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From Hettinger to Washington, D.C.: Rick Berg wants common sense legislation

Rick Berg

U.S. Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., used to wrestle his competition for the Black Devils in Hettinger. Now, after trading in his '70s-style outfit for a business suit, he is wrestling representatives in Washington, D.C.

"Common sense legislation that we're passing in the House is not even being brought up in the Senate," he said. "It goes all the way back to if your cattle are getting out, you fix the fence. If they are getting out in the other pasture, you go over there and fix that fence."

Born in Maddock, Berg moved to Minneapolis when he was 4 so his father, Bert Berg, could go to the University of Minnesota for veterinarian school. Rick and his family moved to Hettinger when he was in the second grade.

He spent his summers hauling bales and working cattle, his mother, Francie Berg, said, adding he worked hard his whole life. Rick said times sometimes got hard, but it helped him shape his life.

"I wouldn't be serving in the U.S. Congress if it wasn't for growing up in western North Dakota," Rick said.

Rick went to Hettinger Public School, where he graduated in 1977. He also was involved in his local 4-H club and FFA.

Terry Miller of Hettinger, who was on the wrestling team with Rick in high school, has kept up with the representative over the years. Miller would also take students to the Capitol in Bismarck to watch the state legislators vote, including Rick.

"He just seems like a normal, average person like most of us are, and that's why I think he has done well and will continue to do well," Miller said. "He's just a fantastic guy."

Rick attended North Dakota State University, where he met his wife, Tracy, according to a press release.

In his senior year, he started Goldmark Schlossman Commercial Real Estate Services in Fargo with his friends. He would later serve 25 years in the North Dakota House of Representatives as a speaker of the House and majority leader.

In 2010, Rick was elected as North Dakota's only member in the U.S. House of Representatives. He will make a run for Democrat Sen. Kent Conrad's Senate seat. Conrad will not seek re-election.

Francie never thought he would be passing bills in the national Capitol, but his family does have some background in governing. Rick's grandfather was a member of the Benson County Commission for 30 years.

"Everyone in our family has tried to contribute to the community," she said. "We've all done volunteer work and tried to make the world a better place."

While Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp doesn't agree with all of Rick's policies, she was glad that he uses his life experience in Washington, D.C.

"When you look at Congressman Berg's public service, it is pretty amazing," she said. "He shows a lot of dedication to North Dakota and a lot of dedication to public service, and I think anyone, regardless whether they are Democrat or Republican, needs to be applauded for that kind of commitment."

People in North Dakota make decisions, unlike the U.S. Congress, Heitkamp said.

"I think what North Dakotans hate so much about Washington is, No. 1, they seem to be arguing about things that matter to the vast majority of Americans," she said. "They only seem to want to resolve political arguments and not solve problems."

Heitkamp said the U.S. Congress should develop an energy policy instead of focusing on birth control and breast cancer screening, adding "it's like the Twilight Zone."

North Dakota was "in the tanks" after the oil boom ended in 1984, which prompted Rick to run for state office, he said. That same logic pushed him to run for the U.S. House and Senate.

"Quite frankly, I had planned on retiring because things were working so well in North Dakota," he said. "I just saw things out in Washington being done almost the exact opposite to the way we did things in North Dakota and it worked in North Dakota."

Rick wants to bring common sense to Congress, where he said it is uncommon. He believes once people see the problems the country has, they will adopt that North Dakota common sense.