State legislatures around the country are being invaded by a new generation of young leaders, and with them has come a fresh voice and perspective on the issues facing individual states. One such new leader, Nik Berg, announced his candidacy for Oklahoma’s State House Tuesday.
As a native Tulsan active in local politics, he hopes to use his experiences to serve the people of his community.
Below is his interview with OUTSET to give readers and voters a glimpse into the heart of a young person’s run for office, and the ideas represented by this next generation of conservatives.
What made you want to run for state rep at such a young age?
A big part of that decision was my desire to serve, and to serve other people. I grew up in a missionary family, so the early years of my life were based around service and that experience has never really left me.
I haven’t seen a lot of people stand up and try to tackle the needs that I see in the world and a lot of the challenges and issues that we face with new ideas, and I wanted to actually be that change. It doesn’t have as much to do with the novelty of running at such a young age as it does with me seeing the challenges that we face and wanting to step up and help create solutions.
One of the tenets of your campaign is “serving others.” What do you mean by that?
I think of that in two ways. First of all, I think of that as generally representing my constituents. I think it’s important to elect and have people in leadership positions who are focused on being servant leaders, and who genuinely want to help their constituents in any way they can. That can be through passing certain legislation or speaking out about concerns in the community, and I think it’s important to have people in leadership positions who really want to serve in those ways. Additionally, as a Christian, our two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others, and with love comes respect, kindness, and helping and serving people in any way that I can.
What measures do you plan to take to “keep government more accountable”?
I’m a limited-government conservative, so when I think of “less government,” I think of less places for the government to overstep its boundaries. I can take steps, such as reducing regulations or passing repealers through the legislature, to create less government that interferes in the lives of the people. In addition, I will be open and transparent with my constituents by answering questions, holding town halls, and taking their phone calls. These are steps I will take as a candidate and will continue to take as a legislator.
What issues are most important to you?
I’m passionate about pro-life issues and protecting the lives of the unborn, as well as preserving their right to life. I’m also very passionate about criminal justice reform. Being a Christian, I feel drawn to help broken people and to serve them. Everyone makes mistakes, and I think we’ve done a relatively poor job of doing what we can to make sure they learn from their mistakes but also that they have a second chance, both for them personally and for their families. That’s a passion of mine.
Finally, economically, I have a small-business background, and I want to do what I can to help the Oklahoma economy thrive and Oklahoma families thrive. I think this ties in with criminal justice reform as well– what we see a lot these days is either people stuck in communities without much upward mobility, or people leaving prison without much opportunity to find work and go on with their lives. I think by creating more jobs and creating a more expansive and thriving Oklahoma economy, we’ll be able to keep more people out of prison and will curb violent and property crimes.
What is your stance on Oklahoma’s education system, specifically teacher pay?
Education is a right guaranteed by the Oklahoma constitution, and I do believe in that right. With regard to teacher pay in Oklahoma, I think we’ve seen a disproportional amount of funds go to administration and higher education, and there isn’t enough focus on teachers and students. One of the things I would look at is consolidation, as well as other reforms to put our education funds to better use.
Additionally, I think it’s also important to think about the economic impact on education– it isn’t simply an education or legislative issue. A big reason for the shortfall last year was the oil bust, so obviously the state of Oklahoma brought in less revenue. I think it’s important to diversify the economy so we aren’t solely dependent on the revenue generated by the oil industry and lack funds for important areas like education.
How important is it for young people to have a voice in politics?
I think it’s very important. Millennials are currently the largest generation, and as we continue to grow older, more and more of us will be able to vote, so we really have the opportunity to make a big impact in our communities and in government and politics.
There are a lot of people my age who are politically apathetic, and I think getting out there and running for office is a way to show that young people can have an impact in government and politics, as well as that young conservatives do exist and are making a difference.
If you had to describe your campaign in one word, what would it be?
Service. That’s where my passion is. When I see people who feel hurt and betrayed or are broken, it doesn’t make me shy away– it motivates me to step up and do what I can to help them. My goal is to serve and make a genuine impact on people’s lives.
You can follow Nik’s campaign on his website, www.NikBergOK.com, or on Facebook and Twitter @NikBergOK.