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Other Views: Fong resignation unfortunate for N.D.

As tax commissioners go in North Dakota, Cory Fong stands close to the top, and that's saying something. Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad and Heidi Heitkamp were all state tax commissioners who ended up in Congress and Lloyd Omdahl became a lieutenant governor. Fong has announced he would step down at the end of the year to join an advertising agency. His term in office will not end for another 12 months.

Fong's immediate predecessor, Rick Clayburgh, left office before his third term was complete. Clayburgh stepped down to become president and CEO of the North Dakota Bankers Association, a job he still holds.

A Republican, Fong was appointed tax commissioner by then-Gov. John Hoeven.

While we want to wish Fong good luck in his new position, we do so with regret. He took his job of being a public servant seriously and performed it well. He managed the tax commissioner's office with a steady hand. It would have been better for the people of North Dakota had Fong decided to finish out his term.

That's not to say Fong will be unable to run for office in the future. However, voters have long memories and have been known to take umbrage with elected leaders who do not fulfill their terms of office. Certainly, we believed he would be a good candidate for higher office.

Fong has taken a position in the private sector. You might argue that this will broaden his experience and improve his electability.

Now it falls to Gov. Jack Dalrymple to appoint Fong's replacement. The Republican Party in North Dakota has ample talent to choose from when it comes to the tax commissioner's job -- members of the Legislature, younger professional staff and party stalwarts. It will be interesting to see Dalrymple's choice.

The state tax commissioner has been an interesting position over the years. He or she comes in contact with almost every voting-age North Dakotan, and not always in what's perceived to be a good way, a.k.a. the tax collector. But the individuals who have had that job have generally earned the public's respect, as can be seen in the resumes of former commissioners.

Cory Fong has done a good job as tax commissioner. He has been an excellent public servant. He will be missed in the state tax department.