Governors |


I was reminded of these stories during the past election. South Dakota has considerably under one million residents in the entire state, so our governors do things differently than in more populous states. Our governors are approachable and many know them by their first names. There isn’t the attitude by the governors nor the citizens that the lawmakers are any higher up on the totem pole than anyone else. We take pride when our governors get things done. We also appreciate that they are accessible and out in public.

The capitol of South Dakota is in Pierre (pronounced peer), and has a population of about 14,000, which is tiny in comparison most other state capitols. When Gov. Kristi Noem wanted to fete her mother’s birthday in August of 2020, she chose to take their group of mostly family totaling 25 or so, to a local Pierre Mexican restaurant, the Guadalarjara. After the bounteous meal, when the group went to check out, Gov. Noem discovered that some kind, anonymous soul had paid for the entire meal and the tip. What a wonderful way to thank a governor. I had to think, “Only in South Dakota,” as I don’t know if governors from other states would even attempt to go out to a regular public restaurant that didn’t provide a private room to keep the hoi polloi, the common people, away.

Another memorable South Dakota governor Bill Janklow, was first elected in 1978. In the third year of his first term, he presented the idea to a volunteer that the Capitol should be made especially inviting to the public during the Christmas season, calling for a “homemade Christmas.” Janklow was reelected in 1982 when the event evolved into Christmas trees being brought in and decorated by organizations from throughout the state. In 1994 and 1998, Janklow was elected for this third and fourth terms, making him the longest serving South Dakota governor. During one of his terms, the ACLU came calling during the Christmas season. The group demanded that the displayed nativity scene, be removed from the state capitol. Janklow retorted, “See that corner over there with nothing in it? That is for people who don’t believe in anything,” and he sent the ACLU on its way, never to return with their demands.

 When Dennis Daugaard was governor from 2011 to 2019, I visited with him and his wife Linda at a function in Hot Springs. Since they had some time before their next scheduled meeting, I took them to the Pioneer Museum, where I was a board member. We did a quick visit and I learned that he is a fast walker and an enthusiastic talker. He was impressed by the old dog-powered washing machine. In an innovative use, a dog had a treadmill type perch where he walked to keep the machine going. A bearskin coat that the donor’s family said was made in Hot Springs, was another particularly eye-catching piece.

In this state, governors are “our people.” I hope others have opportunities to meet their governors and get acquainted with them. You might be surprised at what you learn during interactions.

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