November 23, 2022 at 2:37 p.m.

A new voice in ND

Holle elected as state representative
Dawson Holle will be sworn in Dec. 2 to the North Dakota Legislature for House District 31. The 18-year-old grew up on  Northern Lights Dairy near Mandan, North Dakota. PHOTO SUBMITTED
Dawson Holle will be sworn in Dec. 2 to the North Dakota Legislature for House District 31. The 18-year-old grew up on Northern Lights Dairy near Mandan, North Dakota. PHOTO SUBMITTED

MANDAN, N.D. – Eighteen-year-old Dawson Holle may soon be swapping his chore boots for a suit and tie.
Holle will be sworn in Dec. 2 as a state representative for North Dakota’s District 31, making him the youngest representative in the state’s history. The teen grew up on a dairy farm and is a freshman at the University of Mary in Bismarck.
“I haven’t told too many people at college,” Holle said. “Those I have told don’t really believe me. They have to Google me.”
Holle’s family manages Northern Lights Dairy near Mandan. His grandparents, Kenton and Bobby Jo, and his parents, Andrew and Jennifer, own the farm.
Holle and his three younger siblings are the fifth generation on the farm.
The Holle family milks 800 Holsteins three times a day in a 36-stall rotary parlor. They also raise their calves on-site.
Earlier this year, after the then-senior’s hockey season, Holle decided to run for a seat on the Legislature.
“I didn’t want to do anything in politics growing up,” Holle said. “I wanted to go to college, get a degree, find a job and maybe come back to the farm; I was undecided about life.”
However, Holle saw what was happening to dairy farms in the state.
“We lose on average one to two dairy farms in North Dakota per year,” Holle said. “I realized we need to change something or there won’t be dairy farms here for the generations to come. I want other families to experience the same things that I grew up with – North Dakota traditional farm values and knowing the importance of dairy and how dairy farmers contribute to the health of people in North Dakota with their milk and other dairy products.”
The idea of running for office began to form.
“There was a two-week period where I was bouncing back and forth with the idea of running,” Holle said. “I had a lot of supporters with my family and friends saying things like, ‘You should do it,’ or, ‘I could really see you making an impact.’”
Holle has always been active on the family farm by milking cows, feeding calves, and helping with fieldwork and harvest. Holle balanced farm work while also being a three-sport athlete.
In addition, Holle began what he calls a hobby business in 2020. About once a month, he made and sold gelato made with milk from the dairy.
“I haven’t really done it since I was running (for office), but it actually had gotten a lot of traction,” Holle said. “People are kind of mad at me because I haven’t made it for a while. Hopefully they will forgive me because of the campaign.”
After weighing whether or not to run for office, running won.
“I had the overwhelming feeling that if I didn’t run, I would regret it,” Holle said. “The worst thing that could happen is you lose, but you still get your name out there for future races, so I decided to give it a shot.”
However, Holle needed to get on the ballot first, which required 200 signatures on a petition. It was already April, and the primary was set for June 14.
“It was actually not as hard as I thought,” Holle said. “People didn’t really know who their representatives were; we had redistricting at the time. People liked my agriculture background and the ideas I wanted to bring to the Legislature, and they said, ‘I’ll back you.’”
Those ideas are many, and Holle is straightforward when stating them. One focus he has is on protecting the dairy industry.
“I want to bring forth a bill that says that milk can only be called milk if it comes from (dairy animals),” he said. “Almond milk and other (non-dairy) milk needs to rebrand itself or have special labeling. A lot of people think they are drinking milk, but they are not getting the same nutritional values of milk.”
Another concern Holle has is for the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which is located in District 31. Holle wants to make sure its citizens have equitable access to voting.
“We only have one voting site on that whole reservation, and the reservation spans upward of a hundred miles,” Holle said. “I want to put more voting sites there so that they are more accessible for people.”
Holle said he would also like to bring a bill forward to require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance while at school.
“There was a controversy in Fargo where the school board got rid of the Pledge of Allegiance,” Holle said. “We need to protect the pledge for veterans, so we remember who fought for us and our freedom that we have today.”
Protecting North Dakota’s export industries of coal and oil as well as supporting the Second Amendment and pro-life initiatives are also important to Holle.
His goals and ideas have resonated with people in his area. Of the three Republicans running to become candidates for two House seats in District 31, Holle and incumbent Karen Rohr won.
“I honestly must say that I was shocked at the number of people who said they would support me, and they actually did,” Holle said.
Although it was a victory for Holle, it brought on a few concerns. His win ousted another incumbent Republican, Jim Schmidt, who was a colleague and friend of Rohr. Also, Holle said people in the district thought Holle should wait until a retirement created an open seat.
Holle wondered what his overall reception might be.
The answer came when Rohr offered to join forces with Holle to defeat Democratic candidate Mike Faith.
“Karen and I worked together,” Holle said. “We decided we wanted to show a unified base, so we went door knocking together in every city in our district.”
Their teamwork paid off.
“People liked the approach we were showing, from someone young with an agriculture background and from a person who has experience in the Legislature and could guide the younger legislator.”
Friends and family held a watch party the night of the election at Seven Seas Bar and Grill in Mandan.
“It was probably about 11:30 at night when we realized we (he and Rohr) won,” Holle said.
Holle expected to feel exhilarated, but he felt something else.
“It was kind of an overwhelming feeling because you put in all that work for the past five months,” Holle said. “It paid off, and you get to see that people want you in, but you realize that now the real work starts from here.”
He is not sure whether or not politics will be a mainstay in his future. Holle has chosen to minor in political science; his major is business management. Whatever his future, Holle said that growing up on a dairy farm helped prepare him for this position as a representative.
“A special quality that agriculture gives a person is grit,” Holle said. “Time is almost irrelevant on a farm because your work day is mostly when the sun comes up to when the sun goes down. I will put in the long hours and the grit to make sure that my bills get across the finish line or my voice or my constituents’ voices are heard because I have the determination to get things done.”


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