2022 Speaker Biographies
Brad Barth is the Executive Director of Forward Devils Lake Corporation, the economic development agency for the city of Devils Lake and Ramsey County. Brad is passionate about helping Devils Lake and northeast North Dakota grow in people and businesses and believes in regional economic development and the importance of regional and statewide relationships. Brad has served on the Economic Development Association of North Dakota board since 2019 and is currently the Vice President.
Pat Bertagnolli is the Executive Director for Job Service North Dakota. Pat has extensive experience in leadership positions and prior to joining Job Service, he was the Community Enhancement Director at the rough Rider Center in Watford City and was instrumental in engaging the community by establishing partnerships with industries, promoting student ambassador programs and leading the organization in its strategy to promote the benefits of working and living in North Dakota.
Scott Burlingame has been the Executive Director of Independence Inc., a resource center for independent living in Minot, for 12 years. Scott has worked in the disability rights movement for 22 years and has been appointed by the Governor to serve on the State Independent Living Council, the state Olmstead Commission and the State Rehabilitation Council. Scott has developed a system of service delivery that encourages community participation, leadership development and personal empowerment to create systems change.
Hercules Cummings is the Finance Director for the city of Williston. In his role, Hercules leads to fuel economic growth, drive efficiencies, jump-start key strategic initiatives, enhance annual revenue streams, secure capital funding, and restructure financial operations for the future sustainability of Williston. Hercules earned his bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Technology from Excelsior College, and MBA from the University of Phoenix, and a Master of Science in Accounting from Colorado Technical University. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in economics and finance from West Texas A&M, Chartered Financial Analyst CFA level 1 and completing the final course work for the Financial Modeling and Evaluation Analysis certification through the Corporate Finance Institute.
Michael Dulitz has served the Greater Grand Forks community as the Opioid Response Coordinator at Grand Forks Public Health since 2017. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Health with an emphasis on health management and policy from the University of North Dakota and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Augustana University. Michael has also been a paramedic since 2011 which has driven his interest in addressing the overdose death epidemic.
Thomas Erickson is the Chief Operating Officer and Vice president for Intellectual Property at the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC). In this role, he leads the safety, operations, and maintenance of the EERC to allow critical research on emerging topics and pioneering technologies that support North Dakota and the nation’s energy industry and benefit the environment. In addition, he oversees the development and protection of IP and the commercialization of EERC-developed technologies. Thomas holds M.S. and B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of North Dakota.
Shannon Fisher serves as the manager for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program within the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality. She assumed this position in March of 2018. Ms. Fisher began working for the department in 2014 as an environmental engineer in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and is a professional engineer registered in the state of North Dakota.
Dale Heglund is the Program Director for the North Dakota Local Technical Assistance Program (NDLTAP). He has 40+ years of transportation experience ranging from equipment operator to design engineer. At NDLTAP, his focus is to promote a quality roadway network by helping others understand roadway engineering principles, the synergies of working cooperatively with others, leadership skills and new technology implementation processes.
Jennifer Henderson is North Dakota Housing and Finance Agency’s Planning and Housing Development Division Director. In this role, Jennifer provides technical assistance to and works with community leaders, government agencies, housing developers and service providers to identify the financial resources needed to address local housing needs, devise development strategies and position communities for growth with the goal of creating attainable housing for all North Dakotans.
Brenton Holper is the City Administrator of Horace. In his role, Brenton leads the city in operations management, organization development and budget and fiscal activities. Communicating with residents about funding options and special assessments as well as keeping them updated on water service interruptions and street closures has become one of Brenton’s priorities. Brent has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Baker University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography and a minor in Community Development from St. Cloud State University.
Rob Keller has served in multiple public information positions in his career, including the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services as a public information officer during the Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Prior to this position, he had completed a 26-year Army career where he was deployed on two public affairs missions to Iraq, five PIO missions to Ghana, Africa, and worked with twelve Killed in Action soldiers and their families. He was the Deputy PIO for the ND COVID-19 response and has been a FEMA Crisis Communication trainer for over 10 years. Rob recently started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called North Dakota Public Information Officer Association and is providing training to agencies who may have a need for crisis communication. Rob has a Bachelor of Science degree in Television Journalism.
Shawn Kessel is currently serving as the Interim Commissioner for the North Dakota Department of Commerce. His focus at Commerce is on finance/internal operations, legislation/policy and community development. Shawn has a BSW from Minnesota State University–Moorhead and holds an MBA from the University of Mary.
Jerod Klabunde is a Senior Project Manager with Moore Engineering, Inc. Jerod has 16 years’ experience working with North Dakota cities on infrastructure projects including water, sewer and streets. Jarod has a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from NDSU.
