GRAND FORKS — Two eastern North Dakota business leaders say the state’s new lieutenant governor will be good for businesses across the state.
Tammy Miller, a longtime state employee, was sworn in as lieutenant governor after former lieutenant governor Brent Sanford resigned on Jan. 2. Miller has served as Governor Doug Bulgum’s Chief Operating Officer since April 2020.
Before working in the Governor’s Office, she had a long career in the private sector, including nearly 14 years as CEO of Border States, a Fargo-based wholesale electricity supply distributor.
Brian Johnson, CEO of Choice Bank and co-chair of the Valley Prosperity Partnership, said he and others at the VPP — a group of business and community leaders whose goal is to pursue economic opportunities to benefit the Red River Valley — are pleased with Miller’s appointment .
“We are grateful for the former Lieutenant Governor’s service to our state and believe Tammy, with her seniority and past years in the Burgum administration, is well prepared to take a firm grip on the state’s issues. The entire state of North Dakota ,”He said.
Miller began her public accounting career in 1991 prior to working at Border States. She has been with the company for nearly 30 years, the last 14 of which served as CEO at Border States. Under her leadership, the company grew from a $485 million company to a $2.5 billion company. Today, Border States has more than 100 locations in 24 states.
“I started at this company when it was very young, and it was kind of like working for a startup,” Miller said. “I had to work in a lot of business areas, although my focus was mainly on accounting.”
Miller has also served on several volunteer boards, including serving as co-chair of the VPP, a position she held until becoming Chief Operating Officer of the Governor’s Office.
So far, Miller said, her extensive experience in business has transferred well to the public sector. As chief operating officer of the governor’s office, she works to standardize state agency websites and make them easier for North Dakota residents to navigate, similar to what she’s doing in border states to streamline the customer experience through mergers and acquisitions across the United States. While leading a company, she learned that economic diversification within a company can help a company weather a downturn better.
“This is a very important thing in the state and a key part of the Governor’s Main Street initiative,” she said. “We are working hard for the state’s continued economic growth and diversity.”
Miller said her experience in the private sector will help North Dakota businesses because she knows what it’s like to run a business.
“We strongly believe that innovation trumps regulation, and are in business with a full understanding of how important it is to do business easily with one state,” Miller said. “If we make it easy to do business, reduce regulation and foster more innovation to solve more problems, That will definitely help us attract and retain new business.”
Miller lived and worked in eastern North Dakota for most of his life. Originally from Brockett, near Devils Lake, North Dakota, she attended Minnesota State University Moorhead University and spent most of her career in Fargo. She lives in Mandan now.
He said Johnson hoped that Miller’s experience in eastern North Dakota would carry over to her state’s leadership.
Steve Burian, who co-chairs the VPP with Miller and is also CEO of Burian & Associates, said Miller always viewed North Dakota as one big entity when it came to doing business. He said she had many ties to eastern North Dakota.
“I think she’s going to be able to bring some perspective to eastern North Dakota in a very appropriate way,” he said.
Johnson and Burian agree that Miller’s leadership is good news for business across the state, not just eastern North Dakota. Both Burgum and Miller know what it’s like to be on the commercial end of a public-private partnership, Johnson said.
“Doug and Tammy fully identify with these things because when they run their business, it’s important to the community,” he said. “Well, now it’s important for the whole state.”
Miller said she has good connections and connections in eastern North Dakota, but because of her work in North Dakota with border states, she is familiar with the needs of western North Dakota.
“A lot of the profits have come from the western part of the state over the years, and there have been different oil booms over the years, so I’m very familiar and passionate about what’s going on in the western part of the state,” she said.
Connecting with leaders and constituents in western North Dakota is a top priority for Miller in his new role. The Lieutenant Governor serves as the President of the Senate, so getting to know your senator is a priority when the legislature is in session.
“Once we get through the convention, I hope to be able to get out and, as I would say, be on the ground and start meeting with a lot of voters across the state. But I might need to focus more on the western part of the state to build some of those relationships and move on from They’re there first-hand about their situation and how we can help,” she said.