Dakota Download Governor Burgum's Weekly Update - November 5, 2023

Burgum presents Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award to five-time world champion boxer Virgil Hill

Gov. Doug Burgum (from left), Rough Rider Award recipient Virgil Hill, Secretary of State Michael Howe and State Historical Society Executive Director Bill Peterson pose for a photo with the newly unveiled portrait of Hill that will hang in the Rough Rider Hall of Fame in the state Capitol after the award ceremony Monday, Oct. 30, at the Bismarck Event Center.

Five-time world champion Virgil Hill stepped into the Bismarck Event Center boxing ring one more time Monday night to receive the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award from Gov. Doug Burgum. Hill is the 48th recipient of the Rough Rider Award, the state’s highest commendation for its citizens.

Family members, friends and boxing fans attended the ceremony for Hill, who was raised in Grand Forks and Williston and won a silver medal in the middleweight division during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Hill went on to build an impressive professional record of 51 wins and 7 losses, with 23 wins by knockout. He set the record for the number of light heavyweight title defenses at 20 and was a first-round inductee into both the National Boxing Hall of Fame and International Boxing Hall of Fame.

“To us, Virgil, you’ve always exemplified the best qualities of North Dakotans: tough, brave, determined, durable, resilient, generous, grateful, humble, and like many of us, immensely proud to call North Dakota home,” Burgum said.

Burgum presented the Rough Rider Award to Hill in a boxing ring inside what used to be known as the Bismarck Civic Center, where Hill fought many memorable bouts, including his “One Last Stand” victory in 2015 to end his career before a crowd of approximately 4,000 fans.

“For those of you and those of us who lived through the 1980s and 90s … the name Virgil Hill is synonymous with boxing,” Burgum said, noting that 27 of Hill’s 58 professional fights were in North Dakota. “Wherever he went, Virgil was first and foremost a North Dakotan, a true ambassador of our state, proudly carrying our blue flag with its eagle with outstretched wings into the ring.”

Hill called the Rough Rider Award “the biggest award that I’ve ever received.”

“I won five world titles; I gave all my belts away. I won a silver medal; I gave that away, too. I’m not giving this one away,” he said. “I’m very proud and very honored that you guys thought that I was worthy of this (award), and thank you.”

Hill credited the work ethic he learned in North Dakota for his success.

“This is what molded my drive. And don’t let them ever tell you that you can’t, because you can,” he said.

Hill’s friend and former trainer, Al Larsien, who grew up with Hill from grade school on up, called Hill an extremely talented athlete and “fierce competitor” who wouldn’t be outworked.

“He just did not have any quit,” Larsien said.

Hill’s heartbreaking loss in the Olympic gold medal match – which Larsien and many other observers believe Hill won – turned out to be a blessing in disguise, Larsien said.

“Because it was like throwing fuel on this never-ending fire that burned in his belly,” he said.

Mark Fox, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation, who ran in the same local boxing circles as Hill during his adolescent and college years, said Hill was a “very driven” competitor and an inspiration to Native Americans everywhere – someone who never forgot the people who shaped his life and career along the way. Fox gave Hill a war bonnet, similar to those Hill frequently wore into the ring as a proud display of his Native American heritage.

For many, Hill made the impossible seem attainable, Fox said.

“He made us all understand … with some talent and a lot of hard work, you can attain these things if you commit yourselves to that,” Fox said. “And that’s what he did, and gave us all a lot of hope – and not just in sports, but in our careers, in starting a business, in community relations, in raising a family, in being a good father.”

Beyond his boxing achievements, Hill actively engaged in charitable works, supporting organizations focused on youth sports development, anti-bullying campaigns, veterans' assistance and cultural preservation. Since his retirement from boxing, Hill has continued to train athletes and promote North Dakota, going out of his way to train young Native American athletes and provide opportunities for them to excel in their chosen sport.

Fran Joerz, a former board member for Make-A-Wish, recalled how Hill formed a special bond with a young cancer patient and visited the child frequently, even giving the boy a pair of his boxing gloves.

