Candidate Out To Convince State For More Help For Western N.D.

WILLISTON, N.D. – A Williston city commissioner announced Monday he will run for the state Legislature to better convey the message in Bismarck about the need for state help in western North Dakota.

Brad Bekkedahl, a dentist who is serving his 18th year as Williston finance commissioner, said he will seek the Republican party endorsement to run for the seat being vacated by state Sen. Stan Lyson, who is retiring.

Bekkedahl said while the state has made progress on sending more oil tax revenue to address impacts in the oil-impacted communities, it hasn’t been enough to meet the needs.

In the past biennium, Williston received $60 million in state funding from the oil tax revenue formula, compared with $3 million in formula funding the previous biennium, Bekkedahl said. While that was significant progress, the city had $225 million in infrastructure needs directly related to the oil boom, he said.

“Just giving us more has still never funded the need,” Bekkedahl said.

It’s difficult for residents of western North Dakota to understand how state coffers are full, “yet the cities of Williston, Watford City and Dickinson this last year have borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to keep up with the impacts,” Bekkedahl said.

If elected, Bekkedahl, 56, said he would continue serving on the Williston City Commission for the final two years of his term.

Williston Mayor Ward Koeser, who is retiring this year, said he tried to encourage Bekkedahl to run for mayor before he learned of his intentions to run for the Legislature. Koeser said he thinks Bekkedahl better understands the oil revenue funding formulas better than many people at the state level.

“There’s nobody that will do a better job than Brad,” Koeser said.

Lyson, who has served in the state Senate for 14 years, said he’s excited about Bekkedahl’s announcement.

“I think it’s time for young blood,” Lyson said.

Reps. Pat Hatlestad and Gary Sukut, both Williston Republicans, joined Bekkedahl Monday and announced they plan to seek reelection. Both were first elected in 2006.