State Employee Recognition Day
Please take a moment to thank a state employee. The employees recognized during State Employee Recognition Day represent a small cross section of the outstanding public servants that work every day to improve the quality of life for the citizens of South Dakota.
Nathan Baker serves as the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks’ regional terrestrial resource supervisor for the central part of the state where he is responsible for the oversight of terrestrial resource management activities including wildlife populations, habitat development on public and private lands, access programs to proving public hunting opportunities, and wildlife damage program.
Nathan truly excels in this position by leading a team of individuals to thoughtfully consider appropriate ways to enhance outdoor recreational opportunities while managing the sustainability with the resource at the same time. Over the years, he has been instrumental in helping to make wildlife management decisions on behalf of the entire state while ensuring stakeholder involvement is a top priority.
Nathan is a very detail-focused individual. His preparation for meetings and discussions is second to none. He is a forward-thinker and team player. One of the primary roles as a regional terrestrial resource supervisor is to develop and implement a multitude of wildlife management plans. Nathan is instrumental in assuring staff understand and identify priority management activities for the many wildlife species managed for in the central part of the state.
Nathan is a Nebraska-native and went to school at South Dakota State University. He has 3 sons and has been married to his wife, Tina, for over 7 years. Together, they basically live outdoors. From hunting waterfowl, pheasants and big game, to fishing for Northerns and Perch to trapping and predator hunting, Nathan makes sure that his family knows all there is to know about the great outdoors of South Dakota.
Jodi Bechard is a quiet gem working behind the scenes to oversee the day to day management of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks camping reservation system. Behind her sweet and calm personality is a driven, hard-working individual who sets goals and works hard to achieve them. Jodi is an asset to any team and has had the opportunity to work in multiple state agencies throughout her career. She is efficient and thorough and a valued member of the department.
Currently Jodi is co-leading a multimillion-dollar e-commerce merger that will transition the hunting and fishing licensing system and the camping reservation system into one by the end of 2021. She has been instrumental in the research and development of the Request for Proposals while working with a team to educate, advocate, communicate, and execute the deliverables needed to keep the project moving forward.
While Jodi enjoys the work that she does, she enjoys spending time with her family and loved ones more. She and her family love spending quality time in our state parks and recreation areas.
The “go-to gal” in finance who knows all the coding, can run queries like a wizard, and is customer service oriented. Tracy has been with the department for thirty-three years, most of which has been in the capacity of the DOT budget analyst. She has worked in several areas of DOT which has led to her vast knowledge about the department and how things work.
Tracy is a dedicated employee who embraces the concept of engagement, collaboration, communication, and teamwork. She volunteers for work groups, reviews mapping documents, and puts on her private investigator hat to get to the bottom of discrepancies, all the while having fun at work. While remote working has changed her interactions with her co-workers, she still finds ways to stay engaged with her coworkers and accomplish the mission of the DOT Finance office.
“Tracy’s ability to research and get to the bottom of things is nothing short of amazing. Her vast knowledge of the complex coding of the department is extraordinary and her attitude is infectious. Having an employee like Tracy to depend on makes the workplace fun. She really is an asset. Whenever someone has a question, chances are Tracy can answer it,” said Kellie Beck, Director Finance & Management for the Department of Transportation.
Rob Bunkofske serves as the East River Physical Plant Manager for the Department of Military. Rob is the leader of the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) staff for all East river South Dakota Army National Guard locations.
Rob provides outstanding leadership to his staff of 11 Maintenance personnel who maintain approximately 1 million square feet of building space. Rob is a hands-on leader working together with his staff to achieve the lofty goals set by the Department of Military. Rob ensures his facilities have a professional well-kept appearance, personnel needs are met, and all East River state equipment is properly maintained.
Rob is an integral member of the O&M staff and the department is very fortunate to have him as a part of the team.
Rachelle is a highly dedicated and mission focused healthcare professional. Upon graduation from Hot Springs High School she very quickly began working in healthcare, initially working as a Certified Nurse’s Aide in Rapid City. She is a 2010 graduate of the University of South Dakota’s Registered Nurse program and is currently nearing completion of her Master’s in Nursing from Capella University.
Prior to coming to work at the Michael J. Fitzmaurice SD Veterans Home as our Infection Control Specialist, Rachelle had worked within several areas of nursing. Rachelle has had the opportunity to refine her nursing and leadership skills in several areas, to name a few; she’s been a pediatric nurse, community health nurse, medical-surgical nurse, emergency nurse and clinic coordinator.
