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Towner Man Receives Presidential Appointment

By Staff | Aug 7, 2015

"My affection for rural North Dakota started with my earliest memories growing up on this ranch first homesteaded by my family in 1903. While the landscape is part of the fond connection, it's really about the people — my family, our neighbors, the people in our church, our school and our town who come together when help is needed. When I call friends and neighbors to tell them what day we'll be working calves, they don't hesitate, they just come. When the USDA and the White House asked if I would help lead the effort for Rural Development in North Dakota, I couldn't hesitate, either, and I told them I would come. USDA Rural Development is an important partner in building and growing the very rural communities and neighborhoods that have sustained me and my family. I'm glad to have the chance to lead the effort here in North Dakota and help do the work. It's work worth doing." — Ryan Taylor

A Towner rancher and former state legislator was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to serve in another government office.

Ryan Taylor was appointed to the office of N.D. State Director for USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Rural Development, replacing Jasper Schneider, who stepped down in April. Taylor starts the position on Monday.

“It’s an honor to be entrusted with the responsibilities of state director and directing programs that improve the quality of life for the rural communities that I’ve lived in and care so much about,” Taylor said in an email to the Tribune. “I’m grateful to be able to start a new chapter of public service.”

As the state’s USDA rural development director, Taylor will work with a 45-person team to carry out rural development through long-standing programs, grants and loans for infrastructure, housing, business, health care, broadband data, daycare centers and other services and utilities.

“I have met a number of the people at the agency that I’ll be working with and I look forward to meeting the entire group when I start,” Taylor said.

As a 2013 Bush Foundation fellow, Taylor said one aspect of policies he wants to put in place as a rural development director – which he found after examining the Norwegian economy is preventing “Dutch Disease”, or an economic phenomenon in which countries that have had big natural resource booms wind up poorer, rather than richer, when the boom is over.

“A couple remedies for the disease,” Taylor said, “are investments in infrastructure and education that build up the capabilities and competitiveness of industries beyond energy to lead our economy forward after the oil has been extracted. Rural Development can be an important partner in that effort to keep North Dakota’s economy intact while we successfully harvest the oil and gas, and on track into the future when that part of our economy has receded.”

In a July 17 press release on Taylor’s appointment, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said: “Almost no one understands the needs of rural communities better than Ryan. Growing up in Towner and continuing to work on his family’s generations-old ranch have given him a deep, personal understanding of the resources and support that can help rural communities across North Dakota thrive. He will be an asset to farmers and ranchers who will know they have someone at USDA Rural Development who is fighting for them and can find federal resources to best suit North Dakota’s needs. He will help communities effectively harness the energy growth in the state. And he will enable the federal government to serve as an engine for economic growth for our Main Streets, small towns, and tribal communities.

“Not only does Ryan know the challenges and opportunities in rural towns across the state, but he’s also one of the most genuine, passionate people I’ve met and he truly wants to serve. He lives and breathes rural North Dakota and he will fairly seek out ways to help our rural communities grow and thrive. I can think of no one better to fill Jasper Schneider’s shoes than Ryan,” Heitkamp said.

According to Taylor, appointment is a long process that consists of interviews, submitting a resume and being vetted by people in the USDA and the White House Personnel Office.

“Nikki [his wife] and I have had a couple of months to prepare ourselves for the possibility of this announcement,” Ryan said. “Now that it’s official, we’re excited to get started.”

Ryan served in the state Senate from 2002 to 2012, in which he served for three years on the Agriculture Committee and for the last two years in office as the minority leader. In 2012 he ran for governor on the Democratic ticket.

“To lead rural efforts, it’s helpful to know rural North Dakota and my whole life has revolved around the rural reaches of our state. From the neighborhood where our family ranch is to the hometown where we grew up, went to school and did our shopping, we’ve lived the definition of rural,” Taylor said. “As a state senator for ten years, I had the honor of representing that same rural community and others, working to make sure state policies satisfied their needs for roads, schools, health care, housing, water, energy–some of the very same quality of life issues I’ll be working to advance as the federal partner in those infrastructure areas so critical to community progress. My past work and involvement with cooperative businesses, from those providing beef to grocery stores, to those providing electricity and telecommunications to farms, ranches and rural homes, will prove to be valuable experiences for me in the work ahead.

Ryan is also a writer; since 1994 he has written a syndicated newspaper column in western U.S. and Canadian newspapers and ag publications called “Cowboy Logic”, and has published three books. He is an alumnus of North Dakota State University, from which he received Bachelor’s degrees in ag economics and mass communications. Ryan said since graduating he’s written everything from hard news, to video scripts, to press releases and humorous columns.

“I’ll likely use those writing skills in my new role to open up the conversation with North Dakotans about developing our rural economies and the importance of rural places to families, businesses and our friends living in the state’s urban areas,” Ryan said.

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