Note: Thanks to Ambassador Karen Sanderson Elliott for sharing a North Dakota memory with us and for knowing that she may not be native, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be North Dakotan. Welcome to our great state Karen, we’re glad you’re here!

By Karen Sanderson Elliott, North Dakota Ambassador

 When I began to tell friends and acquaintances I was moving from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Minot, North Dakota, everyone’s response was the same – “North Dakota?!” The next few words out of their mouth would invariably be, “Why would you want to move there?” Admittedly, when my Air Force son told me he and his family were reassigned to Minot AFB my knee-jerk reaction was less than favorable. My single reference point would have to be the movie Fargo, but I didn’t want to base my judgment on a single dark Hollywood farce.

 Since making the decision to move to Minot, I’ve done some research and connected electronically with many interesting people. I Googled North Dakota and discovered why people love it and why many opt to retire here. Once I recognized the perks, I became increasingly eager to move:

 Friendliest state in the nation

  • One of the safest and cleanest states
  • One of the best places to raise children
  • Second best run state in the U.S.
  • Leads the nation in 14 major commodities
  • Lowest unemployment rate in the nation
  • One of the leaders of the pack when it comes to renewable energy, including wind power
  • Rich in Scandinavian culture (coincidentally my maiden name is Sanderson)

Considerably smaller than the city I left behind Minot’s size is attractive to me. In a 2006 census estimate, the population of Minot hovered around 35,000 while Albuquerque held over half a million people. Arguably, my former New Mexico habitat has a few interesting sites and boasts an agreeable climate, but I was beginning to see the unattractive by-products of a sprawling urban choke-hold. Increasingly I saw more crowded streets and stores, more angry and hurried people, and an increase in crime and grime. 

The friendliness of North Dakota greeted me within hours of my first foray into her blizzard-blocked towns. People said “Hi” and smiled. Please, thank you, and excuse me had found their way back into my conversations with strangers. Service with a smile was not just something you’d see in TV commercials – it was again a reality. 

Since connecting with North Dakota Ambassadors and numerous ND tourism pages, I’ve met real estate professionals, an imaginative photographer, a trained pastry chef, ranch and farm owners, journalists, authors, and freelancers, a singer in a barbershop quartet, and a Celtic harpist, as well as a myriad of property managers in my hunt for any available rental property. 

Throughout my 53-year life span, I lived along an over-populated east coast for over four decades then spent ten years in a too-big New Mexico city. A less populated town means less stress to me. Enjoying a shorter-than-15-minute commute from one end of Minot to the other is a delightful bonus.   

I’ll never be a native. But I am proud to call North Dakota my new home, and I’m excited by all the new friends, experiences, and possibilities coming my way. 

Connect with Karen via,, on Twitter @kselliottwriter, or find me on FaceBook.  

 Resources – October, 2010

About these ads