Serving in the state Legislature has been a longtime goal for Mark Pederson.
Pederson, who lives in Bruce, recently made a career change that will enable him to go for that goal.
Pederson and Tim Begalka of Clear Lake, both Republicans, will face off June 8 in the District 4 Republican Senate primary. The winner will earn the right to run against Democrat Susan Thompson of Colman in the Nov. 2 general election.
Sen. Jim Peterson, a Democrat from Revillo who has served District 4 for the past 10 years, had earlier announced he would not seek reelection .
A Jasper, Minn., native, Pederson graduated from South Dakota State University in 1999 Mark Pederson with a degree in dairy manufacturing. He spent eight years working at a Lake Norden cheese factory before relocating to Bruce, where he lives with his wife, Tessa, and their two young children.
Pederson now works in Brookings as a real estate agent and is a part-time farmer. He said his new career would give him the flexibility to serve the three-month term required of a state legislator.
"Because of my change in careers, I'm finally able to do that at least run and have the opportunity to see if I can get to Pierre and represent the good people of District 4," he said.
Pederson said he has always been interested in politics, and his stint in the SDSU Student Senate sparked his interest in statewide politics. He has remained involved in various organizations as a member of the workforce , having served on the Midwest Dairy Association Board for South Dakota. Pederson is currently a volunteer fireman in Bruce, president of the Bruce Community Club and vice chair of the Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Relations Committee.
"Through working with all of these different entities, I've got the know-how to solve problems and budgets," he said. "I've also learned to work well with different people, and I think that's one of the things when you get to Pierre that you have to do very well." Strong ag background
Pederson considers agriculture his area of expertise because of his extensive background in the field. He says he would work to preserve and promote agriculture in the state if elected.
"Being in the agricultural field all my life, I feel preserving the agricultural way of life, the rural way of life in our state, is one of the most important things," he said.
One way for South Dakota to do that is to take fuller advantage of its natural resources, he said.
"We need to find ways to utilize that industry to expand jobs through renewable energies , whether it's wind farms or methane digesters on dairy and hog operations."
Pederson said expansion in those areas could help solve one of the biggest problems plaguing South Dakota the budget.
The wind industry alone in South Dakota could create sustained employment for up to 3,900 people, he said.
"As we expand, we're going to create more jobs," he said. "When we create more jobs, the state's going to have more cash flow, and we're not going to have budgeting problems, and the state's going to be able to thrive."
The budget is a big concern for Pederson.
He believes there are methods for balancing the state budget without cutting funding to education, which he considers a top priority.
"If other programs have to be cut, I'd be more than willing to make those cuts to increase funding to education." Experienced a consolidation
School consolidation is another important issue for Pederson, both for the state and for District 4 specifically.
Pederson was in high school when Pipestone and Jasper combined their schools into one district, and he saw firsthand what can happen to a small community when the school is eliminated.
"As soon as we lost the school, we started losing business and population," he said. "It's just kind of a downhill effect for the entire town."
Pederson is generally against school consolidation, with a few exceptions.
"There are times when consolidation is the right choice," he said. "But I wouldn't push and require it. If school districts can maintain with their budget reserves and maybe some extra funding from the state, I would be willing to keep them open." More money for schools
If elected, Pederson said he would push for more school funding and would work to maintain and expand the agricultural industry while focusing on alternative energy sources.
Those are some of the specific issues he would like to address, but Pederson's ultimate goal as a state senator would be to simply represent the people.
"I just want to best represent my district, and that comes from listening to the people and voting with what I believe is right," he said. "Ultimately, if they vote me in, they're voting for what I think and (for) my beliefs."
He believes he has what it takes to lead his district in the right direction.
"I'm pretty easygoing," he said. "I think that I'm well spoken , and I think that I'm a guy who's going to stand up and do what's right for the district. Not just the Republican Party."
Contact Ryan Woodard at firstname.lastname@example.org.