Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of five stories featuring District 7 candidates for state House of Representatives.
BROOKINGS – Cory Ann Ellis wants to turn her community activism into service as a state representative for District 7.
“I’ve been actively involved in this community in many ways,” Ellis said, adding she’s lived in District 7 for 15 years.
There are two, two-year District 7 posts in the state House of Representatives, and in the running are Democrats Bill Adamson and Zachary Kovach, Independent Ellis, and Republicans Doug Post and Tim Reed.
Ellis grew up in Fort Bragg, California, earned an associate’s degree from a community college, a bachelor’s degree in physical education with a concentration in coaching from the University of Sioux Falls and a master’s degree with a minor in rec and sport management from Indiana State University.
“I used to coach and teach at the collegiate level before I moved back to Brookings,” Ellis said. “I started my own business, so that’s what I’ve been doing for 14 years.”
She does marketing and photography.
“I have had a studio here in Brookings, and you’re likely to see my work all over town,” Ellis said.
She and husband Andy have been married for 17 years; Ellis has a step-son and a son.
“I’m running because we need independent voices in Pierre. We need to get representation that represents the people, and I believe that I can do that job,” Ellis said.
She’s been active in community politics, speaking to boards and committees as well as to politicians. She helped organize LEAD South Dakota. She does a lot of research and has built connections with representatives throughout the state, “so I can work well with others,” she said.
Ellis thinks the fact that she’s an independent and has marketing and organizational skills gives her an advantage.
“I think our representatives need to reach out to the people and be available; we shouldn’t be making them come to us,” Ellis said, adding she wants to bring more of the public into the process.
She knows where she wants to start.
“We need to fund public education. District 7 has both Brookings and Sioux Valley school district within,” Ellis said. “We’re asking more of our public school system. They now have to handle C.T.E., membership programs, dual credits. They have a lot of expectations put on them, and we are not giving them the funds to do what we’re asking them to do.”
Ellis wants everyone to be represented.
“I think that our community is very diverse and inclusive. And I think when bills come forward at the state level, we need to ensure that they are not restricting our diversity and inclusivity here. We’ve seen a number of those in the last few sessions, and I think it’s important that we have representation that’s going to be true to the inclusivity of this community,” Ellis said.
She sees forward progress as important for the future.
“We need to diversify. District 7 is fairly diversified. We have education, we have industrial and other opportunities as far as agriculture, but statewide, we rely a lot on the agriculture industry. So I think as a whole, we need to continue to diversify, and we need to invest in our people,” Ellis said.
“We have a workforce issue statewide, so we need to prepare our workforce and we need to create communities that people want to stay in,” Ellis said.
The way to do that is provide services they want: the right types of jobs, parks and bike trails, “I pretty much mean quality of life and sense of community,” Ellis said. “They need to be able to make a living to live here.”
A veteran herself, Ellis thinks we could do more to understand military service members.
“There are certain things that returning service members have to deal with that the rest of us aren’t familiar with. And I think it’s important that we share that knowledge with our educators and our community members so that they can be more equipped to understand some of the issues that are facing them,” Ellis said.
She’s worried about the suicide rate amongst the youth.
“Our suicide rate is too high,” Ellis said. “We have mental health issues that need to be addressed within school systems at a younger level. We need to have education within our community to … understand what our community members, what our neighbors are dealing with, so that we can be more compassionate in helping them and understanding what they’re going through, and hopefully we can solve some of these problems. … These are very large issues.”
She strongly believes in open government.
“We need transparency. We need easy methods for our community members to get the information that they need from the government level. We need our representatives to be held to a higher standard, to publish why they’re voting the way they are, how many people are communicating with them,” she said.
“I love this community and I want to represent this community,” Ellis said. “I’m doing this because I believe we need authentic representation here in Brookings.”
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]