Thursday, March 6, 2008
Fargo Women in Business: Kathy Hawken
Born: Fargo, ND, 1947
Education: AA- Stephens College, BS-University of Missouri—Speech Therapy and Special Education, graduate work
Vocation: North Dakota Republican Representative, District 46, House since 1997
Community Volunteering: YMCA NDSU board of directors, Gethsemane Episcopal Cathedral, Rotary, Fargo Moorhead Junior League, Fargo Public School Foundation board of directors
On success, “Being content with what you do and how you act so that you don’t regret the actions you’ve taken in life.”
Kathy Hawken is living her dream. As a representative in the North Dakota House she is fulfilling an aspiration she has had since high school—to serve as an elected official.
Kathy’s mother was very involved within grass roots politics and a young Kathy soon had it in her blood. Early on, Kathy worked along side her mother stuffing envelopes for Republican Party efforts. Eventually, Kathy became a ‘Nixon Dolly’, a ‘Goldwater Girl’ and she was active in teenage GOP and college GOP organizations.
Her political interests and sense of serving kept gaining momentum and Kathy decided in high school that one day she would run for office. She started college in broadcast journalism and political science to prepare for her political future.
It was during college that a political science professor became one of Kathy’s biggest political inspirations. Even though she never shared Dr. Schmidlien’s political views, Kathy said he taught her to think—challenging her to look at her beliefs and to decide if she was really a Republican on her own or because her parents were. Dr. Schmidlien ended up helping Kathy to solidify her political convictions.
However, Kathy’s dreams of running for office did not happen until much later. During the 1970’s women did not have many choices in front of them. Women married young and the attitude was that a woman (now a fulltime wife and mother) should have something to fall back on in case something happened to her husband and she had to work. So, Kathy followed her parents’ strong recommendation, switched her major to education and became a teacher to have a safe employable skill to use in case of emergency.
Kathy taught for years, worked in the family business and she and her husband Harry raised two children. Kathy’s political aspirations never faded and starting in the 1980’s she served 12 years on the Fargo Public Schools board of directors and was elected to represent North Dakota’s district 47 in the House of Representatives in 1995.
Kathy said that attaining her goal of becoming an elected state official was not that difficult to achieve. During her campaigns she said that the support from people was truly humbling. She said the difficult part is actually serving in the legislature because there are only 24 women out of a total of 94 representatives and only a few women serve in committee chair positions.
In the legislature, Kathy said that there is not overt discrimination against women but that a segment feels women should be home taking care of her husband and children. She finds this very disappointing but adds that she also has many supportive male colleagues in the House.
The schedule is very intense for Kathy when the House is in session in Bismarck. She stays at the Doublewood Inn while working and it has become a second home to her. She moves in with personal items and family photos and settles in for the session. Kathy starts out most days swimming in the motel pool. By 7-7:30 am she is at the capital attending committee meetings. Lunch time includes caucusing, working on bills and answering messages. The afternoons are spent in session. Most evenings Kathy has a function to attend.
North Dakota representatives do not have a staff to help them but Kathy said that the state’s lobbing arm is very helpful to them and helps to provide her with accurate information and are good people who can help when needed. Kathy said she knows a lot about education but that it is just a sliver of the issues that affect North Dakotans. Truly an advocate for others, she is very concerned about other concerns that face women and children of our state.