“Every time Ryan went to chemo, he packed his boxing gloves that Virgil gave him,” she said, reading a quote from Hill that was published in the Bismarck Tribune back then. “’Boxing is a tough sport, but not as tough as what this little guy goes through. What a trooper this kid is. He’s more of a man than I will ever be,’” Hill was quoted as saying.

Hill’s friend and former manager Bill Sorenson, who served as master of ceremonies, said Hill is “extremely well-deserving” of the Rough Rider Award, which recognizes present and former North Dakotans who have been influenced by the state in achieving national recognition in their fields of endeavor, thereby reflecting credit and honor upon North Dakota and its citizens.

“I’ve known not a person that’s gone out of their way to promote North Dakota like Virgil Hill,” he said.

North Dakota Secretary of State Michael Howe and State Historical Society Director Bill Peterson, both of whom concurred with Burgum’s selection of Hill for the Rough Rider Award, assisted in unveiling the official portrait of Hill. The portrait was painted by Minot-based artist Vern Skaug, who since 1970 has painted many of the portraits hanging in the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Hall of Fame at the North Dakota Capitol.

Established during the 1961 Dakota Territory Centennial, the award was initially given as an honorary rank of Colonel in the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Riders.

State officials urge U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reaffirm existing DAPL route in comments on Draft EIS

On Wednesday, the Governor’s Office and other North Dakota state officials urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to maintain its current route and continue to safely transport North Dakota crude oil as it’s been doing for more than six years.

The Corps held public meetings Wednesday and Thursday in Bismarck to collect comments on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the easement for the existing DAPL crossing at Lake Oahe. In addition to the Governor’s Office, comments were submitted by representatives from the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, Department of Agriculture, Public Service Commission and Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Under the Draft EIS, three of the five alternatives would effectively force DAPL to shut down. Gov. Burgum has called those alternatives “unacceptable” and urged the Corps to reaffirm the existing easement under Alternative 3, while also criticizing the court-ordered DEIS process for the existing pipeline as costly and unnecessary.

Comments submitted by the Governor’s Office on Wednesday noted that with high inflation and gas prices creating hardship for individuals and families, the nation should be doing everything possible to ensure the safe and efficient production and transportation of affordable, reliable energy for citizens.

“The safest, most efficient and most cost-effective means of transporting crude oil is through pipeline infrastructure. The Dakota Access Pipeline has been in operation since June 2017 without incident. Currently, the pipeline safely transports approximately 600,000 barrels of oil per day, or more than 50% of the crude oil produced in North Dakota. Its current path – including the crossing at Lake Oahe in an existing utility corridor – was carefully vetted during a thorough public permitting process that lasted 18 months,” governor’s Chief of Staff Jace Beehler said in comments read into the official record on Burgum’s behalf. “Any reduction in available pipeline capacity will increase the risks and cost of transporting North Dakota oil to refining facilities by forcing oil onto less efficient trains and trucks. This also will increase congestion on our highways and railroads, negatively impacting the safety of motorists and the ability of farmers and ranchers to move their commodities and livestock to market, thus harming our state’s two largest industries.”
“Cutting off the flow of oil through DAPL also would drastically reduce the flow of oil tax revenue in our state. Oil tax collections account for roughly half of state tax revenues in North Dakota, supporting everything from schools, hospitals and airports to road construction, water projects and other critical infrastructure.”

Shutting down DAPL would reduce state revenues by approximately $1.2 billion in the first year and $105 million per year after that until DAPL is up and running again, OMB estimates.

The DEIS is the second step in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review process and will be followed by a Final Environmental Impact Statement that will include the public comments received during the current comment period, which the Corps has extended through Dec. 13.

“We appreciate the Corps accepting public comment regarding the Draft EIS for the Lake Oahe crossing, and we encourage citizens to use this opportunity to provide their input in person or submit written comment by Dec. 13,” Burgum said.

