David Trottier, Rugby, long-time ND Council on the Arts chairman, resigns

Nation’s longest serving arts council member steps down

RUGBY – David “WhiteThunder” Trottier of Rugby announced his resignation as chairman for the North Dakota Council on the Arts, effective Jan. 15.

Trottier was appointed by Gov. George Sinner in 1990 and re-appointed to serve under Govs. Ed Schafer, John Hoeven, Jack Dalrymple and Doug Burgum. He was appointed as board chairman in August of 1998 by Gov. Schafer and served in that capacity for 22 years until his recent resignation. Searle Swedlund, Valley City, has been appointed by Gov. Burgum as the new chairman.

“It has been a distinct and great honor to serve the people of North Dakota in this capacity for such an appreciable amount of time as the first Native American to serve in such a capacity in the state of North Dakota, and in the country,” Trottier said in a prepared statement. “I am also honored to have been the longest serving Arts Council member and Arts Council chair in the United States. I have now worked with five governors, five executive directors, dozens of staff members and over a hundred different arts council members from around the state. The changes that have occurred in my life recently lead me to believe the time has come to move on and allow new blood, as it were, to continue the important work of the council.

“My service in the arts has allowed me to meet so many talented people in our state and country. As a culturally rich state North Dakota sets the pace for so many things throughout the country that make us the envy of many other states. I have also been privileged to serve with so many high performing and excellent staff members over the years and the current staff is no exception,” he said.

Throughout his tenure, Trottier actively advocated throughout the state, region and nation for the arts. He is especially regarded for giving voice to issues facing America’s rural arts communities.

For 14 years Trottier served as president and CEO of Chiptronics Inc., an electronics manufacturing distributorship. During this time, Trottier took the company from $5 million to $40 million in annual sales and turned it into a well-recognized national and international company.

His myriad of achievements include being named the N.D. Business Innovator of the Year (2002); Mayville State commencement speaker (2002); Distinguished Alumni of Mayville State University (2002); runner-up for National Indian Business Owner of the year (1997 and 2005); completing a six-year term with the N.D. Community Foundation, the last year as its chairman; and serving a three-year term on the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies Board of Directors (2000-2002).

In 2007 the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies named Trottier the recipient of its Distinguished Public Service Award. The award honors an individual volunteer leader whose outstanding service, creative thinking and leadership have had a significant impact on the field of public support for the arts in his or her state or region.

Trottier has been working as a private consultant, local radio host and sports broadcaster. He also continues to perform in local theater and with his band as a vocalist and guitarist. With a deep passion for the arts since an early age, Trottier has come to advocate that, “The arts are for all of the people, all of the time.”

“I am very appreciative for David’s guidance personally and for his work on behalf of NDCA. We will miss his wisdom and wit, as well as his firm commitment to the arts in this great state,” said Kim Konikow, NDCA executive director.

“David’s commitment to the arts extends beyond his tenure,” Swedlund said. “As the board chair he has provided the guiding direction for an organization in an ever-changing state culture. His appointment by five different governors speaks to the respect he has on a statewide level.”

“From the time David was appointed to the board and re-appointed as chair, he distinguished himself as a thoughtful, intelligent and enthusiastic believer in the power of the arts to transform the lives of people and communities,” said Troyd Geist, NDCA state folklorist since 1991. “In fact, he often holds himself up as a personal example because, for him, the arts are personal. Like many agencies and like life, we have seen good times and bad. His positive cheerleading and his calming, confident presence guided NDCA through it all. While he is the first to publicly state he considers it an honor to serve on the board, there are many unspoken sacrifices he made for that service. For those especially, I would like to thank him. While in a position of power, he remained assured yet open, kind, down to earth – authentic. I am truly grateful to have worked under David’s leadership, and it is an honor to count him as a friend.”

“I appreciated David’s wisdom and years of experience with the Council on the Arts. His dedication to the arts was a constant source of inspiration to me. The generous giving of his time and energy to the arts in North Dakota has been greatly appreciated by all who worked with him,” said Beth Gigante Klingenstein, NDCA executive director from to 2014 to 2018.

“David Trottier is one of those rare people who serve quietly, without the need for a lot of recognition” said Janine Webb, NDCA executive director from 2000 to 2014. “David was always just a phone call away. He understood the agency and its role in North Dakota communities, was thoughtful in his advice and always supportive of my work.”

A special community event to honor Trottier for his years of service with NDCA is planned for April 16 from 6-9 p.m., at the Bismarck Art Gallery Association. If interested in participating, people can email kschreiner@nd.gov.

The NDCA’s board consists of nine members – one from each of the state’s regions and one member-at-large. They are appointed by the governor to five-year terms.


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