Rep. Kristi Noem told Girls State delegates Saturday morning that her dad was not the type of person to complain. Instead, if something was wrong, she said, he would work to make it right.

It was that advice that led Noem to seek office, first as a member of the South Dakota Legislature and, for the past eight years, the state’s lone representative in the U.S. House.

“If you’re going to represent and be a part of government and be from a state like South Dakota, you need to be noisy,” she said. “You need to talk a lot, you need to build coalitions, you need to find groups of people who can work with to get big things accomplished for our state.”

South Dakota’s congressional contingent, she said, has helped get much accomplished in the nation’s capital this year, Noem said.

“We’ve made big strides. We’ve enacted tax cuts and I worked closely with President Trump to do that. I was one of the five members of the House that wrote the final legislation to get a Farm Bill done,” Noem said. “That’s incredibly important to get permanent livestock disaster programs and to also take federal land back and transfer back to local communities.”

Noem addressed the 2018 session of the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State shortly before the week-long event on the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion came to an end.

This month, Noem began her final six months in her last term as a member of Congress. 

“I’ve enjoyed being there (in Washington) but I also said when I ran for Congress that I wasn’t go to stay there, that I believed in term limits and that I was going to come home,” she said.

Noem shared a bit of what her work life in the nation’s capital is like. Her home away from her South Dakota home is literally Capitol Hill.

“I don’t have a home in Washington. I stay in my office,” she told the delegates, “which means I’m a little bit weird, but there are about 30 to 40 different members who live in their offices because it’s so expensive in Washington, D.C.”

The process for getting bills passed in Washington “is much different and broken” compared to the process that takes place when the South Dakota Legislature is in session in Pierre, she said.

“Pierre has a process. Every bill gets a hearing and if it passes committee, three days later, it will be on the floor for a vote,” Noem said. “That’s not how things operate in Washington. You have to figure out ways to get things done that are very important and make sure that you’re building relationships and convincing people that your legislation is an incredibly good thing to have a discussion on to have passed.”

She said she loves to meet with South Dakotans who travel to Washington to see how government works. “I’ll always take time to meet with them and have conversations with them about the issues that they’re facing,” Noem said. “One of things I always tell people is to not underestimate the power of their stories.”

Noem told the delegates that she knows they are planning what they will doing in the near the future after they begin their senior years in high school.

“You’re planning your life for the future and you’re not thinking about what happens if you fail, if something comes along that will not turn out exactly how you want it to be,” she said. “A lot of times a fear of failure may keep you from trying new opportunities.”

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