People of note in 2021

Lynn Aas

Civic leader, WWII veteran Lynn Aas well known in city and state

Lynn Aas, a former Minot businessman, former North Dakota legislator and decorated World War II veteran who was well known in Minot and statewide, died Oct. 28, 2021, at the age of 100.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said, “Lynn was a truly remarkable individual, a member of the Greatest Generation who fought with valor in defense of our nation in WWII and went on to shape the Minot community through decades of service and leadership.”

Aas was presented France’s highest honor, the French Legion of Honor Medal, at a ceremony in Minot in October 2017.

Former legislator Ben Tollefson passes

Ben Tollefson

Former state legislator Ben Tollefson of Minot died Dec. 16 at age 94.

Tollefson served in the North Dakota House from 1985-2000 and in the Senate from 2001-2008, representing Minot’s combined District 38/40 and later District 38. He had served as assistant majority leader in the House.

Tollefson participated in a number of local organizations and received numerous awards for his efforts.

Tollefson was active in the Jaycees, serving as president. He was extremely active in Toastmasters, where he served as president and later lieutenant governor of Toastmasters International. He was involved with St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and was a longtime member of Minot Kiwanis Club, serving as president and lieutenant governor of Kiwanis International. He was also past president of Minot Association of Home Builders. He was disaster recovery chairman for the 1969 Minot flood.

Tollefson worked for Northern States Power Company for 32 years.

Dennis Johnson

McKenzie County attorney Dennis Johnson also historian

Dennis Johnson of Watford City was well known as an attorney and a historian in McKenzie County. He died on Thanksgiving Day Nov. 25, 2021, at the age of 65.

Johnson founded the Johnson Law Office (now Johnson & Sundeen).

Among his many endeavors, Johnson recently was helping Dan Bielinski, founder of Canticle Productions in Bismarck, with the film, “End of the Rope.” The movie is based on a book that Johnson wrote about the Charles Bannon hanging. Johnson spent 40-some years learning about and researching the story of the last lynching in North Dakota. Bielinski said the film is being dedicated to the memory of Johnson.

Minot businessman, conservative voice Robert ‘Bob’ Hale

Bob Hale

Robert “Bob” Hale was known for his conservative voice.

The Minot businessman, builder and lawyer built Somerset Court, an assisted living facility in Minot and Rapid City, South Dakota. He died Nov. 18, 2021.

Active in North Dakota conservative politics, according to his obituary, he “held the title of troublemaker by some and hero by others.” For many, he was a mentor.

Lowell Latimer devoted his longtime career to education

Lowell Latimer, Ph.D, a longtime Minot educator, died Aug. 13, 2021, at the age of 90.

Lowell Latimer

He was a longtime Minot Public Schools teacher, administrator and advocate for education.

Latimer also was involved in many civic and community organizations.

He was presented with many certificates of appreciation and awards in education and other endeavors. They include being honored to have the media center in Hoeven Elementary School in Minot given his name.

Wilbur Wilkinson tribal chairman

4 Bears Casino & Lodge opened

Scott Louser

When Wilbur Wilkinson Sr. was chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the 4 Bears Casino & Lodge, west of New Town, opened. It was the one of the first casinos to open on a North Dakota Indian reservation and in the state.

Wilkinson, who died Oct. 23,2021, was tribal chairman from 1990-1994.

Also during his term as tribal chairman the Joint Tribal Advisory Committee, better known as JTAC, was passed by Congress. JTAC provided economic recovery funds for the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Legislator sentenced for DUI

A Minot legislator who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence was ordered to pay a fine and fees under a stipulation agreement last September.

Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot, had a 10-day jail sentence suspended in South Central District Court in Bismarck for 360 days, during which time he remains on unsupervised probation. The suspension was based on payment of a $500 fine and $750 in court fees, proof of submission to a chemical dependency evaluation within 90 days and completion of any recommended treatment within 180 days.

Louser, House assistant majority leader, was pulled over after crossing from Mandan into Bismarck shortly before 1 a.m. on April 16 after a North Dakota Highway Patrol officer observed his 2021 Cadillac Escalade weaving partially into neighboring lanes.

Minot hires new airport director

Jennifer Eckman stepped into her new position as director at Minot International Airport on Oct. 4.

She previously had served since January 2019 as project manager of the Northern Plains Unmanned Aviation Systems Test Site in Grand Forks. She previously had been airport manager in Jamestown, the deputy airport director for finance and administration in Rapid City, S.D., and the airport administrative assistant and airport real estate specialist at Paine Field/Snohomish County Airport in Everett, Washington.

A Bismarck native, Eckman earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a major in airport management, from UND in May 1999 and a master’s of fine arts from California State University-Long Beach in May 2004. She is working toward a master’s in business administration. She also has completed the Accredited Airport Executive program.

She replaces Rick Feltner, who retired June 3. He had been Minot’s airport director since May 2016.

Human service leaders retire

Melissa Bliss retired as director of the Ward County Human Service Zone Nov. 30. She spent her 38-year career in social services with the agency.

As director, Bliss oversaw the relocation of offices to the new county administration building and the transition from a county social services agency to a state human service zone.

Laurie Gotvaslee, regional director of North Central Human Service Center since 2012, retired April 30. She began her career as a social worker at McHenry County Social Services, joining NCHSC in 1999.She served as the assistant director before being named director and also served as the director for Northwest Human Service Center in Williston, a position she held until 2018.

Gotvaslee and her team worked to support community-based behavioral health services and other human services during the oil boom when unprecedented population growth stressed all forms of community infrastructure.

Minot native John Butgereit replaced Gotvaslee. He brought experience from the private and public sector in behavioral health. He joined North Central Human Service Center in 2014 as a licensed clinician providing individual, family and group therapy to individuals with mental health needs. Later, he was named the center’s clinical unit supervisor and was responsible for conducting assessments and providing clinical supervision of seven master’s level mental health therapists and graduate students working towards licensure. He was serving as statewide telehealth coordinator before becoming director.

Minot woman competes for Miss USA

Caitlyn Vogel, 21, a nursing student at Minot State University, finished as first runner-up in the Miss USA 2021 competition in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Nov. 29.

Vogel, of Minot, was selected as Miss North Dakota USA 2021 last April, promoting a platform of inclusion of people of all abilities.

As a senior at Des Lacs-Burlington High School, she had founded a nonprofit organization called Limitless. Through the organization, she continues to host an annual fashion show that provides one-on-one friendships among individuals with disabilities. Vogel, who also has modeled locally and nationally, created the clothing line, Down Right Perfect Collection, which is dedicated to supplying fashionable, functional and affordable clothing for girls with disabilities.

Vogel had served as Miss North Dakota Teen USA 2019, finishing first runner-up in the national event.

SRT sees leadership change

Steve Lysne, SRT general manager, retired at the end of December. Cassidy Hjelmstad, who has been transitioning into the position since July, is the new general manager.

Hjelmstad, a Newburg native, worked for the Timberwolves in Minneapolis and later the Phoenix Suns after graduating from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She took a position as director of corporate communications at SRT 11 years ago.

Lysne started at SRT 27 years ago as chief financial officer after working for about 10 years in public accounting for a Minot firm. A Leeds-area native, he had been SRT’s general manager for 19 years.

Jennifer Eckman

Melissa Bliss

John Butgereit

Caitlyn Vogel

Steve Lysne


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