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Caleb Finck: From student to Senate?

Age is just a number for one 23-year-old state senate candidate. South Dakota State University Student's Association President and Tripp resident Caleb Finck announced his intention to run for District 19 state senator this month, and he hopes hi...

Caleb Finck, 23, is running to become the youngest person in the South Dakota State Legislature. Finck, of Tripp, is running for District 19 State Senator. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)
Caleb Finck, 23, is running to become the youngest person in the South Dakota State Legislature. Finck, of Tripp, is running for District 19 State Senator. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)

Age is just a number for one 23-year-old state senate candidate.

South Dakota State University Student's Association President and Tripp resident Caleb Finck announced his intention to run for District 19 state senator this month, and he hopes his rare combination of youth and experience entices enough voters to propel him to Pierre this fall.

"I think that some people may have concerns about being young and going out to Pierre, but I think that's a benefit," Finck said in an interview with The Daily Republic. "There's a lot of legislators in Pierre that have been there for a very long time, and I hope that if I get an opportunity to be there that I can learn from them and be able to pick up on the institutional knowledge that they have, but I think it's a little bit of a fresh face out in Pierre."

While at SDSU, Finck was able to gain significant leadership experience he believes will serve him well in the state senate despite his young age. With two years experience as the Student's Association president, where he represents more than 12,000 students and helps manage a $2.5 million budget for two students buildings on campus, Finck believes he's the right candidate to replace Sen. Bill Van Gerpen.

Van Gerpen could not be reached for an interview despite multiple attempts, and he has not filed a petition to run for state Senate according to the South Dakota Secretary of State's candidate listing.

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Finck started cultivating his political experience while still a student at the Tripp-Delmont High School when he served as a page in the Capitol. After heading to SDSU, where he will graduate in May with a degree in agriculture, he served as an intern in the S.D. House of Representatives.

From there, his interest in politics blossomed.

After getting an inside look at the legislative process in Pierre, Finck began to insert himself into the political scene in Brookings. Prior to his election as Student's Association president, Finck served as a student government senator, became a liaison between the student body and state and local governments and got involved with political campaigns.

As he prepares to return to the family farm in rural Tripp this May, Finck faced questions asking whether he would continue his involvement in state politics. Those questions turned into recommendations, and Finck decided 2016 would be the year he runs as a Republican candidate representing his fellow residents of Hanson, McCook, Hutchinson, Bon Homme and Douglas counties in the state senate.

Policy positions

Finck intends to bring his unique background in both agriculture and education policy to the forefront if elected by his peers from District 19.

While education stole the show in the 2016 legislative session, Finck hopes to continue the conversation in 2017, but with a shift in emphasis from teacher pay to the development of rural education.

"We're getting into an interesting challenge in South Dakota that we're going to see in the next decade," Finck said. "As the rural populations continue to shrink and drift toward the cities and urban areas, I think that we have to really keep considering our options in terms of how we deliver our education in the rural settings."

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Finck, whose mother is an educator, said the state needs to focus on the ways it can use technology to keep quality education in the state's rural settings.

One suggestion Finck proposed comes directly from first-hand experience.

When he returns to Tripp in the spring, Finck intends to begin an online master's degree program through SDSU in community development. Finck, who will be taught by educators throughout the country in the comfort of his rural Tripp residence, thinks the state's K-12 students could benefit from similar distance education methods.

Finck also hopes to boost economic development in the state's rural communities.

He suggested the state consider establishing services like the Rural Attorney Recruitment Program, which offers lawyers incentives to set up shop in towns with fewer than 10,000 residents, so it can be used by young business owners and entrepreneurs in the state.

"Otherwise, a lot of our young talent in South Dakota is getting great education-because we have an awesome higher education institute here-and they're taking that education and that knowledge and picking up their businesses and going somewhere else," Finck said.

But perhaps more importantly than his own ideas, Finck is ready to hear input from his fellow District 19 residents.

"One of the things I'm most excited about is-you know I have ideas for what we can do for District 19-but certainly I'm only one person," Finck said. "I don't know what all the other problems and potential ideas are out there, so I really look forward to getting out with the voters and finding out what are their ideas and what are their concerns."

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