BISMARCK -- Steve Bakken, Bismarck's mayor, takes it as a compliment that a North Dakota legislator praised him as "sort of a redneck" during a House floor session last week.

"I wear it as a badge of honor," Bakken said.

During floor debate Friday, Feb. 8, on House Bill 1463, which would allow collective bargaining for police and professional firefighters, Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, outlined his talks with Fargo and Bismarck firefighters, who he said differed in their abilities to speak with upper management.

"I said, 'Have you talked to the new mayor here in Bismarck?'" Kasper said on the House floor. "I said, 'I happen to know him and, with all due respect, he's sort of a redneck, and he is worried about people.'"

Bakken, a Grand Forks native, owns a consulting firm and was previously the business development director for Larson Engineering in Bismarck. He's also a former longtime radio show host. He bested former Mayor Mike Seminary in a three-way race in June.

Kasper said Monday, Feb. 11, that his comment was meant as praise, and he's known Bakken for years.

"He's conservative, which I like about him. He's just a no-nonsense guy," Kasper said. "He tells you what's on his mind. He doesn't beat around the bush."

Bakken said he watched Kasper's comment in context and found it "rather amusing."

He's been navigating the 2019 legislative session on a few bills with Bismarck in mind, including "Operation Prairie Dog" for local infrastructure projects and a bill to reform aspects of special assessments.

"The Prairie Dog, of course, is notable for all municipalities across North Dakota, not just Bismarck," the mayor said.

Bakken said he visits the state Capitol about four times a week in official and private capacities.