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State Employee Recognition Day

Happy State Employee Recognition Day! We are proud to recognize 24 of the state’s best and brightest employees. These individuals were nominated because they go the extra mile on behalf of the State of South Dakota, and they represent the great work being done by more than 7,000 employees who report to Governor Kristi Noem.

2018 Recipients

Aaron Scheibe, Governor’s Office of Economic Development, 4 years

Aaron Scheibe

Aaron Scheibe has been a driving force of the success of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), which is an agency tasked with expanding job opportunities for South Dakota citizens by maintaining and recruiting businesses.

“Aaron Scheibe has done an absolutely exemplary job for the agency,” Scott Stern, secretary of GOED, said.

The Pierre native was vital to the development of Foundation Park, the state’s first mega industrial site. Scheibe played a key role in companies like Agropur and Terex investing millions of dollars in the state’s economy.

Using his legal expertise, the deputy secretary is leading negotiations with the SD Equity Partners project, which is expected to create $15M in equity financing for early and growth stage companies and will significantly enhance economic development in the state.

“Aaron did all of this while taking on an enhanced workload of the agency due to a key director resignation,” Stern said. “Most importantly, he did it with a positive attitude and a strong willingness to keep advancing the output and performance of GOED.”

Scheibe joined state government after serving as a diplomat for 12 years with the U.S. Department of State. He graduated from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and the George Washington University Law School.


Amanda Hossle,Department of Public Safety, 8 years

Amanda Hossle

Amanda Hossle went to work at the Department of Labor and Regulation in Aberdeen right after finishing her business management degree at Southwest Minnesota State. The Faulkton native was able to relax and enjoy her last weeks on campus because she had and job and was returning to South Dakota. She didn’t know she had started on a public service path that would shape her early career.

Eight years later she lives in Pierre and oversees grant administration for the Office of Highway Safety in the Department of Public Safety. She has overcome her natural shyness to meet the challenges of her job.

“I’ve managed dozens of employees in my many years in the private and public sectors,” Lee Axdahl, director of the Office of Highway Safety, said. “Amanda Hossle is one of those individuals in a class of her own! She approaches professional challenges creatively, handles conflict efficiently and fairly, and considers her job responsibilities to the public in any task she undertakes. Amanda is an asset to public safety and the taxpayers of South Dakota are well-served by her.”

Hossle, an avid golfer, knows her grant recipients don’t work 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., so she tries to be available when they need help, especially during the grant period.

“Our ultimate goal (in highway safety) is to help save lives on South Dakota’s roadways,” Hossle said. “I think we do that by getting local law enforcement, state agencies, and community partners the grant money they need to share those messages. We provide training on how to complete the grant process, explain what the grant requirements are, and offer any technical assistance throughout the grant year. Knowing that you’re able to provide support for agencies that are passionate about highway safety is the best part of my job. It is a good feeling.”


Robert Grams, Department of Military, 14 years

Robert Grams

Bob Grams ensures training areas for the South Dakota Army National Guard (SDARNG) soldiers are safe, secure, and environmentally cleared. Grams is the liaison between the National Guard, the US Forest Service, and Custer State Park to mitigate the environmental impact of training and the lead environmental steward for all training land.

“Grams does exemplary work and deserves to be recognized on State Employee Recognition Day,” Colonel Scott Petrik said.

On West Camp Rapid, Grams has been responsible for the thinning of forested areas resulting in additional bivouac areas being opened for training. The thinning has also mitigated the pine beetle problem on West Camp Rapid before it had the ability to ravage the area as it has in several other Black Hills locations and spread to adjacent property. His efforts also resulted in the creation of a fire break aiding training as well protecting soldiers, the training area, and neighboring land owners.

Grams helped re-open a large part of the Austin Training area near Elk Point by eradicating the overwhelming invasion of poison ivy/oak. The 2011 Missouri River Flood once again closed down the training area. The flood downed large trees and debris closed off the trail network throughout the training area. Once again, Grams took the lead to rehabilitate the training area making it usable for training and soldiers.

He is integral in SDARNG construction projects too, ensuring compliance with the appropriate disposal of asbestos and State Historical Preservation Office guidance.


Deanna Wollman, Department of Human Services, 21 years

Deanna Wollman

Deanna Wollman, who is a Program Supervisor, providing Quality Assurance and serves as a Person Centered Thinking Trainer (PCT) for the South Dakota Developmental Center in Redfield. She has always known she wanted to help people.

“When my brother was born in need of supports, both my sister and I embraced helping people. I went to school for special education and elementary education, but had the great opportunity to work with younger people and adults, ” Wollman said.

The Aberdeen native has been in the role as case manager for about 25 years, including 21 years with the State of South Dakota. A year and a half ago she took on a new challenge, supervising the training department for the South Dakota Developmental Center (SDDC). Since then, she has collaborated in a team effort with the Training Specialists to provide hands on learning, along with on-line learning.

“Deanna is a very dedicated employee who is willing to go above and beyond the expectations of her position” Twyla Eggers, assistant director at SDDC, said. “She truly cares about people and wants to see everyone have better lives and achieve their goals. She always has a smile on her face and is willing to lend a helping hand to anyone.”

Wollman isn’t just committed to training and coaching others. She is a life-long learner herself. The mother of three children, ranging from ages 24 to 29, graduated from the Governor’s Leadership Development Program in October of 2017 and is looking to enhance her contribution by becoming a certified CPR instructor.

“The best part of my job is when I have the opportunity to use the tools, I have learned, to support the person and his or her team, to develop meaningful plans,” Wollman said. “I want to provide the best possible service and getting to know them first is important.”