Senator Curt Kreun represents District 42 in the North Dakota Legislature. Senator Kreun is a former small business owner and also served on the East Grand Forks School Board for 16 years and the Grand Forks City Council for 12 years. He holds a B.S. in Education from Mayville State University.
Representative Mike Lefor has represented District 37 in the North Dakota Legislature since 2014. During his time in the legislative assembly, Representative Lefor has been named chair of three different committees, including Industry, Business and Labor; interim Employee Benefits; and the interim Retirement committee. For the past six years, he has served on the Legislative Management Committee which oversees the legislative process during the interim.
Keith Lund is the President & CEO of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation and has been with the organization since 2006. Lund directs economic and workforce development programs and initiatives that positively impact attraction, expansion and retention of business and industry to the Grand Forks region. Keith holds a B.S. in Management and Organization Leadership from the University of Mary.
Macine Lukach is a Leadership and Civic Engagement Program Coordinator for NDSU Extension. She firmly believes in helping people of all ages grow in leadership and civic engagement skills to improve themselves and be involved in their communities.
Matt Marshall is the Economic Development Administrator for Minnkota Power providing economic development services for 11 member cooperatives and 12 municipal systems throughout Minnesota and North Dakota. Through this work, Matt supports member managers and Northern Municipal Power Agency communities with efforts focused on business retention and expansion, business attraction, and community development. Marshall currently serves on the board of directors for the Economic Development Association of North Dakota, MidAmerican Economic Development Council, and the North Dakota Workforce Development Council. Prior to his time with Minnkota, Matt served as the economic developer for Otter Tail Power and the City of West Fargo, and as the director of sales for the economic development consulting firm, Golden Shovel Agency.
Cheryl Merck is the Project Director for the Money Follows the Person Housing Program at the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities. This program provides educational opportunities for landlords, service providers and the public covering a wide range of topics including fair housing, reasonable accommodations, service animals and personal safety. Cheryl also works with tenant education to make transitions successful for all parties involved.
Kylee Merkel is the Business Banker for the Government Programs and Economic Development Market Bank of North Dakota. In this position, she works with local political subdivisions to access the various state programs administered by the Bank of North Dakota. She also works with other state agencies, the legislature and economic developers to evaluate and implement programs to assist in diversifying the state’s economy. Kylee has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting and an MBA, both from the University of Mary, and is a Certified Public Accountant.
Joe Morrissette was appointed Director of the North Dakota Office of Management and Budget in 2018 by Governor Doug Burgum. Joe brings nearly 30 years of experience working with the state budget, revenue forecast and tax policy. Joe is a graduate of the University of Mary where he received both undergraduate and graduate degrees and is a certified public accountant.
Daniel Nairn is a senior planner with the city of Bismarck, where he has worked for seven years in development review and long-range planning, with a focus on downtown programs. Daniel received a Master in Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia.
Doug Nelson is the State Fire Marshal in North Dakota and has served in this position since 2018. He has also been employed as a fire fighter and a fire inspector/investigator. Doug is a Certified Fire Investigator, Certified Fire Marshal and has a graduate degree in Public Safety Executive Leadership from St. Cloud State University.
Tisha Nelson is a Safety Consultant with Workforce Safety & Insurance and works with employers in eastern North Dakota. Tisha has 15 years of experience leading employers to improved safety performance in a variety of industries including manufacturing, transportation, petrochemical and hospitality industries. Tisha is a Certified Safety Professional and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental and Occupational Health from Boise State University and is currently working toward her Master of Science degree in Occupational Safety and Health through Columbia Southern University.
Jim Neubauer has served as the city administrator for the city of Mandan since February 2000. In this role, Jim is responsible for directing, supervising and coordinating all departments and divisions to ensure an efficient and effective organization, planning and management of the city. Prior to joining the city, he spent 14 years with the North Dakota Office of State Tax Commissioner in the individual income tax and corporate income tax areas.
Brennan Quintus is the Chief Executive Officer of the North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund (NDIRF). Brennan is responsible for oversight of all operations of the NDIRF, development of organizational plans, goals, and objectives, and any other activity which benefits the NDIRF and its 2,550+ members. Brennan holds an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the University of Mary and many insurance designations.
Melissa Richard is the city of West Fargo’s Communication Director. She and her team are responsible for the strategic execution of social media channels, websites, media relations, graphic design, video and photography, events, crisis communication and more. The department services all aspects of municipal government including city hall, public works and public safety. Melissa holds a Bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University in Political Science and Speech Communication.
