisor. The West Fargo native joins the team after spending time as a high school teacher and coach on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with Teach for America. Bachmeier previously worked as a policy fellow for the U.S. Department of Education and a U.S. Senate legislative intern and served as director of operations for the Burgum campaign.
  • Cassandra Torstenson will join the team as a policy advisor after leading the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s Environmental Section since July 2013. A native of Johnsburg, Ill., Torstenson has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Dakota. She has worked at the county, state and federal levels on a wide range of issues, including water management, land use, agriculture and economic development.
  • Justin Schulz will be the Governor’s executive assistant. From Davenport, N.D., Schulz is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and earned a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University.  He completed seven years of active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, attaining the rank of Captain. 
  • Jill Schwab will be the scheduler for the Governor and most recently served as the executive assistant to the North Dakota Commerce Commissioner since 2007. Jill is from Strasburg, N.D. 
  • As previously announced, Mike Nowatzki will serve as communications director. Nowatzki, a native of Edinburg, spent more than 18 years as a reporter for Forum Communications, most recently covering North Dakota state government and the Legislature.

Continuing to serve in the governor’s office will be research analyst Jason Nisbet, Shelley Haugen in constituent services and Lyndsay Witt, executive assistant to the lieutenant governor.  Each brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Burgum administration.

Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford will take office on Thursday, Dec. 15.