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After alcohol treatment, tax commissioner to return to work Thursday

BISMARCK – When the demands of work and his election campaign became too much, North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger turned to the bottle.

“I think it just kind of came to the point this year where, with a lot of the different things going on, you end up using alcohol to cope with things inappropriately,” he said Wednesday in his first interview since taking a temporary unpaid leave of absence on Sept. 4 to seek additional professional help.

Rauschenberger returned to his campaign on Wednesday and will be back at work Thursday. He said he feels “probably the best I’ve felt in a number of months” after completing a 20-day inpatient treatment program at Hazelden in Center City, Minn.

In a sit-down interview at state Republican Party headquarters in Bismarck, Rauschenberger talked about his treatment, the work he missed and the two car accidents on Sept. 2 that thrust his drinking problem into the public eye.

Rauschenberger said he’s already met with an addiction counselor since returning to Bismarck on Monday. He plans to follow a continuing care plan and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings – as he had been before going on leave – as he continues his campaign against Democratic challenger Jason Astrup, a Fargo attorney.

He said he’s thankful for the outpouring of support he’s received from family and friends.

“There’s always this stigma around addiction, but it isn’t quite what it used to be,” he said. “I think people are more understanding.”

As tax commissioner, Rauschenberger oversees an office with 134 employees responsible for collecting and administering state tax revenues, which have skyrocketed with the state’s booming oil and gas development.

For the fiscal year that ended June 30, the office handled $6.095 billion in tax revenue. Nearly 54 percent of the total, or $3.276 billion, came from taxes on oil and gas production and oil extraction, according to department figures.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.