Burgum announces members of newly formed Task Force for Teacher Retention and Recruitment

Gov. Burgum announced the members of the Task Force for Teacher Retention and Recruitment created through executive order in September to address the state’s chronic teacher shortage.

The 15-member Task Force consists of Burgum and State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, or their designees, and 13 members appointed by the governor and representing stakeholders across the education community:

  • Patti Stedman, West Fargo, a West Fargo School Board member and member of the Education Standards and Practices Board
  • Bret Dockter, Harvey, a Harvey Public Schools teacher
  • Ashley Seykora, Rugby, Rugby Public Schools instructional coach
  • Abby DuBord, Bismarck, a Bismarck Public Schools teacher
  • Luke Schaefer, Minot, CEO of the Central Regional Education Association
  • Robert Lech, Jamestown, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent
  • John Porter, Fargo, director of the South Valley and Rural Cass Special Education Units
  • James Green, Watford City, high school principal at McKenzie County Public Schools
  • Sherry Tandeski, St. John, elementary school principal at St. John Public Schools
  • Jenny Bladow, Northwood, director of teacher education, College of Education & Human Development, University of North Dakota, and member of the Education Standards and Practices Board
  • Erin Jacobson, Bismarck, coordinator of the Teacher Support System
  • State Sen. Dean Rummel, Dickinson
  • State Rep. Steve Swiontek, Fargo.
“We’re deeply grateful to these members and all the candidates for their passion and willingness to dedicate their time to this critically important effort to address our state’s teacher shortage,” Burgum said. “Working together, we can identify best practices and policies for retaining and recruiting teachers and ensure they have the resources and support they need to deliver a world-class education to students across North Dakota.”

The Task Force will conduct stakeholder meetings and roundtable discussions to gather feedback from pertinent stakeholder groups across the state. Members will make recommendations in several areas, including increasing recruitment to the teaching profession, improving teacher preparation programs, teacher licensure, teacher evaluation, working conditions and supports, as well as reviewing compensation and contracts.

The Task Force must provide a final report with recommendations to the governor and superintendent by Sept. 30, 2024, and identify partners to sponsor legislation during the 2025 legislative session.

Lt. Gov. Miller helps celebrates Vision Carbon ZERO at Blue Flint facility

Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller on Thursday delivered remarks at Harvestone's ceremony celebrating the commencement of carbon dioxide injection as part of its carbon capture and storage project at the Blue Flint Ethanol facility near Underwood.

Blue Flint began active CO2 injection in October after receiving final approval from the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources.

“Congratulations to Harvestone on this exciting milestone in commencing carbon capture and storage. This accomplishment is a win for farmers, Blue Flint Ethanol and all Americans, because anytime we can improve the long-term viability of homegrown fuels and reduce our reliance on foreign sources, we’re strengthening national security, protecting the environment and holding down energy costs for consumers,” Miller said.

The Blue Flint facility is capturing 100% of its CO2 emissions from the fermentation process and is injecting approximately 600 metric tons of CO2 per day for storage, according to Harvestone.

“The North Dakota Industrial Commission is pleased to see the vision that was first announced more than three years ago come to fruition. We were happy to provide over $6.5 million in grant funding for this project through the Lignite Research Program and the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority, which Harvestone matched with over $66 million in private investments. Successful implementation of carbon capture technology remains critical to ensuring the resilience of North Dakota’s energy industry,” said Gov. Burgum, Attorney General Drew Wrigley and Agriculture Commissioner Goehring in a joint statement. The Industrial Commission consists of Wrigley, Goehring, and Burgum as chair.

Governor, First Lady welcome Halloween trick-or-treaters at Governor’s Residence with agriculture theme

Gov. Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum welcomed Halloween trick-or-treaters on Tuesday, Oct. 31, at the Governor’s Residence, continuing a long-standing tradition.

This year’s theme for Halloween at the Governor’s Residence was agriculture, and there were farm animals and agricultural equipment on site to provide an interactive experience for children.

Photos from the event are available for download on the governor's Flickr account by clicking the button below.