Learn more about his story, his experience, and why he's running for State Representative.
I came to Grand Forks because my dad joined the Air Force to escape the evaporating job opportunities where we're originally from, Anderson, IN. I’ve been here since 1994 - I grew up on the air base, went to the public schools there, and graduated from Grand Forks Central High School. I’ve attended the University of North Dakota twice. When my dad retired from the Air Force, we all made the decision to stay here. My mom has been a paraprofessional in the Grand Forks Public Schools for 25 years. Grand Forks is home.
My parents worked themselves to the bone in difficult jobs to provide a better life for my brother and I. I’ve struggled on my own, too. The problems working families face are not new or unfamiliar to me - they’re personal.
I work with many families now who are struggling on a weekly basis. You can see the fear in their eyes when they sit down at the table. They lose sleep over it, they stress over it as soon as they wake up, and it infects their partners and kids.
No one should have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from, or how they’re going to keep a roof over their heads next month, or if they need to ration their medicine to be able to afford heat, or if their pain is really bad enough to risk financial ruin by seeing a doctor.
That a single person is in these situations is a travesty. But we have thousands of people in these circumstances in Grand Forks alone.
This is a moral failure of the system and those who have built it and protect it, but it’s not a failure of the system - it’s a feature. It’s on purpose. We cannot stand for this. I am in this fight to bring true, meaningful, life-altering change for working families. It’s the only reason I’m running.
Adam is a long-time resident of Greater Grand Forks. Born in Anderson, Indiana to a then-active duty Airman, his family was stationed at the Grand Forks Air Force Base in 1994. The oldest of two sons, he grew up on the air base, attended the base schools administered by Grand Forks Public Schools, and proudly graduated from Grand Forks Central High School. He attended the University of North Dakota, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in political science.
Starting just a year out of high school, Adam coached football, wrestling, and soccer at the air base and in Grand Forks for more than a decade. During this time, Adam also served three years as the head coach for the Midway-Minto football team, becoming the one of the youngest head coaches in North Dakota during his tenure.
After a season with his alma mater, Grand Forks Central, Adam decided to take a hiatus from coaching after seeing so many families in such great need in our community. Motivated by the desire to help working families, Adam returned to UND to complete a second degree, a Bachelor of Science in social work. While in the program, he interned at Global Friends Coalition, working directly with New American families, teaching a summer driving course, and helping the organization with policy and community outreach.
After graduation, he was quickly hired by the Grand Forks Housing Authority as a Resident Service Coordinator for two of their project-based housing complexes, where he worked directly with individuals and families, helping connect people to community resources, provide direct service to residence in need of support, and supervise an after-school program for low-income families. He moved back to Global Friends Coalition in the summer of 2018 where he serves as the Program Coordinator and continues to dedicate himself to helping working families.
Adam has seen firsthand the struggle of working families his entire life. He has seen and felt the great sacrifices servicemembers and their families must make, not just for their country, but also the financial sacrifices that many enlisted personnel, including his parents, made to try to provide their kids with the needed necessities and a shot at a better future. He saw the effects of working poverty on military installations growing up, where WIC and social service offices are vital institutions. As a coach in rural Grand Forks County, the differences in living conditions between farm-owning families and farm-working families were a constant reminder of what working families struggle with every day.
Even now, he knows what it’s like to live in constant fear without health insurance, and sees that same struggle with many others of his generation. He can relate to the struggles of the younger generations and of the working class of our community: the impulse to check your bank account multiple times before making even a modest purchase, the pure relief when you can get the bills paid ahead of time that month, stretching the food you have on hand, and getting every mile out of the gas in your car.
At Global Friends, he routinely works with families in precarious economic situations. They’ve been introduced to the American Dream, yet very quickly see the realities of American life: low wages, no benefits, few workplace protections, high housing and rent costs, huge medical bills, no childcare, and a public benefit cliff that cuts what few supports they may have if they make a dollar over the income limit.
These are universal problems that our working class has had hoisted upon them for decades. No family, under any circumstance, should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, or how they’re going to keep a roof over their heads that month. Adam Fortwengler will fight for you, your family, and every struggling family out there against a system designed to make our lives harder.