National News

Former ND senator considered for Icelandic ambassador post

Posted June 6

— A former North Dakota senator is being considered for the U.S. ambassador job in Iceland.

Curtis Olafson, an Edinburg, N.D., Republican elected in 2006 who served through 2012, told Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown Olafson is a candidate, according to the mayor. Brown has written a letter of recommendation on Olafson's behalf, released by the city on Monday evening and addressed to Vice President Mike Pence.

Olafson declined to comment last week when asked whether he was being considered for the job. He was unable to be reached following the release of Brown's letter of recommendation.

The White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking comment.

Olafson served on the state Senate Judiciary and Political Subdivisions committees during his time in Bismarck before losing an election battle to former state Sen. Joe Miller, a fellow Republican - redistricting pitted the two incumbents against each other in 2012.

His legislative biography, available on the state's website, indicates he's the "grandson of pioneer Icelandic immigrants" and that he has served as President of the Icelandic Communities Association. He holds a bachelor's degree from North Dakota State University, is married to Bjork Eiriksdottir and has two children and three step-children, according to the biography, though it does not appear to have been updated since he left office.

A recent article in North Dakota Horizons Magazine quotes him extensively on the subject of his Icelandic heritage.

"I have been to the farms in Iceland where my grandfather and grandmother came from and that was a very moving experience. I thought about how difficult it must have been for them to leave," Olafson told the magazine. "My grandfather's family arrived in 1883 and began homesteading in Thingvalla Township in Pembina County. When they arrived, they had a small wooden trunk, the clothes on their backs and 65 cents in their pocket."

It's unclear when the ambassadorship to Iceland will be filled. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to blast Democrats for slow approval on ambassadorships and other posts requiring a congressional confirmation. But according to the Washington Post, Trump has nominated for "fewer positions than other recent presidents."

As of late Tuesday morning, the Post reported Trump's administration had confirmed nominees for 39 positions; 64 more nominations were awaiting confirmation; 15 were announced but not officially nominated; and there were 441 positions without a nominee.

Brown's praised Olafson's "passion for the Icelandic heritage" and his "finely honed" interpersonal skills.

"He has been serving as a host to Icelandic officials for decades, as dozens of dignitaries have travelled to his hometown of Mountain, N.D., for the annual Icelandic celebration," Brown said. "His own professional affiliations with past and current officials and staff at the highest levels of government prove a strong foundation for the work he will carry out for the United States."

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