From class to campaign trail
Twenty three year-old Dan Wolgamott announced his candidacy for the Minnesota state legislature on Nov. 11.
A 2013 graduate of St. John’s University, Wolgamott currently lives in St. Cloud and works as a real estate agent and high school football coach. If elected, Wolgamott will represent District 14A, which includes Waite Park, St. Augusta and parts of St. Cloud.
“The sky’s the limit for Dan,” said McCarthy Center Director and long-time mentor Matt Lindstrom. “I’ve talked to seasoned politicos who say they haven’t seen someone like him in decades.”
Dan Wolgamott has been interested in politics for as long as he can remember.
“My parents were always very politically astute and active,” said Wolgamott, “I grew up seeing examples of people helping other people out through public service.”
As a student at St. John’s, Wolgamott continued to develop his passion for civic engagement through active involvement with College Democrats, the McCarthy Center and several local political campaigns, including those of Representative Zachary Dorholt and Joanne Dorsher.
“This is a big part of why I’m running for state representative- if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time at CSBSJU, it’s that community matters. Being involved and helping people out has been a big part of my experience here,” Wolgamott said.
Wolgamott remembers volunteering his sophomore year with then-mayor of St. Joseph Larry Hosch’s campaign for state legislature. He was inspired by Hosch’s eagerness to speak with constituents one-on-one and to listen to their concerns.
“That’s what I think public service is all about,” said Wolgamott. “It’s about building relationships, it’s about listening and getting things done.”
Integral to Wolgamott’s campaign are his fiancé, Nicole Swanson, who is serving as the campaign’s treasurer, and 6-year-old daughter Lily.
“She’s too young to understand the policy stuff, but we’ve gone door-knocking before, and she really has fun,” said Wolgamott. “She’s looking forward to hitting the campaign trail with me.”
As a parent, the issue of education is an important one for Wolgamott.
“Making sure that our schools get adequate, equitable and sustainable funding is a big reason why I’m running,” said Wolgamott.
He considers development of the local economy and public transportation systems like the Northstar Commuter Rail Line to be central to his campaign as well.
Many CSB/SJU students are already gearing up to help out with their former classmate’s campaign.
“I am very excited that he chose to run in the 2014 election,” said junior College Democrats Chair Bridget Cummings. “I feel so fortunate that I will still be at St. Ben’s so I can help out on his campaign next year.”
College Republicans Chair Tyler Brown’s views fall on the other end of the political spectrum, but he admires Wolgamott’s willingness to run for office.
“I don’t agree with Dan politically on a lot of issues, but I think he’s a good guy,” said Brown. “It’s encouraging to see young people get civically involved.”
At this time, Wolgamott is encouraging students to get involved with his campaign by making small monetary contributions. He is hoping to utilize a new Minnesota campaign finance law allowing individual contributions of 50 dollars or less to be completely reimbursed by the state.
“I’m not a millionaire, I’m not a billionaire. But I do have a lot of friends and neighbors who support me that can afford to loan me 50 dollars,” said Wolgamott. “It all adds up really quickly.”
Junior Benjamin Hutterer and sophomore Jake Collins intend to work with Wolgamott on his campaign. They describe their candidate as passionate, energetic and devoted to the political process.
“Even in school he was so connected with policy makers in this area,” said Hutterer. “Every step he made during his time at St. John’s helped prepare him for this role.”
Wolgamott’s activisim in the political arena has many anticipating great things from him in the future.
“Dan has charisma, intelligence and a strong work ethic,” Lindstrom said. “But he also has that ethical backbone that will keep him grounded and humble. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s governor before he’s 35.”