It’s time for the next chapter of my career, and, as I move on, I’ll be taking a wealth of memories gathered over my time at The Bismarck Tribune.
I am returning to my born-and-raised state of Michigan to take on a new job in the capital city of Lansing. On June 12, I’ll be starting a new position covering the Michigan Senate as well as other duties for an organization called Gongwer News Service.
Covering a statehouse once was always a career goal, so I consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to do so for a second time.
I spent a little more than eight years in North Dakota, having moved to Williston to join The Williston Herald in late April 2009. I moved to Mandan over Christmas weekend 2011 to join the Tribune.
I’m sure there will be some significant adjustments. For one, Michigan has term limits in place for members of the Legislature. It’s also one of several states with a full-time, professional Legislature. This week, however, Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley announced he’ll be leading a push for a 2018 ballot proposal to move to a part-time Legislature.
Other things will be familiar. Not many in North Dakota may know this, but Michigan has an all-Republican executive branch in the Capitol and GOP majorities in both chambers as well.
What I do know is that the experience in the North Dakota Capitol tower has been valuable and will serve me well in my new surroundings.
So what’s changed during my time in Bismarck? The GOP dominance in the Capitol tower has increased, with the largest supermajorities in both legislative chambers since the 1960s. How long the one-party rule lasts to such an extent will be interesting to watch from afar.
One highlight was covering the first and only full 80-day session in state history in 2013. I still remember arriving at the Capitol prior to 8 a.m. Friday and walking out alongside my friend and mentor from the Associated Press at 6 a.m. Saturday.
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After that marathon day, my bank account was pleasing to look at, but the lack of sleep that morning? Not so much: I’ve worked a weekend job in a stockroom for a local retailer the past few years, and I had to work at noon just hours after session ended.
In the Capitol pressroom, hunched over my old Tribune desk that makes me think 1970s high school teacher desk, sits one of my old shoes I wore during that 2013 session. The miles I put in around these halls caused my shoes to fall apart by session’s end and I’d become too worn out during my freshman session to bother to go buy a new pair in the final days.
I sprayed down the broken shoe with air freshener and put it in the corner as a sort of unofficial Capitol pressroom mascot, where it has sat until I packed up my things this week.
Other memories I take with me?
• The time I covered 2012 GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul’s speech in Bismarck: I tried flagging him down for a short interview. He grabbed my notebook and nearly autographed it before I stopped him and informed him I was a reporter.
• Covering former President Barack Obama’s visit to Cannon Ball in 2014: I remember riding with the national press pool in the president’s motorcade and, when a national reporter asked what the structures were up ahead as we approached the powwow grounds (he didn’t recognize a teepee), I nearly had a face-palm moment.
• Covering Donald Trump’s visit to the Bismarck Event Center last year: That will always be a historical memory since he’d secured a North Dakota delegate to clinch the GOP presidential nomination hours before his arrival.
• The Dakota Access Pipeline protests: My coverage was sporadic, but the rally of clergy on the Capitol grounds and across the street from the governor’s residence last fall for me will always stick out. A former colleague, who now works for another media outlet, turned to me when law enforcement was ordering people to disperse and arrests could happen at any moment. She told me who to call if she was arrested; I hadn’t been at many protests or rallies myself to have thought of having an emergency contact. Fortunately, neither of us had that problem.
Finally, my thanks to everyone I worked with as well as all those I covered during my time here. Also, thank you to those who read the Tribune and for your feedback. Positive or negative feedback alike, I appreciate having an active readership that cares enough to reach out and be engaged. Your interaction has meant a lot and helped make me better.