Susan Wilcox, Director of Nursing for the Veterans Home has said, “We’re very fortunate to have Rachelle onboard, she brings with her a very high level of professionalism to our campus. Rachelle’s ability to stay mission focused from the start of this pandemic, especially during a very high operational tempo/changing environment has been just what we needed to lead our campus to meet infection control requirements.”
It has been said, “America’s nurses are the beating heart of any medical community.” Those who live and work at the Michael J. Fitzmaurice South Dakota Veterans Home can count themselves very fortunate to have an RN such as Rachelle to guide them through this pandemic.
Cassie Deffenbaugh is a true public servant. As the Administrator for the Office of Disease Prevention Services, Cassie has been working diligently day in and day out helping to lead the state’s COVID-19 response and has done so without complaint. She comes to work each day ready to tackle any task, question, or challenge that comes her way.
“Cassie’s energy, dedication, and positive attitude has been unwavering throughout the pandemic,” said Beth Dokken, Cassie’s supervisor. “Cassie’s steadfast leadership has been a critical component to the efficacy of the response. Cassie has a passion for helping South Dakotans stay safe and healthy, which is very evident through her work.”
As a Registered Nurse, Cassie brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Department of Health.
“I am incredibly fortunate to work with such dedicated and passionate colleagues. My education and experience helped prepare me for my position, but the knowledge and experience of those around me has been invaluable,” Cassie said. “The past 7 months of COVID response has been unprecedented for our office, but it has brought attention to the work our staff do every day to protect South Dakotans and highlights the extreme dedication not only within the Office of Disease Prevention Services, but the DOH and across state agencies who have come together to respond. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to and make an impact on South Dakota’s response to global history in the making, but my staff are the real heroes. Thank you to ALL of YOU.”
Cassie is a Pierre native who moved back to the area recently. She is a wife and mom of three young girls, which keeps her busy outside of work.
Tamara works hard to help others and is committed to serving her community by ensuring firefighters in the SDDA South Dakota Wildland Fire (SDWF) Division have consistent training opportunities.
“Tamara provides excellent customer service to our interagency partners, including volunteer fire departments,” says Interim SDDA Secretary Hunter Roberts. “She goes above and beyond to maintain those relationships.”
As the Division Training Officer, she anticipates the training needs for advancement in the fire service, has built professional and respectful relationships within and outside of the SDWF Division, and has supported SDWF employees and cooperating agencies with their training needs. Above all, she is committed to protecting firefighter values by clearly communicating processes for success. Tamara has earned the respect of interagency partners and internally within the Division SDWF and Department of Agriculture.
“I really enjoy working in public service and helping our firefighters achieve their goals for wildland fighting qualifications,” says Tamara. “Training is so important in all parts of life and it is something I am truly passionate about.”
Tamara is happily married to her husband, Nick and enjoys living close to her twin sister in Rapid City. She also enjoys spending time with her little sister and parents who live in Minnesota. When she is not working or on a fire assignment, she enjoys hiking, camping, and geocaching. She also dabbles in sewing and scrapbooking projects during the winter.
Chris is directly responsible for planning, programming, budgeting, and execution for $2.75 million-dollar worth of military construction projects annually. He leads the development and implementation of the South Dakota Army National Guard’s (SDARNG) five-year Capital Investment Strategy (CIS).
Since the start of his employment, Chris has brought an optimistic and energetic spirt to the office. Despite the challenging and highly demanding nature of his job, Chris has continued to excel and is always the first to offer a helping hand to his coworkers in the office and throughout the state. In the past year, Chris has gone above and beyond by planning and programming projects to execute an additional $4.3 million dollars that the state of South Dakota received from the National Guard Bureau, resulting in an execution total of $7.1 million dollars this year. This effort was not easy, and Chris rose to the task by staying late and coming in early to ensure that the Construction and Facility Management Office was set up for success.
On a daily basis Chris serves as the subject matter expert regarding project and work classification. He provides an independent government estimation regarding the probable cost of project execution. He creates project scopes to ensure organizational intent as well as construction industry standards, military standards, engineering standards are met. He attends engineering design reviews and participates in selecting contractors for projects. He also provides guidance to SDARNG stakeholders regarding current and future project requirements and works to ensure the Capital Improvement Strategy aligns with Major Military Construction projects, Master Plans, and Operations and Maintenance.
