North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford to step down; Tammy Miller to fill post
The former Watford City mayor and certified accountant said in a statement he would like to return to the private sector and focus on his career and his family.
BISMARCK — North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford announced on Tuesday, Dec. 20, that he will resign from his position on Jan. 2 after serving six years as Gov. Doug Burgum's right-hand man. Tammy Miller, the governor's chief operating officer, will take over the role.
Sanford's resignation will go into effect just a day before he would have resumed his duties as president of the North Dakota Senate. The state Legislature's biennial session is slated to begin Jan. 3. The former Watford City mayor and certified accountant said in a statement he would like to return to the private sector and focus on his career and his family.
“Serving the citizens of North Dakota as lieutenant governor has been the honor of a lifetime, and this was not an easy decision,” Sanford said in a news release.
Burgum commended Sanford for his leadership as Senate president and as an advocate for the energy sector.
"From his leadership on key issues including energy, child care and economic development, to his influential work with the legislative branch as president of the Senate, to his leadership as the governor’s designee on multiple state boards, Brent has made a positive impact on North Dakota’s citizens, economy and communities far and wide," Burgum said in a statement.
Burgum introduced Miller as the lieutenant governor-in-waiting to a crowd of reporters and officials at the Capitol on Tuesday. Sanford, who had two years left on his term, was not present at a press conference announcing his replacement.
Miller left her post as CEO of Fargo-based Border States Electric to join Burgum's office in 2020. The 62-year-old native of Brocket, North Dakota, said she will continue to advocate for small towns and the governor's agenda in her new position.
Burgum said he will not hire a replacement COO, a position he created after he took office.
The governor said there were no personal or work-related issues between he and Sanford that contributed to the lieutenant governor's departure, adding that the two will remain friends. Burgum said Sanford privately expressed several months ago that he did not want to serve out the remainder of the duo's second term.
After the state's largest coal-fired power plant announced in 2020 it would shut down, Burgum credited Sanford with finding a buyer for the plant to keep it running. Sanford also has been a leading supporter of carbon capture, a nascent technology that would bury carbon emissions deep underground. Expensive carbon capture projects, a cornerstone of Burgum's energy plans, have become a favorite of the coal and oil industries.
As lieutenant governor, Sanford presided over the Senate and chaired several boards, including the Capitol Grounds Planning Commission and the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority. He also served as Burgum's designee on the State Investment Board and the State Water Commission.
Before joining Burgum's gubernatorial ticket in 2016, Sanford shepherded Watford City through an oil boom that brought exponential growth — and major growing pains — to the western city. His selection as a running mate for Burgum lent geographic balance to the Fargo tech mogul's campaign. The pair easily defeated Democratic-NPL opponents in 2016 and 2020.
North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Perrie Schafer thanked Sanford for his "tireless conservative leadership" and applauded Miller's appointment, calling her a "high-caliber business leader."
U.S. Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, both R-N.D., said Sanford's attention to energy policies made North Dakota and the nation stronger.
"North Dakota is a better place because of his mark," Cramer said in a news release.
North Dakota Democratic-NPL Chairman Pat Hart noted that Burgum's administration has seen a lot of turnover this year with about a half dozen cabinet members departing.
“What is going on with our top leadership? It seems to me that there is quite a lot that is in flux, and a steady ship is an essential part of the highest levels of state governance," Hart said. “The governor seems too distracted by his own workforce issues to be addressing North Dakota's worker shortage.
Brent Sanford Statement by Jeremy Turley on Scribd