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Representing people and a place

Posted 4/17/19 (Wed)

By Bilal Suleiman
ND Newspaper Association

North Dakota is a vast, open state, and while it has a few population hubs, it’s sparsely populated and sends but one representative to the U.S. House of Representatives.
And within the state, Legislative District 39 is a sprawling district with population concentrated in Beach, Bowman, Hettinger and Watford City. It has a diverse, booming economy thanks to the presence of the Bakken shale formation - yet has just three legislators representing an array of varied interests, including 50 percent of the state’s oil production, by some estimates.
Sen. Dale Patten, R-Watford City, understands well the challenge of maintaining contact with far-flung constituents and understanding what affects them in the state’s largest district.
The freshman lawmaker, who replaced longtime Sen. Bill Bowman, has experience working as a county extension agent in Slope and McKenzie counties, as well as serving as a McKenzie County Commissioner for 12 years. Patten said his past in public service gave him experience and allowed him to build up name recognition in a district whose residents are scattered over an area larger than several states. Email and cell phones have helped, he said.
Patten said he has a 3½-hour drive from the northern edge of his district, just south of Williston, to the southern edge, the South Dakota border.

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