Carter Nordman was 11 years old when his grandmother introduced him to Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley at the Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines. It was Nordman’s first introduction to the world of politics and he was hooked.
Ten years later, on Nov. 3, the University of Northern Iowa senior business management major was elected as a Republican to the 19th District of the Iowa House of Representatives, and at 22, he will enter as the youngest legislator in the chamber.
“I was extremely honored and obviously very excited,” Nordman said. “I’ve always loved the idea of service to the state and country. I think the reason we are a strong republic is because of the way our government institutions are set up, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
Nordman wasn’t the only Panther to seek public office this election. They include current political science student Dave Degner, who ran as a Democrat for the Iowa Senate in Tama County, UNI alumnus Dan Feltes who ran for governor in New Hampshire, and alumnus Heliodoro Moreno who ran for school board in the San Francisco area. Their bids were unsuccessful.
Despite his youth, it wasn’t the first time Nordman sought public office. He ran for mayor in his hometown of Adel, pop. 3,682, when he was 19 and a first-year student at UNI, running against the incumbent, Jim Peters, who had been the mayor for 30 years. Nordman lost by only 38 votes.
After the loss, he decided not to seek public office again until after college, but he stayed involved in politics. He was a clerk for now-retired District 19 Rep. Ralph Watts in 2017 and 2018. And when Rep. Chris Hagenow, who took over House District 19 when Watts retired, decided not to pursue re-election, Nordman was approached by several people who asked him to seek the office.
“I thought, ‘you know what, why not?” Nordman said. “I think I would be able to make some meaningful change and represent the people of House District 19 well.”
Nordman said his relative youth will not deter him.
“I’ve never been someone who believes age matters in politics, whether you’re young or you’re old,” Nordman said. “If the people of your district or the people you're going to represent believe in you, and you're able to go out and meet with them and earn their vote what difference does age make?”
Nordman plans to take the spring semester off to focus on his legislative work. The Iowa House of Representatives is in session from the time he will be sworn in on Jan. 11 to May.
He hopes to graduate in the fall of 2021 and then continue to run his commercial and residential carpet cleaning business, Uniclean in Des Moines, which he opened in 2019. Nordman runs the business in the summers from Des Moines and from Cedar Falls while he’s in school.
“Carter is a great example of the professional readiness we work hard to instill in our students,” said Leslie K. Wilson, dean of the College of Business Administration. “He is an ambitious entrepreneur who is motivated by community service. We are proud to have him as a student.”
He has always been drawn to the business world. His father, a UNI graduate, works as a business development manager for AutoPlus Auto Parts, and his mother, also a UNI graduate, is a regional income development executive at Zurich North America.
“I love business, and that's part of the reason why I got into politics,” Nordman said. “I think people with a business mind and business aspirations make good legislators.”
Nordman came to UNI in 2018 after attending one year at the Des Moines Area Community College. He chose to attend UNI because both his parents and grandparents are alumni, and he spoke highly of the campus community and his experience in the business college..
“I truly feel like UNI is a big community of students and professors working together,” Nordman said. “I’ve met my best friends here.”
During his time at UNI, Nordman served as a senator in the Northern Iowa Student Government in 2019 and is currently the vice president of finance for Pi Sigma Epsilon, a co-ed business fraternity on campus.
He also said his business classes will be a boon in the legislature.
“I've learned so much within my business classes, and I know I'll be able to take those and transfer that into good decision making at the Capitol,” Nordman said.