Ron Duvall brings expertise, experience, and a willingness to take on new challenges to work every day as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Water Rights Permitting Administrator.
“Water is a crucial resource in South Dakota and Ron works hard to protect and conserve it by helping our customers comply with the water rights requirements,” said DENR Secretary Hunter Roberts. “Plus, Ron is a bit of a techie and has made countless contributions to DENR’s website, online databases, and remote meeting capabilities.”
Besides his permitting and tech duties Ron organizes and participates in Water Management Board meetings, drafts water rights legislation and rules, and maintains the program’s databases. His contributions to DENR’s success are invaluable.
“My favorite part of my job is the people I work with and the variety of work I do in the Water Rights Program and across the entire department. A testimony to enjoying my job is that I’m still working in the same program where I began my career. I’ve been blessed with work I enjoy, excellent supervisors, co-workers, and department secretaries for nearly four decades,” Ron said.
Ron has been happily married to his wife Mary since 1987 and they have two grown daughters who are also married. Ron and Mary enjoy walking their three corgis, traveling, biking, and occasional kayaking. Service is important to Ron and Mary, whether as a state employee, legislator (Mary), or through their church’s youth programs. .
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, the Reemployment Assistance Division has seen an unprecedented number of unemployment claims. Pauline has been in the thick of it, doing all she can to ensure timely delivery of services with dedication and compassion.
On top of a historic number of claims, four additional federal programs for unemployment provisions were created under the CARES Act. Pauline led efforts to quickly stand up these new programs and provide benefits to eligible claimants while maintaining program integrity and battling fraud.
Staffing challenges arose, and Pauline met the challenge head-on. Determined to maintain exceptional customer service, Pauline worked with leadership to train and reassign staff to take phone calls, answer questions, process claims, adjudicate claims, and handle appeals.
Many South Dakotans are facing unknowns created by the pandemic. Pauline and her staff are helping to mitigate the fallout for many. Pauline herself has selflessly put in hundreds of hours over and above to ensure those eligible receive the financial assistance needed in a timely manner.
Pauline has offered support to her staff as well. She has been there for her staff through these trying times. Pauline provides a listening ear, whether it’s to provide emotional support or to diffuse a difficult situation. She puts the well-being of others above herself and shares in all the smiles, as well as all the tears. Pauline is a model leader who works hard every day.
John is always hard at work and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, whether it is taking a short lunch, coming in early, working overtime or delaying personal plans. The quality of work performed by Mr. Iverson is outstanding.
A Yankton, South Dakota native, John came to the Office of Bridge Design from South Dakota State University after graduation in 2017. John had previously interned for the SDDOT in the Yankton Area Office where his dedication to the Department began. Yankton Area Engineer Rod Gall noted that “John was an excellent employee and can be counted on to get the job done. He is the kind of person that we want working at the DOT.” John’s dedication to the DOT continues to this day.
“John’s unassuming personality and willingness to answer questions and help anybody in a calm and quiet manner is much appreciated” says Todd Thompson, John’s immediate supervisor. “John is proving to be a very valuable asset to the Office of Bridge Design.”
John, an Eagle Scout, exemplifies Scout Law and the Scout Oath, displaying trustworthiness, helpfulness, courtesy, cheerfulness and thriftiness in his everyday life.
Maria King loves a new project and the rewards of seeing a project through to completion. Most importantly, she is passionate about serving and helping South Dakotans by enhancing public safety while supporting innovation through the 9-1-1 dispatch centers across the state. An Iowa native and graduate of Iowa State University, King has been a Pierre resident nearly 20 years. She says, “I love that everyone I meet in South Dakota becomes a new friend. I enjoy the relaxed, down-to-earth people who value family, personal relationships with others, and hard work to get the job done.”
As the State 9-1-1 Coordinator, King’s leadership recently resulted in a statewide system upgrade transitioning South Dakota’s system to “Next Generation 9-1-1.” The success and reliability of the state’s system to support first responders and law enforcement was greatly improved with the implementation. Maria also lead the effort to transition to a new telecommunications vendor, a significant undertaking requiring the installation of new cabling and call handling equipment at all dispatch centers across the state.
Maria set a project plan in place and committed to being on-site during each dispatch center transition. Her organizational skills and attention to detail guaranteed each center was prepared for the conversion, and her excellent communication skills ensured each center knew what to expect when the telecommunications vendor arrived to make the transition and train their staff.
