BISMARCK-State officials approved a short-term extension for the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands commissioner's appointment Thursday, May 25, but also decided to open up applications for the position.
Lance Gaebe, whose term was up at the end of June before Thursday's action by the Board of University of School Lands, said he intends to reapply for the position. He said there hasn't been a formal performance review on his position since he took the job in 2010.
"It's a way of doing a performance evaluation in the context of applying for the opening," he said.
The Land Board voted unanimously Thursday to extend Gaebe's appointment until the end of the year or until a potential new commissioner is named. Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler, a board member, was absent from the meeting.
Gov. Doug Burgum, who chairs the five-member Land Board, said Cabinet members were asked to reapply for their positions after he took office in December. Gaebe is not a member of Burgum's Cabinet but is appointed by the Land Board, which is made up of the governor, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, state treasurer and attorney general.
The scope of the commissioner's job "has changed substantially" since Gaebe was first appointed, Burgum said during Thursday's meeting.
"I think it would be appropriate for us as a board to post the position," he said, adding that Gaebe could be considered "in the context of other applicants."
The Department of Trust Lands is responsible for managing the permanent educational trust funds and assets under the Land Board's control. It also manages sovereign mineral acres and operates the Unclaimed Property Division and the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office.
Gaebe was previously a deputy chief of staff and senior policy advisor to then-Gov. John Hoeven. Prior to working in the Hoeven administration, he was executive director of the state Agricultural Products Utilization Commission.
Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki didn't have details Friday, May 26, on a timeline for the application process.
Gaebe's department was the subject of several critical audits last year, which prompted some heated words during a legislative committee meeting. He said Friday that progress has already been made to address the issues.
"I have confidence in him," Secretary of State Al Jaeger said. "I certainly would hope that he applies again."
State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt said she was disappointed the board hadn't conducted a formal review of Gaebe's performance.
"If we're not happy, we have not been forthcoming in what we're not happy about," she said.