Women in Government: Girls State brings North Dakota leaders to talk shop

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News Article

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Campus Unit

University of North Dakota


Being inspired by others or having a role model can be just the thing to encourage a young woman – or anyone for that matter – to try new things and set lofty goals.

The Women in Government Panel, part of the week-long Girls State activities at UND, showcased four female current or former government officials, who spoke about their careers in and out of the political limelight. The goal was to shed a little perspective on what it really means to not only talk politics, but to roll up one’s sleeves and participate.

Words of encouragement rang loud and clear from each panelist – District 34 Representative RaeAnn Kelsch (Mandan, ND), District 43 Representative Lois Delmore (Grand Forks, ND), District 42 Representative Stacey Dahl (Grand Forks), and former ND Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp.

“When I was about your age I really wasn’t interested in civics or public service,” said Rep. Dahl. “I was shy and involved in sports. You are in a better place to start than I was. The biggest thing is being just a little bit willing to step outside the comfort zone.”

One participant for Wing, ND, specifically asked what the number one advantage was for women to be involved in politics.

Rep. Delmore offered that “it’s hard to say ‘all men’ and ‘all women’, but perspective is one thing and think priorities are, too. I think women tend to look further down the road past the next biennium.”

Rep. Kelsch said in her perspective women can work with “maybe a little more heart – not to say that we are soft, but we look at issues differently and that is key because you can’t have everyone looking at the issues through the same tunnel vision. Otherwise, the outcomes are always the same.”

Heitkamp asked the group of 125 high school seniors if they thought their priorities were different than a 70-year-old grandpa. “If any of you doubt that we need to have diverse representation, people with different life experiences, replace yourself with someone else and think how different things might be,” she said.

The women on the panel represented different generations, political parties and length of terms in office. Each also got into public representation differently, though all were encouraged by at least one person in their lives.

When asked what motivated each to get involved in state government, Dahl credited her predecessor Amy Warnke for asking if she would consider running for a public office.

Kelsch smiled and announced proudly that when “I was six years old I told my parents I was going to be president of the United States.” Her father was a local official and her family talked politics all the time. So it wasn’t a matter of if, but when.