Kendal Zylstra, a senior accounting and business finance major, likes to stay busy. He’s a student assistant for the Defender men’s basketball team, a tax intern at De Koster & De Koster PLLC, a senior analyst for Defender Capital Management, a co-chair for the College Republicans, and treasurer for Student Government.
Also, as of this spring, Zylstra is running for Iowa House District 4. If elected, Zylstra will be the youngest member of the Iowa House of Representatives.
Over the past few months, Zylstra has put thousands of miles on his car by driving around Lyon and northern Sioux County to speak with constituents. He’s sent out mailers, put up lawn signs, attended events—“doing everything I possibly can to get my name out there,” he says. “I’ve met with small groups of farmers, spoken with the Lyon County Pork Producers, gone to local banks to talk with employees, and more.”
Zylstra has been interested in politics his entire life, but what reinvigorated his love of politics was the opportunity to help Representative Randy Feenstra (‘91) with his 2020 campaign for Iowa’s fourth congressional district.
“I mostly did grassroots campaigning, like making phone calls and speaking at public events on Representative Feenstra’s behalf,” says Zylstra. “Being in high pressure situations was exciting, and I realized that I could handle difficult conversations and speak well.”
Now, with his own political campaign in full swing, Zylstra feels like he’s a good representative of a typical Iowa House District 4 resident. “I’m from Larchwood, I lived by Hull for a while, and I attend Dordt, which is in Sioux Center. I’m from here—I was born here, I go to school here, and I work here. This place is what I’m all about.”
When it came time to choose a major, Zylstra was drawn to accounting and finance.
Given that two of the strongest industries in Northwest Iowa are agriculture and banking, Zylstra feels like his accounting and finance double major translates well into his political ambitions. “I’m a numbers person, and I have good analytical skills,” he says. “It’s important to understand and articulate commodities and other aspects of banking. I’m able to do that, thanks to my majors and the fact that I grew up on a farm.”
He doesn’t have dreams of being a career politician and ultimately wants to work in accounting or financial sectors. He is interested in legal work.
“At this point in my life, I’m in a personal situation where I’m able to run for state representative,” he says. “I have other professional goals that I ultimately want to achieve other than going to the legislature, but I feel like I’m truly representative of where I live, so I want to run. Iowa needs legislators like me who truly understand the challenges that Northwest Iowans face.”
It's been tough at times to balance his final semester of college with running for political office.
“I really relish Sunday as my day off, and for the other six days of the week, I go hard,” he says. “Yes, I’m really busy, but I think it’ll be worth it in the long run, and I feel like I’m doing what God wants me to do.”
Zylstra says that studying at Dordt has helped him to gain a vast array of experiences, which help him to be a more well-rounded political candidate. For example, as co-chair of the College Republicans, Zylstra was able to help with facilitating on-campus and community events during the last election cycle. He has been involved in Student Government all four years at Dordt, from representing his residence hall to serving as Student Government president. He’s also thankful for the opportunity to get to know faculty members and other students well.
“Senator Jeff Taylor is a wonderful professor; his classes are really enjoyable,” adds Zylstra.
If elected, Zylstra would go to Des Moines from January until April every year and help with writing, passing, and amending bills. “I’d also work collectively with other legislators, which is something I think I would do well because I’m articulate and able to represent the rural values and concerns well.”
“Dordt has shaped me as a leader,” he adds. “If you’re going to be a state representative, then you should have leadership qualities. I’ve been able to develop and discover those as I’ve been here at Dordt.”
Zylstra will wake up on the morning of June 8 and figure out what’s next. As a planner, he says that “kind of freaks me out a little bit, because most of my friends have their post-graduation plans in place. But I trust that God will lead me to what’s next, whether that’s as a legislator or in a different role.”
About Dordt University
As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt University equips students, faculty, alumni, and the broader community to work toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. Dordt, located in Sioux Center, Iowa, is a comprehensive university named to the best college lists by U.S. News and World Report, Forbes.com, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review. For more information, visit Dordt.edu.