Dakota Download Governor Burgum's Weekly Update - December 16, 2018

Youth Ending Stigma Challenge announced

Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum announced the Youth Ending Stigma (YES) Challenge, designed to enable student-led initiatives and projects focused on eliminating social stigma surrounding behavioral health issues including addiction and mental health conditions.

“Social stigma remains a consistent barrier that prevents people from talking openly about their struggles, reaching out for help and connecting to vital resources and services,” First Lady Burgum said. “The YES Challenge provides an avenue for the youth in our state to use their creativity, ingenuity and passion to offer solutions to ending stigma and create supportive cultures in schools and communities that talk openly about behavioral health issues.”

Students will be encouraged to submit proposals for an initiative to eliminate the social stigma of addiction and mental health conditions in their school and community over an eight-week period. Projects may include awareness campaigns, community open forums, social inclusion programs, peer to peer support groups and more. Behavioral health and addiction is one of the governor's five strategic initiatives.

YES Challenge winners will receive statewide recognition and a grant up to $1,000 to implement their winning project or initiative. Student projects will be implemented from March through April of 2019.

The YES Challenge is a collaborative effort between the Office of the Governor, Office of the First Lady and the Office of Recovery Reinvented and is being funded solely by Dakota Medical Foundation.

Sanford visits West Fargo elementary to celebrate Blue Ribbon recognition

On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford visited Freedom Elementary in West Fargo, one of three schools in North Dakota recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2018 Blue Ribbon School.

In addition to Freedom Elementary, Central Valley School in Buxton and Richland Elementary in Abercrombie were also named Blue Ribbon Schools, in which students achieve high learning standards or register substantial improvements in their learning. All three North Dakota schools were recognized as exemplary high-performing schools.

"A Blue Ribbon School exists because of its amazing teachers, its dedicated students, their supportive parents, an effective administration and its helpful staff," Sanford said. "It takes a dedicated team to ensure that our students receive a great education, and these schools have done that."

This is the second consecutive year that three North Dakota schools have been honored. In 2017, Kindred Elementary, Fargo’s Longfellow Elementary and West Fargo’s Legacy Elementary also received this distinction.

Burgum signs agreement with Ag Secretary Perdue on behalf of Western Governors

Gov. Doug Burgum, vice chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, joined U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the WGA’s chairman, Hawaii Gov. David Ige, in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperatively address land management challenges.

The agreement between the WGA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims to establish “a framework to allow the Forest Service and WGA to work collaboratively to accomplish mutual goals, further common interests, and effectively respond to the increasing suite of challenges facing western landscapes.” The MOU stems from Perdue’s Shared Stewardship initiative and WGA’s National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

“We look forward to collaborating more closely with the USDA’s Forest Service to jointly address the urgent challenges facing our western lands, including wildfires, degraded watersheds, invasive species and epidemics of insects and disease,” Burgum said. “Working together, we can manage these risks and develop more efficient, effective public policy for the long-term benefit of our citizens and the environment.”

In a separate meeting with Perdue, Burgum asked that the USDA extend its comment period on the Forest Service’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on proposed changes to management of the Little Missouri National Grassland. An extension would give state agencies and other stakeholders more time to provide thorough comment on the changes, which would impact not only leasing for oil and gas development but also the development of roads, pipelines, trails and other infrastructure on the affected parcels.

The governor and secretary also discussed technology related to precision agriculture, with Burgum sharing the state’s nation-leading efforts in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and his executive budget proposal to invest $30 million in Legacy Fund earnings to build a statewide infrastructure network for UAS flying beyond visual line of sight.

Burgum appoints Kommer to lead Department of Commerce

Gov. Doug Burgum appointed Michelle Kommer to lead the North Dakota Department of Commerce, citing her strong leadership qualities, extensive private-sector experience and commitment to addressing the state’s workforce shortage.

Kommer currently serves in a dual capacity as commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights and executive director of Job Service North Dakota. Her appointment as commerce commissioner is effective Jan. 1. She will continue to serve as labor commissioner on an interim basis, and Workforce Safety & Insurance Director Bryan Klipfel will also serve a dual role as interim executive director of Job Service, until both positions can be filled on a permanent basis.

Burgum also expressed his deepest gratitude for the continued service of Shawn Kessel, who has served as interim commerce commissioner since Oct. 1 and will return to his role as deputy commissioner, playing an integral role as legislative liaison and driving efforts in energy development and economic diversification.

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