Lisa Rotvold serves as the Development Director for Beyond Shelter, Inc., a Fargo-based non-profit whose mission is improving lives and creating communities by developing and sustaining housing for those most in need. Lisa’s experience with affordable housing and community development has included working in rural and urban communities, securing financing and building single family for sale housing, multifamily rental housing, and supportive housing for special needs populations. Lisa has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design and Bachelor of Architecture from North Dakota State University. She holds Housing Development Finance Professional and Housing Credit Certified Professional certifications.
Pamela Sagness is the Behavioral Health Executive Director for the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services. In this position, Pamela provides policy leadership for the state of North Dakota, specifically responsible for reviewing and identifying service needs and activities in the state’s behavioral health system. With experience as a clinical provider in both the public and private sector, Pamela has developed effective programs and policies with a focus on collaboration.
Senator Ronald Sorvaag was elected to the North Dakota Senate in 2010 and represents District 45. Senator Sorvaag is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and during this interim is Vice-Chairman of Legacy Fund Earning Committee, a member of Re-Districting, Government Finance, Water Topics Overview, Budget Section and Water Drainage Committees. He holds a B.A. degree in Sociology from Concordia College.
Nicole Spoor has worked in the Policyholder Services division of Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) for 14 years. In her role as the Employer Compliance Specialist, Nicole provides individualized support to the various departments within the organization, assisting and educating both employers and WSI staff with understanding the workers’ compensation requirements in North Dakota. Nicole holds the Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional designation as was an Associate in Premium Auditing.
Howard D. Swanson is a partner in the law firm of Swanson & Warcup, Ltd., Grand Forks, where he has practiced since 1983. His primary area of practice focuses on municipal law and civil litigation. Howard was the Grand Forks City Attorney, a position he held from 1988 to 2020. He held the position of Deputy Grand Forks City Attorney from 1984 to 1988.
Jeff Tescher is the Director of Underwriting at the North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund (NDIRF). As Director of Underwriting, Jeff leads the NDIRF’s Underwriting Department in creating and updating the organization’s multi-line coverages, performing risk assessments to assign rates and managing renewals for their more than 2,550+ members. He also serves as the lead in the administration of the North Dakota State Fire and Tornado Fund, which provides property coverage for North Dakota state agencies and political subdivisions, and the State Bonding Fund, which provides employee fidelity risk coverage to state agencies and political subdivisions. Jeff has a Bachelor’s degree in Investments from the University of North Dakota and an Associate in Commercial Underwriting and an Associate in General Insurances from The Institutes.
Jason Tomanek is the Assistant City Administrator for the city of Bismarck. In this role, he works closely with the mayor and city commissioners to lead and implement city initiatives and programs such as the city’s strategic plan. Prior to this position, Jason was a planner with the city and administered the Renaissance Zone program. Jason is a North Dakota State University graduate with a degree in Landscape Architecture.
Jen Turnbow is the Deputy Director for Planning of the North Dakota Department of Transportation where she oversees all planning divisions and functions within the department, including planning and asset management, programming, local government, and transportation program funding. She also assists with state and federal planning-related legislation, budgeting and finance and helps the department with strategic planning. She has a Master’s degree in Organization/Industrial Psychology from Grand Canon University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the University of Idaho.
Dr. Tamara Uselman was hired in 2020 to serve as Fargo Public School’s first Director of Equity and Inclusion. Her current work involves improving outcomes for all Fargo Public School students. Prior to this position, Tamara was a district superintendent, assistant superintendent, high school principal and English language arts and a social studies teacher.
Christopher Waltz is the Manager, Sales & Implementation, for Otter Tail Power Company and has worked in the energy industry for 15 years, seven of them with Otter Tail. He holds a B.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Minnesota – Crookston and a M.S. in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy from the University of Minnesota.
Sandi Washek has been the Lead & Copper Rule Manager for the Drinking Water Program for the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality for the past two years. She previously worked as the Lead-Based Paint Program coordinator for 17 years and assisted in the Radon, Indoor Air Quality, Asbestos & Spills program for the past 22 years. Sandi is a graduate of Minot State University with a B.S. in Earth Science.
Shawn Wenko is the Executive Director of the Williston Economic Development Office, a department housed within the city of Williston, that provides business development services for new and existing investors and developers. Shawn has a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Administration from Black Hills State University and a Masters of Business Administration in Sustainable Destination Management from George Washington University.
Bradley Wentz is the Program Director for the North Dakota Department of Transportation Support Center and the Advanced Traffic Analysis Center at the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University. Development and implementation of asset management and GIS has been one of his specialty areas in this position.