“Maria is super-motivated and committed to public safety. She is always considering best practices and ways to ensure South Dakota’s 9-1-1 system remains on the leading edge of technology,” Dan Lusk, Deputy Secretary and Maria’s supervisor said. “As soon as the transition was complete, Maria immediately began working on the implementation of the next phase of the Next Gen 9-1-1 system enhancement, Text-to-9-1-1, so when someone needs help and they are unable to call 9-1-1, they can text. This feature will be rolled out statewide very soon due to Maria’s leadership.”
As a dedicated professional, Maria also provides the guidance and support for the State 9-1-1 Coordination Board. The Board is charged with oversight of the 9-1-1 system and has representation from city and county governments, sheriffs, chiefs of police, as well as service providers. Cabinet Secretary Craig Price stated, “Maria is always well-prepared and supports the Board with the information and professional guidance they need to do their jobs. I can always count on Maria’s expertise to ensure the Board has what they need to make appropriate and effective decisions.”
The vast majority of Maria’s work is done behind the scenes and most South Dakotans and first responders are unaware of her coordination of the statewide 9-1-1 system. Her dedication to her job, the Department of Public Safety, and the State of South Dakota is a testament to her character. This is illustrated by her unwavering dedication to the system without desire for accolades. Maria is a consummate professional and a dedicated public servant.
Jerry has been serving the State of South Dakota for over 25 years. He worked full time for the South Dakota Air National Guard in security forces where he retired in 2015. He immediately started as a claims examiner for the Department of Veterans Affairs upon his retirement.
Jerry does an excellent job relating to veterans and their families. He also has great organizational skills which help him keep up with the high workload. He was quickly promoted to a veteran service officer position where he has the opportunity to assist veterans and their families with claims. His attention to detail has made it easy for him to ensure that proper documentation is submitted on behalf of his clients.
It is Jerry’s thirst for knowledge that makes him a great service officer. He thoroughly searches regulations and rules to ensure that his clients receive everything to which they are entitled.
Jerry is a great mentor to his peers. If he sees that someone is struggling, he helps train them in that area to ensure our department is held to a high standard. He is a subject matter expert who others reach out to including peers, supervisors, and even the VA themselves to seek advice. When he comes across a new or better way of doing things, he shares it with the rest of the group. He volunteers to attend any training and outreach events. He is not afraid to stay late or come in early when the mission needs it. He is a good coworker and friend to others and has gone above and beyond to help people both at the office and at home when they’ve needed it.
When Jerry’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife Robin, his children and his grandbabies. He also enjoys riding his motorcycle and will not pass up the opportunity to talk politics.
Whitney Lutkemeier started her career with the State Public Health Laboratory (SPHL) in 2015. Whitney quickly became one of the state’s leading experts in laboratory safety and emerging infectious agents such as the Ebola and Zika viruses. By 2018, Whitney had distinguished herself among the public health and clinical laboratory community in South Dakota following a series of very successful laboratory safety training events held throughout the state. In 2019, Whitney was recognized by Department of Health as a “Rising Star” in the department.
“Whitney has been an important asset, not just for the State Public Health Laboratory, but also for clinical laboratories in the state,” according to Dr. Tim Southern, Director of the SPHL. “Whitney is a dedicated scientist and has become one of the cornerstones of our medical microbiology team.”
Whitney has been a driving force behind SARS-CoV-2 testing at the SPHL since COVID-19 emerged in the United States. Whitney was the lead-scientist that helped establish CDC SARS-CoV-2 testing at the SPHL, and was a part of the laboratory team that detected the first COVID-19 cases in South Dakota. Whitney is also the SPHL liaison with Indian Health Services and South Dakota’s Sioux Tribes.
Whitney has worked with every tribe in the state to ensure all tribal partners have access to SARS-CoV-2 testing supplies for mass testing events. Whitney is currently working with tribal partners to build a sentinel surveillance program for COVID-19 which will ensure our tribes have access to SARS-CoV-2 testing for months to come.
Whitney is a native of Wilmot, South Dakota and is a graduate of South Dakota State University and Colorado State University.
Jackie brings energy, enthusiasm, and a desire to learn to work every day as a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Environmental Scientist.
“Unfortunately, chemical spills happen. Thankfully, Jackie and her teammates work hard to make sure they are cleaned-up properly” said DENR Secretary Hunter Roberts. “In her short time with DENR Jackie has taken on more responsibility and continues to be an excellent DENR employee.”
