Tobacco use is the result of a state environment which continues to allow tobacco to be aggressively marketed to youth; fails to protect nonsmokers, especially children, from the dangers of secondhand smoke; and fails to promote a social norm which encourages an individual’s choice to live tobacco free.

The mission of Tobacco Free North Dakota is to improve and protect the public health of all North Dakotans by reducing the serious health and economic consequences of tobacco use, the state’s number one cause of preventable disease and death.

Tobacco Free North Dakota is working to restrict the ability of the tobacco industry to market tobacco and to change the social environment to support nonsmoking through advocacy for public and private sector policy change and community mobilization.

Our Board

Eric L. Johnson, MD


Associate Professor – Department of Family and Community Medicine/Director Interprofessional Education; Medical Director – Physician Assistant Program, UNDSMHS, Grand Forks

Assistant Medical Director – Altru Diabetes Center, FMC-Altru Health System, Grand Forks
Assistant Medical Director, Valley Memorial Homes, Grand Forks

Valerie Schoepf

Vice President

Stay-at-home mom of three, Bismarck; Active in Bismarck MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers); Former Strategic Communication Specialist for the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

Kelly Buettner-Schmidt, PhD, RN


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nursing and Health Policy Alumna

Associate Professor / School of Nursing / College of Health Professionals, Fargo

Brady Weaver


Tobacco Prevention and Control, Custer Health, Mandan


Scott Larkin

Mandaree Enterprises, Mandan

Chelsea Ridge

Upper Missouri District Health Unit

Tobacco Coordinator, Ray

Kelly Heyer

SMarketing Consultant, Fargo

Our Staff

Heather Austin

Heather Austin

Executive Director

Heather joined the team at TFND in October, 2016. She has over 10 years experience in the non-profit industry. With 5 years at the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce and another 5 years working for statewide organizations, Heather has built relationships and coalitions all across North Dakota. Working with people and bringing groups together is her favorite aspect of this work. Personally, Heather has a husband and two boys at home, and enjoys travel, time with family and friends, and reading a good book.

Now, Heather is passionate about creating North Dakota’s first tobacco free generation by working to create policies and programs that prevent our youth from beginning tobacco’s dangerous addiction.

Contact her at

Nicole Ortega

Nicole Ortega

Office Manager and Communications Coordinator

TFND announced and welcomed Nicole Ortega as a new communications specialist. She will manage the organization’s website and social media. Nicole Ortega comes to TFND with four years of experience in the communications field. With experience in graphic design and public relations her mission is to spread awareness of the health benefits of living tobacco free.

The Executive Director of TFND Heather Austin expressed excitement saying, “We are very excited to have Nicole join our team she will bring a new focus to our outreach across North Dakota and help with our efforts to keep our kids tobacco free.”

When Nicole is out of the office she enjoys painting and exploring the great outdoors. She is originally form Bismarck and graduated from the University of Mary. She is happy to connect with North Dakotan’s to discuss how to live healthier lives.

Contact her at