Since graduating from OKWU in 2007, Joshua Klumb has made his mark in local politics, serving as a state senator in South Dakota starting in 2017. But he’d readily tell you that the words generally associated with politicians – namely confident – didn’t exactly describe him as an incoming freshman.
Klumb grew up on a farm near Mitchell, South Dakota, and was homeschooled for most of his life. The decision to attend OKWU came quickly since he’d been a part of a Wesleyan Church in town. “Everyone I knew went there, and so I looked,” he said. “I liked it, and that was about it. I didn’t really look anywhere else.”
The transition to college life proved more difficult than he had thought, but it was pivotal in that it forced him to break out his shell. “When I got to college, I basically said, ‘I need to remake who I am. I need to stop being so ridiculously shy and do things that make me uncomfortable,'” he said.
He started right away, running for freshman class president and winning by a razor-thin margin. “Since then, I’ve never looked back,” he said.
Klumb stayed involved with student government throughout his time at OKWU, helping plan events and serving as a part of the student leadership on campus. That involvement stoked the fire of his political interest, something that was already very much lit due to his father’s connections with local government growing up. He recalls first paying close attention to national politics during the 2000 presidential election campaigns between Bush and Gore, a formative moment for him.
There are positives and negatives to the field, and Klumb is open about acknowledging both. “It’s a love-hate relationship,” he said. “I love doing it, but I hate that it is the way it is. I got involved to try to make things better.”
In 2008, he interned for the campaign of a South Dakota State Senate candidate. Though the candidate lost, he continued to serve in the local state legislature, and Klumb secured a job with him. He received another internship again in 2008, which kicked off a career that hasn’t stopped yet. He was first elected to the South Dakota State House of Representatives in 2015 and eventually took office as a state senator in 2017.
Since the legislative session doesn’t last all year, Klumb works his “day job” as a farmer with his father and brother, maintaining a close connection with the area in which he grew up. He’s worked hard to maintain his contacts in South Dakota while expanding his network to include new ones – something made possible by the confidence he gained at OKWU.
“When I got to college, I basically said, ‘I need to remake who I am. I need to stop being so ridiculously shy and do things that make me uncomfortable.'”
When looking back at his time on campus, it’s the little moments that Klumb remembers most fondly – time spent hanging out with friends in Delta Quad, work-study jobs helping with chapel, and the relationships made with professors. Specifically, he points to Dr. Weaver, Dr. Turner, and Dr. Dan Wimberley as major influencing factors in his life.
There were bigger moments, too. Multiple missions trips to New York City served as foundational milestones in his college career, increasing his confidence even further. His first trip to NYC, especially, intensified his desire to become more outgoing and confident. “I remember thinking that I wasted a trip to New York,” he said. “I wasn’t ready to do anything. I was too scared to move.”
In recent years, life has changed for Klumb. In 2018, he was married to Sadie, and he’s enjoying the reorganizing of his priorities that come with family life. If he wins his next election, he’ll be halfway done with his time in the state senate; in South Dakota, there’s an eight-year limit for senators. And while he’s not sure where the future will take him after his time in the legislature, he’s excited to meet the new challenges head-on.
“Now I’m going to have to step back and do my life’s work,” he said.