In addition to providing cleanup oversight, Jackie manages DENR’s Environmental Events Database, tracks employee training and accident information, and is part of the team working to collect and dispose of Class B firefighting foam containing harmful PFAS compounds.
“The most exciting part of my job is that every day is different. We communicate with the public daily and never know what kind of spill will be reported. Whether it’s a diesel spill on the interstate, herbicide in a field, or milk spilled in a river. Accidents happen all the time, and it’s good knowing we can help keep everyone calm and make sure the spills are handled swiftly and appropriately,” said Jackie.
Jackie and her husband are proud stewards of the environment and enjoy hunting, fishing, and hiking. Jackie is also an avid painter who enjoys painting wildlife she sees on her outdoor adventures. .
Sandy has worked 30 of her 33 years in state government with the Motor Vehicle Division. Currently, Sandy supervises the title processing and invoicing sections for the Motor Vehicle Division. Sandy is a source of a vast amount of valuable knowledge for the division. She is familiar with all systems, statutes, and procedures pertaining to motor vehicles and has assisted in updating and creating new ones to help the division move forward more efficiently.
Sandy is someone that both internal and external customers come to for answers. She has a great working relationship with the citizens of South Dakota and county officials with which she works daily. Sandy has also used her knowledge and expertise to become involved with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. She has worked on committees to help put together best practice guides to be utilized by all states and has helped to modernize South Dakota’s systems and processes with what she has learned.
Sandy strives to let her employees know how valuable they are and ensure they have the tools they need to get the job done. She continues to try to find fun and effective ways to keep her staff motivated, including hosting a division picnic and heading up food days. Sandy is a hard worker, making sure she shares the workload right alongside the staff. She is an invaluable asset to the Motor Vehicle Division.
Gloria Peterson just celebrated her 55th Anniversary with State Government. Her entire career has been spent at Central Mail, so there’s no question that she knows her business! She has seen a lot of change within postal services and has adapted well to each and every one.
“Gloria is the type of employee that dreams are made of,” said Central Mail Director, Roger Getz. “She is a wealth of postal knowledge and I lean on her to provide input into the decisions I make. I trust her with the greatest of tasks and she never lets me down.”
Gloria is kind and caring sprinkled with a lot of personality. She arrives at work daily in one of her favorite older cars dressed from shirt to shoes in the same color. She is always concerned for her co-workers.
“I take great pride in what I do and have a sense of accomplishment at the end of every day,” replied Gloria when asked what she likes most about her job. Gloria is the proud mother of two adult children and enjoys spoiling her four grandchildren. She loves “dogs, old cars, auctions, and fishing.”
There aren’t many state employees who have climbed a 1,300-foot tower in support of the citizens of South Dakota. This is just one of the superlatives of note in Jeff Pierce’s career in the Bureau of Information and Technology. In his 40 years working for state government, Pierce helped build an innovative first responder communications network now referred to as State Radio. The system allows local, county, state, federal, and tribal responders to communicate with each other. When State Radio started in 2001, there were 35 towers statewide. Under Pierce’s tutelage, the network has grown to 58 towers.
“BIT, law enforcement, and the citizens of South Dakota have all been the beneficiaries of Jeff’s hard work and talent,” Pat Snow, BIT’s Chief Technology Officer, said. “After a 1996 tornado in Spencer, Governor Janklow saw that each group of first responders had their own radio system. The Governor challenged BIT and Jeff’s team to find a solution that was ubiquitous for state, local, federal, and tribal first responders. Jeff and his team were equal to the challenge in designing and implementing the first statewide system of this kind in the nation. The digital upgrades to our first responder communications system that Jeff is leading now will ensure State Radio is central to first responder communication for decades to come.”
To help guide State Radio’s efforts, Pierce helped create and continues to lead the South Dakota Public Safety Communications Council, which has representatives of first responders statewide. Today, he is overseeing a $10-million digital upgrade of the State Radio and providing input on the FirstNet implementation in South Dakota. His expertise has been utilized nationally too. Pierce is the region 8 FEMA co-chair for emergency communications and member of the NCSWIC national board.
Since 2009, the Pierre resident has also been the engineering manager for the video, wiring, and voice teams in BIT. His video team is essential in providing video links across the state used for education, and the voice team is working to modernize phone systems for state employees. Jeff is a soft-spoken and thoughtful colleague who is respected throughout BIT as much for his expertise as his empathy. He no longer climbs State Radio towers, but he still goes the distance to help the people around him. .
