Incumbent Commissioner Sarah Trustem has announced her intention to seek re-election to the Dickinson City Commission, having held the seat since being elected in 2016.
Trustem, a Dickinson High School and Dickinson State University graduate, approaches the completion of her first term in office as a City Commissioner and took the opportunity to reflect on her previous campaign promises — noting that while challenging, she has upheld her pledge to her constituents.
“Before I announced my candidacy for reelection, I revisited some of the old debates, articles and promises that I made when I ran last time and I really wanted to reflect on the person I was then and the person I am today,” Trustem said. “I said over and over again in my last campaign that I promised to work hard and that the decisions I would make were reflective of the community's wants. We’ve made a lot of difficult decisions, and I can truly say that I kept my promise from 2016.”
A former aide to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, R-N.D., and the youngest candidate across the entirety of the city and county ballots in 2016, Trustem enters the race against an unusually younger competition than in previous years.
“The problem when I ran last time was that the commission didn’t have the fresh and diverse perspective of a younger citizen, mother and professional,” Trustem said. “There wasn't youthful leadership in our community, and it’s amazing to see all the young people who have taken a step forward to move into leadership roles and I think our community has progressively changed so much as a result.”
With the 2020 election comes the added pivotal responsibility of addressing the economic ramifications of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on Dickinson. Trustem noted that policymakers and city leaders will have to scramble to make difficult decisions and that the steep learning curve related to the position of commissioner was an eye-opening experience for her.
“One of the things that people don’t always realize is that there is a steep learning curve for anyone elected to any council or board, but especially the Dickinson City Commission,” she said. “The issues we deal with are complicated and complex, they cannot be resolved through intuition alone. They require and deserve the application of experience, and with four years of experience under my belt I can truly say that I walk into the meetings with a better understanding of how our city operates, what our city services are, what they need to be and how we can continue to provide the best services to our citizens.”
In addition to her service on the City Commission, Trustem’s resume highlights years of public service to the community of Dickinson — including previous tenures as a teacher for Dickinson High School, as executive director of the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce and as the current and inaugural community relations coordinator for Dickinson Public Schools.
“Community engagement and involvement is very important,” Trustem said. “I know all about getting people to the table to address issues. One of the things that the commission has done over the last couple of years is to begin to look at the issues as Dickinson issues, not school board issues, or park board issues, but as a bigger picture.”
She added, “We all serve the same taxpayers, so it’s so vital to have that vision on how to best represent our community as a whole. How can we work together and serve our community better...That is a very important issue to me and the rest of the commissioners and we want to retain and continue to focus on quality of life for our residents and taxpayers.”
Trustem said that her platform hasn’t changed significantly since her last campaign, focusing on economic development and growth, fiscal responsibility, quality of life and community involvement and engagement.
“Economic development is a very essential part of what we do on the city commission,” she said. “We tackle every day how we can promote small businesses and promote entrepreneurial spirit in our community. We aim to diversify the economy in Dickinson so that it can be resilient to the economic fluctuations of the energy industry and I think we’ve done a good job.”
Trustem pointed to projects downtown, business sales tax assistance programs, renaissance zone projects and new business development that has flourished under the current commission.
“I don’t think we are quite where we want to be yet, but the interesting thing is that during the turndown in 2016 and 2017 we didn’t see a lot of change to our demographics. We didn’t see a lot of our small businesses close, we didn’t see a decrease in enrollment in Dickinson Public Schools. What that tells us is that people are choosing to stay in Dickinson,” she said. “We are continuing to push those types of resources and programs, and we have some strong champions in our community that have really brought businesses to Dickinson, that stay in Dickinson.”
According to Trustem, her doors have always been open to citizen input and feedback — saying that she will continue to be an advocate for her constituents.
“Citizen feedback is absolutely essential in the process and I take that to the table every time I go to the commission,” she said. “I can’t say that it’s always the leading factor when we make a decision, because we have to take all of the data and information available to us to make those educated decisions, but it is certainly important in the process.”
Speaking to the citizens of Dickinson, Trustem said she was honored to have served the last four years as their commissioner and is looking forward to continuing her role in doing what is best for the community for the next term.
“It’s been truly an honor to serve this community for the last four years and I’ve worked tirelessly to do what I’ve promised to do and be a great commissioner,” she said. “I know people don’t agree with every decision I’ve made, but hopefully in the long run they’ll understand that I made the best decisions with the information I had. I hope to garner their vote for another term.”