Kathleen Wrigley
Julie Fedorchak, Public Service Commissioner (Submitted photo)

Samual Fedorckak, 8, helps his mom, Julie, with an impromptu sound check of the media's microphones before she made her announcement on Nov. 4, 2013 in Bismarck to run for the rest of the term on her appointed seat on the Public Service Commission. Also helping are her husband, Mike, and daughter Elizabeth, 12, and son, Nathan, 10, not pictured. (Mike McCleary/Tribune)

This issue's theme -- BE Smart -- is the ideal segue for me to introduce your Public Service Commissioner, Julie Fedorchak. Although, to be fair, I could have written about Julie Fedorchak for any of the previous issues (BE Yourself, or BE Healthy, or BE Involved, Or BE A Parent). And Julie could be considered for a feature-column in future (possible) BE publications, for instance BE: faithful, optimistic, accepting, capable, humble, or -- my favorite -- BE North Dakotan. Pick any of these adjectives with Julie Fedorchak as your subject, and you've got yourself a solid story.

Julie Fedorchak is a fourth generation North Dakota woman. Her roots stretch from east to west and are grounded in the soil of this special place. Julie was born in Williston, raised in Fargo, spent summers on her family farm in Stanley and lives in Bismarck, where she and her husband, Mike, are raising their three children. Julie Fedorchak holds one of three seats as North Dakota's Public Service Commissioner. She was appointed to this post by the governor in December 2012. After 20-plus years of working on energy and policy issues, Julie has officially entered the world of politics as a candidate. She is running to complete the final two years of former commissioner Kevin Cramer's term in the November 2014 general election.

Some of you may be wondering, "Why would Julie Fedorchak want to leap in to the modern political arena?" Let's face it, it's a reasonable question. Politics is a tough business. Campaign schedules can be taxing, especially when combined with a young, busy family. From coaching to volunteering at school, church, community and youth sporting events, Julie's involved in her kids' active schedules. I was interested and asked, "Why do this now? And how do you balance a career, campaign and a family?" Her explanation made me want to sign-up for something. Anything. Serve. Do.

Julie Fedorchak is the candidate, but her family weighed-in on the deliberations.

"We talked openly about the rigors of a campaign and the time needed to invest in this process," Fedorchak says. "Honestly, without Mike and the kids' support, I wouldn't have jumped in. It helps that I've had two years of experience understanding what the job entails."

Her interest in politics and policy is a result of nature and nurture.

As the youngest of eight children, Julie Fedorchak is efficient, capable and grateful. Her parents, Duane and Dorie Liffrig, were politically active on a grass-roots level and have had a strong influence on her interest in preserving responsible public policy. They instilled a sense of duty to be involved. Julie's dad was Highway Commissioner in former Governor Allen I. Olson's administration. Duane and Dorie regularly reminded their children that, "Politics is important. You need to be engaged. This affects your family, life, your business and your future."

Today, Julie's dad, Duane, suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. Duane's memory has faded, but he's left an indelible, positive mark on his eight children, their children and now their children. Duane's legacy is his offspring. Each of them -- in his or her own way -- follows Duane's advice. They are involved. They act and serve, in an effort to make a difference.

So when I asked Julie "Why now?" She answered emphatically: "Look, would it be easier to do nothing? To walk away? Absolutely. Some familiar leaders in our state -- like Earl Strinden, Ed Schafer, John Hoeven, to name a few -- hired me and invested their time, effort and trust in me when I was quite young. These experiences have given me a solid foundation for recognizing the responsibility of government -- its limitations, too -- and the implications both have on our environment. If not me, then who? If not now, then when? Public policy plays a significant role in all of our lives right now, and there are considerable implications that policy and government (have) on our families and the lives and futures of our children. Outside of faith, everything is submissive to politics. And I enjoy the political debate. The opportunity came packaged in an appointment to the PSC two years ago, and my family and I stood together and accepted the responsibility. It's been interesting and fun and a real honor, and I want to continue to serve."

Julie Fedorchak is a wife and mother and a Public Service Commissioner. Her young children bring her balance and humility.

"Our youngest, Sam, could care less about the hearing in Tioga if I haven't helped him construct his Valentine's box," Fedorchak said.

Her 12th floor office in the Capitol has a majestic view of the city and is decorated with colorful artwork by her three biggest supporters: her children. Both views ignite her desire to stay the course. The culmination of Julie Fedorchak's faith, her parents' guidance, her professional experiences and her love of North Dakota saturate her determination to serve. And through her living example, she nudges her own children to "pick your passion and stretch your wings."

Kathleen Wrigley is a freelance writer; is active in the community, her church, and her kids' school; and is a long-distance runner, which helps to maintain her mental health. She and her husband, Drew, have three young children and live in Bismarck.