“Deana is the rock that I turn to when I need to know the history behind certain issues,” remarked Dave McFarland, Director of Fleet and Travel Management. “I am constantly asking why things are done this way or that and Deana will always know the history behind the why.”
Deana Prater has been a dedicated Fleet and Travel Management employee for all 24 years she has worked for the State of South Dakota making her the “go-to” person in the office. She is a wealth of experience and knowledge having worked in various roles within Fleet and Travel over the years. She’s seen it all!
Her level of knowledge in the Equipment Management System and the Journey software is one of her strongest skill sets. These are some complex systems and Deana is the first to get the call when an issue arises, or a special report is needed. “The best aspect of my job is variety,” Deana said. “It is never mundane or routine. I especially enjoy the gratitude that is expressed by those I have contact with including co-workers at FTM, other state employees, and the private vendors. I work with, and for, some great people!”
Deana is not all work and no play. She loves to read and enjoys many outdoor activities like camping, kayaking, and riding bike with her husband Steve and two grown sons..
When Nicole started her current position as the Grants and Loans Specialist in March 2019, the position had been vacant for almost six months. Nicole immediately hit the ground running and stepped up to take on additional duties outside of her normal job description in order to further the mission, vision, and values of the department.
For her efforts, Nicole was recognized as the Department of Agriculture’s Exemplary Employee in November 2019.
“It is very easy for an employee when starting a new position to take some time to settle in,” says Interim Secretary Hunter Roberts. “Not only did Nicole use her experience to help master her new position, she used those experiences to make things better.”
In her 13 years of service to the State, she has worked for Prorate, Homeland Security, Emergency Management, and Conservation and Forestry agencies.
Nicole is a mother of two boys, two stepdaughters, and a new 5-month-old baby girl. Her family enjoys spending time on the river and making lifelong memories with family and friends. The rest of her time is spent running kids around to their activities.
The amazing work that Leanne Reindl accomplishes year after year as an Accountant Manager allows the Military Department to capitalize on end-of-year Federal dollars. Her “can do” attitude and spirt are impressive. She demonstrates exceptional discipline, and dedication to the well-being of the employees, Soldiers, and Airmen of the South Dakota Army National Guard (SDARNG).
Her actions directly impacted the National Guard by allowing for modernization of grounds equipment. She is significantly appreciated as an integral part of the SDARNG team.
Kyle Roe is a hardworking and enthusiastic Project Engineer working as part of the South Dakota Army National Guard (SDARNG) team. Kyle has been a critical member of the Design and Project Management Staff which oversees all the construction projects for the SDARNG.
The Watertown native graduated from the South Dakota Schools of Mines & Technology with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He joined the SDARNG team shortly after his graduation as a Project Engineer. Kyle has developed significantly over the past 4 years from a new Project Engineer to a subject matter expert in multiple fields of construction. Over the past year Kyle has managed over 20 construction projects valued at over $5,000,000. He has provided critical guidance and direction to other Project Engineers and other National Guard employees on various construction process and procedures.
Above everything else, Kyle is a person who cares about his fellow employees and the people he works with. Even while managing his high workload, Kyle is always helping his fellow employees and taking the time out of his day to assist others.
In his free time Kyle loves to go snowmobiling with his wife Katie or work on anything with a motor..
Lisa Roe is an Administrative Assistant in the Department of Revenue’s Watertown office. The main part of her job is to greet visitors, answer phones, order supplies, and keep the office running smoothly. She does all those things efficiently and well, but she does so much more than that. She is first in line to volunteer for new projects. Due to a recent change within DOR, administrative assistants took on a new role and Lisa was not only the first in line to take on the new task, but also volunteered to train other employees on the task.
When a special project comes up, Lisa is the first person that comes to mind to assist because she will cheerfully accept the challenge and work very hard until the task is complete. Her co-workers in Watertown state that she is the most cheerful and upbeat person in the office and her goal is to ensure that all visitors to the office are treated warmly and in a friendly manner.
Lisa is a true public servant who understands the importance of hard work and treating taxpayers with respect.
For those who know Austin Schmitz, you know you will always find him with a smile on his face. His outgoing and engaging personality is a perfect fit as the Pierre Squad Sergeant.
