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An Interview with Prairie Rose Seminole PDF Print E-mail
Written by Adam   

Next in our series of interviews with candidates is Prairie Rose Seminole. Prairie Rose is running for the State House in District 45, which covers north Fargo and outlying areas. Prairie Rose has a wonderful story, and has been working for a long time in local government, and as an activist. Here's my conversation with her:

North Decoder: Why did you decide to run for State Representative?

Prarie Rose Seminole: Running for the legislature allows me do more for the people of my district and my state. In ND, politics is not so much political as personal, and my background as a young professional, a Native American and long-time public servant will bring a much needed perspective to the decision making table of our state government.  I want to work to pass legislation that will further the major agenda of the constituents in my district and of most North Dakotans; how we can earn a decent living and how we can raise our children successfully.

I'm also running to deliver a message that North Dakota is more progressive than those outside our state can begin to imagine. We need to start reflecting our progressive values within our state legislature, which means electing more women, young people and people of color.

ND: Tell us a little bit about your resume and your background?

PRS: I'm an enrolled tribal member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold in ND, home to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations. I come from a big family, but was raised primarily in a single parent household in Fargo. My parents role modeled values such as service, social justice, empathy, and community.

My professional and community work involves bringing people together, appreciating differing perspectives, understanding the legislative process, researching the nuances of hot-button issues, and communicating the concerns of ordinary citizens to elected officials. I've been a community organizer, and activist on issues from health care, the environment, women's rights, youth, worker's rights and poverty. I've found that government works best when stakeholders sit down to discuss our shared challenges – like how can we earn a decent living? And how can we help our children be successful? – fairly and thoughtfully.  I've built lasting relationships with members of the ND House and Senate in both political parties. I'm a better choice for working people, the underemployed, families and the environment. Professionally I'm currently a community organizer and have been non-profit administrator for much of my adult life. I've served in public office for more than ten year's, first with former Mayor of Fargo Bruce Furness on two Commissions, and then with Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, continuing my appointment on the Fargo Human Relations Commission.

[Editor's note: Prarie Rose has a very long resume. Her web guru has posted it in its entirety here.]

ND: What are your hobbies and interests?

PRS: Poetry, photography, walking my dog. Encouraging and training on women's leadership, advocacy and community organizing. I was a part of the Tri-College NEW Leadership Institute for women for six years and have watched women break their reluctance to make their own history, be their own leader, be their own voice. I like to empower people, especially to work towards justice. I've served on the Fargo Human Relations commission since 2002 and that experience has allowed me to understand the unique socio-demographics of my community and state and to have more depth when working to affect systemic change.

I've been involved with the Fargo Film Festival since 2002 and recently was appointed to the Board of Directors for Fargo's Center for Interfaith Projects. I very much believe that if we are to work towards a shared future that we must find our common ground. Faith is a channel to do so.

ND: If you became a representative, what would be your three biggest legislative priorities?

PRS: Infrastructure projects.  If our state does not provide quality roads, safe water systems, permanent flood-protection, and expanded internet and broadband services, we falter and fall behind.  By strengthening our state's overall infrastructure with sound projects and investments, we attract new development and maintain our position as a successful state in this time of economic uncertainty.

We tackle the same issue every election – how can we better people's lives?  Specifically, in north Fargo's District 45, high priorities include long-term flood control as well as ensuring that NDSU and the Research and Technology Park remain beacons of quality education and innovation.  There is the ever-rising concern of local property taxes rates and inadequately funded K-12 schools.  North Fargo has a diverse population, and serving District 45 effectively presents unique opportunities and challenges.  As a state we need to ensure to the people of North Dakota that we can make decisions that will build economy, create and maintain good jobs and have support children and families.

ND: What committees would you be most interested in serving on?

PRS: Great question, though, I think it too soon to answer. However, the real potential is for Democrats and Republicans to be accountable to the people of North Dakota and provide a secure foundation for the future. Our duty as elected officials is to improve the quality of life for all of our citizens, with an economy that works for everybody.  Our current economy is short-changing our youth.  There are too many people with minimum wage jobs, two jobs, no health insurance, expensive child care, and huge student loan debts.  When we talk about young people who want to stay here and chart their own economic course, we need to make sure there are good paying jobs here to fit their talents.  That means diversifying our industries, investing in technology, and attracting businesses with a proven track-record of commitment to the communities in which they operate.

ND: You have worked for the past year or two at Change that Works in Fargo. What does the organization do?

PRS: Yes, I worked with them for 14 months. Change that Works North Dakota was a non-profit grassroots organizing campaign working to hold Congress accountable to passing a progressive agenda. We worked to pass Health Care Reform and organized around the Employee Free Choice Act, and Financial Reform. Unfortunately our campaign was unable to secure funding for the long term and ceased North Dakota and national operations April 30.

ND: How do you see the organizing you did with CTW playing a role in your campaign and other campaigns in ND?

PRS: The main function of our work was building a progressive people's movement in North Dakota, at the heart of the work, strengthening the Democratic Party. North Dakota is ripe for organizing because of the amount of support for democrats in 2008. However North Dakota is also undergoing a period of change and transition; and during a time like this it is important to maintain a sense of stability with the people dedicated to the efforts of the Democratic Party. The CTW campaign has been about building a movement of citizen leadership that has the leverage to not only move our elected officials, but to establish a credible base of community power. With Change that Works ceasing and few, if any organization having the field capacity to continue this work, that stability is threatened, and so is the opportunity to build on that base of community power.

I see the role of CTW supporters, activists and leaders plugging into the current mobilization of getting Earl Pomeroy re-elected and turning out Democratic voters who'll block vote, so we can keep the Senate seat being vacated by Byron Dorgan and to change the face of politics in ND, like electing myself and other Democrats to legislative and statewide office.. I see them being a consistent body of people helping to affect change over decades.

ND: I had another question but I have to go check and see if Adam Hamm is at the State Investment Board Meeting this month. Ask and answer your own question.

PRS: Hey Prairie Rose, I heard that Milton Teagle Simmons, best known professionally as Richard Simmons, America's fitness personality kissed you at a conference at the Fargo Dome. That must have been embarrassing. That said, who has had the greatest impact on your leadership and in what ways?

There are three people that come to mind right away, first and foremost is my mother who taught me that in order to grow I had to step out of my comfort zones. She taught me the values of service, and to take risks by getting me involved with so many experiences and actions that were about affecting change to better our community. She's my rock. She gave me the vision of the future I want to see for the people of my community, state and world.Goal Thermometer

Next are Gladys Ray and Barry Nelson. Gladys was a friend and mentor who knew me my entire life. She was an endless cheer leader for me, guiding me down paths that were holding institutions and government accountable to the people. She gave me direction and taught me to put the people first.

Barry Nelson has also known me my whole life and as a mentor, he's helped me connect the dots of my journey. He's empowered me, by affirming the values of honesty, hard work, determination and a positive attitude. He's also the one who gave Rick Berg a run for his seat in 2006, narrowly missing the mark. He decided to run for a local race and asked me to run for the house seat in District 45. I very much value his guidance

Editor's note:

I have invited Prairie Rose to stop by later on and answer any questions you may have as well. Prairie Rose is a candidate I believe we need to get behind. Please donate to her campaign at ActBlue. Lets get 20 donors.


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