Pollert one of few rural majority leaders in North Dakota's recent history
CARRINGTON, N.D. — A Carrington politician is just the third man in the past 35 years to serve as the North Dakota House majority leader from a rural district, according to lists prepared by the North Dakota Legislative Council staff.
Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, was elected to that post in early November and replaces Al Carlson, a Fargo Republican, who lost his bid for re-election.
Pollert, 63, owns G & R Grain and Feed in New Rockford. He has been a member of the North Dakota House of Representatives since 1999 representing District 29, which includes all of Foster, rural Stutsman and the majority of LaMoure counties.
Carlson served as House majority leader since 2009 and was preceded by Rick Berg, also a Fargo Republican, who held the post beginning in 2003.
Wesley Belter, a Republican from Leonard, held the post for one session in 2001. Looking back to 1983, Richard Backes, D-Glenburn, was the next most recent rural legislator to serve as House majority leader.
“It’s huge to have a leader from a rural district,” said Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier. “We haven’t had one for quite some time.”
Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, also sees it as an opportunity for smaller communities in the state.
“This is good for rural North Dakota,” he said. “He will bring a different perspective, take a look at things with open eyes, give some focus to ag issues.”
Pollert said his intent in the leadership role is to serve the entire state. He spends a lot of time on the phone with legislators and leaders from the west talking about energy-related topics and the eastern part of North Dakota discussing things like the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project.
“Since the election, everyone wants to know where I stand,” he said. “The budget is definitely a factor in everything.”
Pollert brings considerable experience with budgets after 14 years on the House Appropriations Committee. He said he understands the state’s financial position but will have a better idea of what a possible state budget might look like after revenue forecasts are finalized in the next few weeks.
Every part of North Dakota will have its own spending priorities, although many issues will be consistent throughout the state, he said.
“The budget, schools and roads,” he said. “If you’re looking at a list of the top five issues (for the 2019 Legislature), those are likely three of them.”
Pollert said Carlson’s defeat prompted him to run for the majority leader position.
“When he got defeated, I thought I’d like to bring the ag experience and business experience I have to the job,” he said. “I’m going to try to build consensuses. Not just for one area, but the whole state.”
Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown, said the position of majority leader can be difficult but he expects Pollert to do well.
“He is an even-tempered, thoughtful type of person,” Wanzek said, “but he has a strong resolve. When he believes something should be a certain way, he stands firm.”