Austin started his career with the South Dakota Highway Patrol as a trooper in 2009 and was stationed in Brookings. In 2014 he accepted a position with the Police Service Dog unit and eventually moved to Pierre. Austin and his family were quickly accepted into the community of Pierre. In December of 2019 Austin was promoted to the Pierre Squad Sergeant. He used his friendly demeanor to quickly meet people and make the necessary contacts prior to a busy Legislative Session.
Austin is one of the busiest Squad Sergeants in the state, but you never hear him complain about anything. He has built a tight-knit group in Pierre and his personnel enjoy working for and with him.
Lt. Caleb Walters is his first line supervisor and he had this to say about Austin. “Austin is a great teacher and mentor to his young squad. Austin goes out of his way to teach his squad the skills to help them become better more well-rounded Troopers. It is obvious that Austin cares about his Troopers and wants them all to succeed and have successful careers.”
Austin is the perfect example of a consummate professional on and off duty. He is the first to volunteer for any assignment and willing to help anyone at any time, as was evident on April 17th of this year. Austin overheard a call of a man who fell over the side of a boat on the Missouri River east of Pierre. Austin responded, and with the assistance of some SD Game Fish & Parks employees were able to rescue the man.
Austin and his wife added to their family with the birth of a son earlier this year. Austin stays busy and enjoys time with his wife and four children. When he does get some free time, Austin is also an avid fisherman and hunter..
Kirsten Smart is an Operations Specialist and has been employed with the state since 2012. Kirsten is one of the most service-oriented, “get it done” staff in DSS. She takes her job very seriously on a regular day, but when it comes to fighting the hurdles that come with an agency fighting a virus event, watch out for Kirsten.
She has found a variety of creative ways to round-up used laptops, mifi’s, cellphones, etc. from all over the state and from BIT, and getting vendors to supply the staff with equipment and activate i-Phones in record time. She can learn new skills very quickly, then can translate and explain it to the rest of the employees.
Kirsten’s day is not defined by the time on a clock, but whether everything on her to do list is completed, which for the past several months is a never-ending list and has resulted in many long days. Kirsten’s personal mission must be to support and ensure that each of her co-workers have the equipment and technology needed to get their jobs done yesterday. Kirsten is a Rockstar!
Greta Thorpe has spent her 17-year career at the Department of Health serving as a Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) and most recently as Interim Regional Supervisor overseeing staff in two regions of the state. Her tenure alone proves her dedication to public health, but it is her steadfast leadership, ability to adapt, and passion for helping South Dakotans that is most impressive.
Greta is a strong patient advocate and adjusts to meeting people where they are at in their illness and life. She has also built exemplary relationships with many external partners over the years to include schools, tribal partners, and health systems, among numerous others.
Just after West Nile Virus made its way into South Dakota, Greta became a DIS. Greta indicated this was a memorable response because as a new DIS she was already beginning to understand the impact this emerging disease had on South Dakotans and recognized her ability to make a difference. “I truly have a passion for serving South Dakota and making our communities a safer place to live,” Thorpe said. “I love what I do.”
Greta has responded to countless outbreaks at state and national levels, and enjoys challenges and responding to new and emerging diseases. During her tenure, Greta and her staff were integral to engaging partners and working with the CDC on-site to respond to the state’s largest syphilis outbreak in over 50 years.
Greta’s years of experience and knowledge has led to her to becoming a recognized and respected public health resource to infectious disease physicians, infection control nurses, tribal partners, local leaders and state leaders. She is passionate about public health and serving South Dakotans.
Tom Valentine is the go-to guy for all-things technology-related. He’s quiet and unassuming, and he thinks outside the box. He’s a problem-solver, always looking for the best solution and pushing DOR forward into the world of technology.
Tom is a native of Pierre. He and his wife spent time in the Twin Cities, living the fast-paced private sector corporate life. But they longed to raise their son in a more comfortable environment, surrounded by family and friends. State government gave Tom the opportunity to return home and still do what he loves.
Tom is the Deputy Director of Performance and Data Innovation for the Department of Revenue. He helps the department pull data from the system for analysis. He also takes the lead on technology upgrades and solutions, which can be very challenging. Tom seamlessly shifts from one project to the next, and sometimes back again, to make sure not a single step is missed. The citizens of South Dakota are always at the forefront of his mind. But most importantly, Tom is the kind of guy that every employee in the department feels comfortable to seek out for help. DOR employees across the state know and appreciate Tom for his willingness to help.
