Scranton native to run for state house

Jessica Petrick wants to fight for North Dakota, something she’s done since enlisting in the military and serving overseas to defend both the state and country as a whole.

Jessica Perkins
Jessica (Perkins) Petrick

By BRYCE MARTIN | ND Group Editor |

She’s a Perkins, a talented, well-respected family hailing from Scranton and Bowman, and is the latest member of the family to take on a public role. But instead of music, as many of the Perkins’ are known for, she’s heading in a different direction.

Petrick announced her candidacy for District 34 State Representative last week, continuing her dedication to standing up for what matters most. District 34 covers

“I’ve always been interested in making a difference,” Petrick said. “That’s just who I am.”

Petrick, 34, got a taste of politics while attending college at University of Mary in Bismarck. She began an internship with former Sen. Byron Dorgen, D-N.D., which she said piqued her interest in the world of government.

But in her final semester of college, Petrick, who was enlisted with the North Dakota Army National Guard for six years, was deployed overseas during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2004. She served 14 months in Iraq, an experience she said that she didn’t necessarily want to relive. It was a defining moment in her life, however, because it’s there she met her husband, Curtis Petrick.

She did ultimately graduate from University of Mary with an undergraduate degree and later returned to receive a Master’s in Business Administration.

When she married and had children, her activity in politics was set aside.

“Now that they’re a little older, I just felt it was the right time for me to finally jump back in,” Petrick said of beginning her campaign.

Petrick was born in Bowman to Scott and Deborah Perkins, now Crawford, and lived in Scranton. She was the middle child of three.

The family relocated to Bowman when Petrick was 10. There she graduated high school in 1999, and subsequently left for college.

It was watching her parents working several jobs at once, and struggling to get by, which instilled a fire within her.

“We grew up really hard, not necessarily with a lot of money,” she said. “I thought when I get older … I wanted to take care of the most important thing to me, which is always my family.

“(It) instilled a fire in all of us, to really work hard for what we wanted.”

And the sisters went on to experience great success. Her older sister, Chelsea Berler, owns a successful public relations consulting business in Florida and younger sister, Alicia Kulseth, owns a booming salon in Mandan.

“I think Bowman is a great community but I attribute a lot of my family’s success to my family,” she said. “My family is extremely close and we really like to lift each other up and help when we can. We’re hard workers.”

After spending 14 months away from her family while overseas, “and seeing the horrible things going on outside of the United States in general,” Petrick decided she wanted to raise a family in North Dakota.

As her children grew older — Reed, 9, and Lola, 7 — Petrick felt 2016 was going to be her year to rejoin the political field.

She was working for the American Heart Association in Bismarckt when she made a decision to run for a local state representative seat that was up for grabs. Though, as an employee of the American Heart Association, it wasn’t possible for her to run for public office. Her last day at that job was Jan. 8. And she kicked off her political campaign the following week.

“Everyone’s been really super supportive,” she said.

But Petrick said she realizes her campaign would be an uphill battle — she’s running as a democrat in the largely conservative community of Mandan.

It’s not too new for Petrick, considering she was raised in southwest North Dakota, also an area known for being mostly conservative. She said a lot of people are surprised that she’s running on the Democratic-NPL’s ticket.

“I look at running for this position as not really black or white; it’s not democrat or republican,” she said. “Although a lot of my beliefs do align with the democrats, not all of them do.”

She considers herself a conservative democrat, supporting social programs for addiction, mental health and gay rights, but also the building of the nation’s military and other republican ideology.

“I really support equality for all people; I feel I really can relate to most people if they get to know me and ignore the ‘R’ or ‘D’ behind my name,” she reassured.

A resident of Mandan, which she said has a small community feel like Bowman, she noted the big priorities in the area are supporting youths and ensuring they receive a solid education. “That’s why I choose to live in Mandan because it really does give that small town feel but also we have a big city kind of life.”

Petrick is running against two incumbent republicans, Rep. Todd Porter and Rep. Nathan Toman.

“It’s not going to be an easy battle, but I think that it’s obtainable for me,” she said.