Images by Surreal Photography
When the polls open on Nov. 2, South Dakotans will have the chance to be heard. In a state as sparsely populated as ours, we enjoy the rare distinction of knowing that each vote truly counts. Whether it is change that we desire, or the continuation of current policies, it is the responsibility of every eligible person to make their wishes known, if only within the secrecy of the polling place.
For those who are hungry for something different, this election season will be right up their alley. Once again, the issue of medical marijuana will appear on the ballot in the form of Initiated Measure 13, and Sioux Falls’ District 15 has the potential to elect the two youngest females ever to serve as state legislators. Young adults emerged in droves to vote two years ago, but we must remember that the elections between those for president are the ones that often most affect our daily lives. In all reality, only by voting do we buy ourselves the right to complain about an election’s outcome. Those who don’t bother forfeit the opportunity to make their state into that which they believe it can be, and earn well-deserved eye rolls from those to whom they whine.
Jenna Haggar is running for the State House of Representatives in District 15. If elected, this 24-year-old will be the youngest female ever voted into the state legislature. What, one may ask, would make someone so young interested in making laws while most of her peers are playing Xbox? Her answer is that she feels personally compelled to serve her community, and representing their interests in Pierre seems like a good way to do it.
Haggar, a Sioux Falls native, works as a certified chiropractic assistant and office manager. She got her first taste of politics while working as an advocate for the unborn and end of life issues during the 2007 legislative session. Next, she worked on Joel Dykstra’s 2008 Senate campaign. Haggar’s biggest reason for running, however, is that she feels the lack of challenge to the incumbent candidates does not push anyone to perform and allows for a lack of true representation.
“I knew neither of them had ever asked me what my concerns were or what issues were important for me, and that gave me a heart through my petition process to find out if others might feel the same way,” said Haggar.
Haggar set out door-to-door and asked people in her neighborhood what their families wanted and needed. Through her pavement pounding, Haggar found that many of the people in her district had no clue who was representing them, let alone whether their interests were being taken into account. The most frequently voiced concerns that Haggar heard were centered on the economy.
“They’re all talking about jobs. It’s very frustrating in this recession to make it from one day to the next,” said Haggar.
Other concerns that came up frequently were public safety, education and the desire for lower taxes.
Haggar is running as an Independent, and maintains that she will not be bound by a Republican or Democrat agenda. Her focus is to accurately represent the interests of District 15, “I basically want to go out and talk to people. It has nothing to do with my specific needs at this point, but everyone in our neighborhood and our district’s needs.”
Haggar harbors no illusions about her age and yet-to-be-attained experience. She knows the input of others will be crucial to her success; however, earnestness, stamina, and clarity of purpose are on her side.
“I realize that being a servant to the people is my primary job. I won’t do this on my own, but by seeking council from people—continually asking for opinions and seeking feedback from people in my district who can advise wisely,” said Haggar.
When asked why she cares so much, Haggar says it is about perpetuating the legacy started by her ancestors who first came to Sioux Falls and built the very house she lives in. She considers the city not only her family’s past, but her future and her children’s future. While Haggar acknowledges that Sioux Falls is an aesthetically beautiful place to call home, what she finds the most inspiring is the kindness and resourcefulness of the residents she hopes to represent. “I care about people and want to give them the absolute best life I can. It comes down to the individuals. It’s really that simple,” she said.
For more information, check out her website.
When the new legislative session starts in January 2011, Angie Buhl will make history as the youngest state Senator in the state’s history. This 25-year-old University of South Dakota graduate believes that she will bring a completely unique perspective to Pierre. Not only is she a young woman, but rather than having a background in law or agriculture (like many of our legislators), her degree is in psychology and music and her professional experience is largely in advocacy and non-profit work. She is also the executive director of South Dakota Young Democrats.
Buhl is a native of Yankton and has lived in Sioux Falls for two years. She will represent District 15, which encompasses much of central Sioux Falls. Her district is comprised of a lot of Sioux Falls’ young adults and a large immigrant and refugee population. Sixty-five percent of 15’s residents are renters, which makes the district unique in Sioux Falls. Buhl feels that being a young renter herself, she understands many of the concerns of her constituents.
“Part of the reason I initially ran is because I thought that the district needed someone who really represented it—who looks like District 15,” said Buhl.
To read the rest of the cover story, pick up a copy of the November issue today!