Last time we published anything about Mike Seminary, he had just been walloped by Steve Bakken in the June election for Mayor of Bismarck. That 20-point defeat earned Seminary the title of “Former Mayor of Bismarck”. It was a fitting end to an awful era in North Dakota’s capital city.
Yesterday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler announced that thirteen people have applied for two open positions on North Dakota’s State Board of Higher Education. And one of them is none other than — you guessed it — Former Mayor of Bismarck Mike Seminary.
As you likely already know, the State Board of Higher Education oversees the eleven public colleges and universities in the state. According to the North Dakota University System website:
“The SBHE is made up of seven citizen members appointed to four-year terms by the governor and one student appointed by the governor to serve a one-year term. The Council of College Faculties selects the board’s non-voting faculty advisor, and the NDUS Staff Senate selects the board’s non-voting staff advisor.”
Higher education — and the board that oversees it — has been a subject of debate themselves in recent years. In fact, a task force convened by Governor Doug Burgum recently made a recommendation that the current model be replaced by a governance structure of three boards— a change to the State Constitution that would require voter approval. It’s an odd proposal for those who already view the current singular board model as problematic. But I digress.
So, what would Mike Seminary bring to the table that would help improve issues surrounding higher education? In our opinion— nothing.
In case you need some reminders of why we stand where we do, here’s a list.
- Standing in Solidarity with Protesters – when the troublesome Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were wreaking havoc, Mayor Mike Seminary welcomed them. In his own words:
“…on behalf of the City of Bismarck, I want to thank you for being here today. I personally stand in solidarity with you. You have chosen this day to be here to stand up for what is right.”
He later tried to spin the issue. But it was too late. Damage done. A serious flaw in the leadership of Seminary was on full display for all to see.
- The Incriminating Livability Summit – in March of 2017, Seminary put on a summit at Bismarck State College in which he shared the results of a “livability survey” of the city. The results were fascinating. In short, they were a reflection of the Mayor’s shortcomings. Respondents expressed a desire for more affordable housing. Yet, Seminary had been giving tax breaks to renaissance zone projects and slapping people with specials. They also expressed support for schools, but Seminary had been party to diverting $15 million from schools to downtown projects. Respondents also voiced a desire for more green space. Only Mayor Mike had diverted $2.9 million from the Park Board to downtown projects.When an effort was in place to recall Mike Seminary in early 2017, Better Leadership for a Better Bismarck described him this way:
“Since taking office, Mayor Seminary has lead Bismarck down a regressive path. He’s showed a great deal of ineptitude in dealing with Bismarck finances, a lack of communication and total disregard with citizens’ wishes and a disconnect with citizens’ values, priorities and visions of Bismarck as the state capitol and thriving city in the heart of North Dakota.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the leadership ability of Bismarck’s former mayor, is it?
- A Display of Arrogance – there’s multiple examples, but let me cite just one. In the face of the aforementioned recall effort, Seminary had the audacity to claim that his list of accomplishments was so extensive that he couldn’t cover them all. He made the claim in a press conference. And to be even more specific, he said he had a list of 33 accomplishments in his apps. When one reporter inquired whether the recall would change the way he approached things, his response was, “No. None. Doesn’t change me at all.”Seminary’s unwillingness to self-evaluate and listen to his critics ultimately cost him— big time.
- About those Corrupt Practices – when we revealed examples of what we believed to be violations of North Dakota’s Corrupt Practices Law, Seminary didn’t respond well to the accusations. In fact, he was pretty upset about it. The Attorney General’s Office and Bureau of Criminal Investigation turned a blind eye to the violations. That seemed to just embolden Seminary. So much so that he made another slip-up and violated the Corrupt Practices Law— again. In fact, it was such a blatant violation that even the Bismarck Tribune noticed.What followed became nothing short of a complete meltdown amidst his bid to remain Mayor of Bismarck. While on the KFYR Kafé, with local radio guru Todd Mitchell, Seminary went ballistic at the mention of The Minuteman Blog. “I poo poo The Minuteman Blog,” said Seminary. Only later when he was interviewed by Point of View’s Chris Berg and was pressed on the issue of his most recent violation, Seminary relented and admitted he had “made a mistake”.
Is this who you think we need on the State Board of Higher Education? Does Mike Seminary exemplify the leadership that so many have pointed out is desperately needed when it comes to issues in relation to higher education? We don’t think so.
Ultimately, a screening committee will forward recommended names to Governor Doug Burgum and he will choose who fills the vacancies on the board. But are there potential implications behind that fact? Mike Seminary’s wife, Deb, worked on U.S. Senator John Hoeven’s 2016 re-election campaign, was a project manager for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, and is currently employed by Odney Advertising— a political powerhouse that benefits from taxpayer dollars.
A juggernaut in both Odney Advertising and North Dakota politics is Pat Finken— who was “thrilled” at Deb Seminary’s hiring. The Seminary’s and Finken have both been friends and supporters of Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. In a nutshell, they have connections to the “Good ‘ol Boys Club” that candidate Doug Burgum said he wanted to break up.
Would appointing Mike Seminary to the State Board of Higher Education just be an indication that Governor Burgum had succumb to the pressure of establishment politics and wasn’t as serious about breaking up the Good ‘ol Boys Club as he said he was? Perhaps. Our hope is that this never happens. Bismarck didn’t want Mike Seminary anymore. And higher education certainly doesn’t need him either.