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Betsy Simon, Forum Communications, Published December 25 2012

Killdeer native youngest female state representative in U.S.

DICKINSON, N.D. – All eyes were focused on the computer on Election Day last month as Killdeer native Kylie Oversen, along with her mother and sister, waited to see if Oversen would become the nation’s youngest female state representative.

“There were four precincts in my district and one of them came in at 9 p.m., but the others didn’t come in until midnight so we just kept staring at the screen,” said Oversen, 23, who was running to represent Grand Forks.

“It was a big relief when the last three (precincts) came in and to finally know that I had won. That’s when we were all finally able to celebrate the hard work it took to get to that moment.”

Oversen, D-District 42, was elected with 2,524 of the 8,807 votes cast.

Oversen, a graduate of Killdeer High School in 2007, said she will bring a unique prospective to the Legislature, understanding the issues in the western part of the state that not all lawmakers in the east understand.

In August, she graduated from the University of North Dakota with degrees in social science and social work and served as student body president.

“I will bring my social work background to the Legislature and be another voice that understands the needs of families, children and the elderly as member of the Legislature’s human service committee,” she said.

Oversen had been working at the alumni association’s office at UND, but she is taking the next few weeks to sink her teeth into the issues facing legislators next year.

“You get a lot of information when you get elected,” she said. “So this will be time for me to read up on the information on the issues and everything legislators deal with, so I can prepare for the coming session.

“It’s important for me to take the time to do this now because I’ve been told that there isn’t a lot of time to read everything after you get there.”

Oversen will have a lot on her plate with the upcoming legislative session and making plans to attend law school in Grand Forks in the fall.

“It will be tough to balance law school and the Legislature, but since North Dakota’s state Legislature is part time I won’t have to miss my first year of law school,” she said. “My second year of law school I may have to miss a semester and make it up later, but I knew it would be a challenge when I decided to run for the position, and I am prepared for what I’m facing.”

It will all be worth it though, she said, because her election to public office in North Dakota should come as inspiration to others.

“The lady who held my seat before me was elected to office at age 22,” Oversen said. “I think it’s important to get younger voices and more female voices in government, and I’m proud to be able to carry the banner for both as I enter the Legislature.”

Oversen’s fellow District 42 lawmaker, Sen. Mac Schneider, said Oversen will be an asset to the Legislature because she can speak to issues affecting eastern and western North Dakota.

“She will bring both an east and west perspective to the Legislature, so it is a two-for-one deal, and I’ll be lucky to serve with her,” Schneider said. “She is fantastically talented and committed to serving the people who elected her. There will be a learning, curve no doubt, but she will bring a new perspective to the debates.”

As one of five children, Oversen is the first in her family to seek statewide public office, although she said her dad was a Killdeer city commissioner years ago.

Not only will she be a voice for the people she represents, Oversen also hopes to inspire other 20-somethings to jump into politics.

“Especially for college students, it’s important at that age to find some organization that their interested in and get involved,” she said. “Volunteer for someone’s campaign and do some door knocking for someone. You’ll learn a lot about the country’s political process from doing that.”

It is also a way to make important connections, Oversen said.

“You often hear that it’s about who you know, not what you know, and that’s true,” she said. “You will likely be offered different kinds of opportunities if you get out there and make connections with people. Basically, just get up and do something and get involved. It’s a message college freshmen hear all the time, and a lot of them ignore it, but listening to it will make your experience that much better.”

Betsy Simon writes for The Dickinson Press

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