“Tom was already with the department when I joined Revenue,” Toni Richardson, Tom’s supervisor said. “He was so helpful in teaching me about the work of the department and I’ve always been so appreciative of his willingness to help anyone and everyone. He is passionate about his work and the work the department does for the citizens of South Dakota. He doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.”
When schools closed in March due to the pandemic, the office of Child and Adult Nutrition Services (CANS) staff, under the leadership of Cheriee Watterson, rushed to make it possible for schools and agencies to provide food for South Dakota children and families. In less than two weeks after schools closed in March, the CANS program had approved 160 agencies.
The CANS office, with Cheriee’s leadership, spent countless hours working with schools and childcare agencies to modify their programs to allow continued meal delivery through the public health emergency and making sure food was delivered throughout the state. From the time schools closed in March to the end of June, 7.5 million meals and snacks were served through the summer feeding program. Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program Food Distribution Program will have had a total of 8,408 cases of USDA food delivered to schools in September.
In addition to her service to the citizens of South Dakota, Cheriee has always put the well-being of her staff above herself. She is an exceptional leader who is always available and goes above and beyond on a regular basis.
Brett Van Gilder is a Mental Health Associate on the Intensive Treatment Unit at the Human Services Center (HSC). Brett has been employed at HSC since 2005 and is a dedicated, committed employee. He is known for his excellent patient care and great teamwork. Brett has been a trainer in the hospital as well and is always willing to go the extra mile, help others out, and work extra shifts.
Last year Brett went above and beyond by assisting Avera staff temporarily using a portion of the HSC after a tornado damaged the building. Brett went out of his way to make them feel comfortable and welcome. He also went around town to local businesses and secured coupons and discounts for the employees while they were in Yankton.
Most recently, Brett volunteered to be on the COVID team.
Brett’s willingness to always go above and beyond does not go unnoticed. The staff and patients are grateful to have Brett on the team.
Meredith Cash Weber has been an outstanding member of the BHR team for almost 29 years. As an educational trainer for the state, most state employees have probably sat in her classroom throughout the years. While currently specializing in supervisory training, Meredith has shown what a true team player looks like – for the last six months, she has been working many hours assisting the Department of Health in their COVID-19 response.
Meredith worked to create the DOH COVID-19 contact tracing training program and trained numerous tracers across the state. She even brought many of the tracers in Rapid City donuts just to say thank you. Meredith has also been assisting both the Departments of Health and Education in their on-going preparations for returning to the classroom.
No matter the task, Meredith never fails to meet it with positivity and passion, and that is why her coworkers are so proud to have Meredith on the team..
Tammy has served the people of South Dakota and those that travel through our state for over 37 years. Her program manages the environmental review for all transportation projects, asset management, emergency relief, and the local government branch of the department.
“I work to make better lives through better transportation, specializing in helping our local governments improve their transportation facilities” Williams said, “I take great pleasure in leading our team towards continual improvement.”
Tammy graduated from the South Dakota School of Mines and started her career with DOT. Over her career she became a registered professional engineer and worked in the Pierre, Custer, Mitchell, and Belle Fourche area. “Tammy has tremendous and vast work experience and is a true public servant. She is committed to the customers we serve, growing the next generation of DOT employees, and finding ways to improve our work,” Mike Behm said. “It’s truly a pleasure to work with someone that has such a passion for understanding all sides of issues and leading positive change.”
Brian started in January 2016 after he and his family relocated from Provo, Utah. It was there that he earned his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University and entered the world of broadcast engineering. Brian has worked as an engineering manager for the South Dakota Public Broadcasting Studio for the past four years.
Brian has humbly led his team through multiple successful projects that have improved network efficiencies leading to greater reliability and accessibility to the citizens of South Dakota. Among the projects that he has spearheaded: providing a simple and elegant solution to our media production and archive workflow; designing and implementing new SDPB broadcast studios in Rapid City and Sioux Falls; implementing new radio automation and workflows; and designing and implementing a solution to provide locally inserted spots on SDPB’s 24-hour kids channel. Brian has also been involved in many local and national productions where he has offered kind, calm, and reasoned solutions.
He can be seen riding his bicycle around Vermillion which he uses as his primary transportation to and from work. He is dedicated to his family, wife Sarah and three children, and treasures his time with them. Brian is a man of faith. He quietly and humbly lives his faith through his thoughts, words, and deeds. BIT is indeed fortunate to have Brian Wood working for the bureau and for the people of the State of South Dakota. .