Greg Otkin, Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, 17 years

Greg Otkin

Greg Otkin loves what he does, and it shows.

“Greg is a valued resource and model employee for (Game, Fish, and Parks) GF&P,” Kelly Hepler, secretary for GF&P, said. “He can be counted on to put in the effort to meet deadlines, is quick to lend a hand to co-workers, and the vast knowledge he carries of engineering-related assets and tools is second to none.”

As a building engineer assistant, the Minnesota native helps with boat ramp design and fishing access design in general. He also works on grading aspects of camp grounds, roads, and other projects throughout the state park system.

“This job has its trying moments, but we get to do a variety of fun, neat things in some very neat places. It is my dream job,” Greg said.

The long-time fisherman and hunter got a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science (SDSU) but went back to school at Lake Area Tech to specialize as a Civil Engineering technician. Now, he shares the outdoors and his love of fishing and hunting with his 14-year-old son.


Jennifer Schrempp, Department of Agriculture, 6 years

Jennifer Schrempp

Jennifer Schrempp has been managing the daily financial operations of Department of Agriculture’s (SDDA) central finance office by herself for eight months because of the unplanned absence of a co-worker. While SDDA has always operated with a light, two-person central finance office, Jennifer has exceeded all expectations with her ability to keep daily financial operations functioning during this time.

“While many employees, partners, and staff from other agencies play key roles in the success of agency’s fiscal management, Jennifer's ability to problem solve, and communicate effectively have been essential to ensuring SDDA's success. Her grit is unmatched and SDDA is lucky to have her on our team,” Chris Petersen, the division direct for SDDA Finance, said.

The Eagle Butte native led the charge to launch a website for elevators across the state to remit fees, which generally add up to around $17 million a year. It used to take her four or five hours a day to process manual payments. Ninety percent of elevators are submitting information through the website saving both SDDA and elevator personnel time.

“It has been a two-year process,” Schrempp said. “We launched the site last year, so we are about five quarters in. It has been a big time saver.”

The Mitchell Tech and Dakota Wesleyan graduate is the mother of three children ranging in age from 21 months to 10-years old. When she isn’t juggling the work of two people and modernizing payment systems, she is either running kids to sports or heading to the farm/ranch to help.

When asked how she does it all, Schrempp said, “One day at a time and my co-workers are very understanding and help whenever they can.”

The master juggler will soon get a new ball to keep in the air – year-end reporting.


Jill Kruger, Bureau of Human Resources, 15 years

Jill Kruger

Jill Kruger is the face of the South Dakota State Employee Benefits Program, giving presentation after presentation to help employees understand their health plan and benefits. This isn’t exactly fun, stand-up comedy material, but she has a contagious passion for it.

“Jill is very outgoing and motivated to help people,” Tom Steckel, director of benefits, said. “She doesn’t just answer a question for a member. She patiently explains the underlying issues and relates with our members in a way that makes healthcare and insurance seem less daunting.”

The North Dakota native has spent years working in the insurance industry for the State of South Dakota, including two stints with the Bureau of Human Resources (BHR) and a period with the Department of Labor and Regulation too.

“I love to help people,” Jill said. “And I am passionate about health insurance. My job allows me to combine those two things. I am also passionate about football but haven’t quite figured out to work that into my job yet."

When she isn’t helping members with benefits, updating summary plan documents, and keeping up on the finer points of IRS rules and health care laws, the mother of two is rooting for the Pierre Governors, reading for book club, and generally having fun.


June Snyder, Department of Public Safety, 32 years

June Snyder

June Snyder has spent her career helping people on behalf of the people of South Dakota. In 32 years, she has worked in Commerce, Vocational Rehabilitation, Human Services, Health, and Public Safety.

Snyder, a wife, mother of two, and grandmother to two grandsons, has been helping facilitate grants to counties, cities, schools, and other agencies for the Office of Homeland Security since 2010. She likes supporting local agencies such as volunteer fire departments and volunteer ambulance services.

“These volunteer agencies have no budget and are having chili feeds so they can operate,” Snyder. “We need to support our first responders in any way possible. They are so important to all of our communities.”

According to her supervisor, Stefan Pluta, June has been known to put out a few fires of her own.

“Most recently, when an outside vendor unexpectedly cancelled training, which was to have been key to implementation of a new process and program, June readily developed a contingency training plan working within the original parameters of the deadlines which were previously established. This included coordination with other entities in establishing dates as well as responding to multiple inquiries,” Pluta said.

The Pierre resident said she was honored to be featured on State Employee Recognition Day.

“Working in a small office subject to some employee turnover, June has established excellent relationships with her co-workers and has taken upon herself to mentor new employees, instilling positive attributes along the way,” Pluta said. “Her positive demeanor in working with all with whom she has contact reflects positively upon herself, DPS, and state government.”


Mackenzie Decker, Department of Labor and Regulation, 2 years

Mackenzie Decker

Mackenzie Decker loves a challenge, and she is excelling at her most recent career test, overseeing internal communications and taking on special projects for the Department of Labor and Regulation (DLR).

Besides managing agency correspondence, the DLR intranet, and the Dakota Roots and Start Today SD marketing campaigns, Decker has spent the last year helping write and organize information on new federal policies for the Workforce Training Division to be referenced by the 16 job service offices around the state. When she isn’t working to ensure federal policy is clear and easy to understand, she serves as an Impact DLR Lean coach. (Lean is an organizational management approach focusing on continuous improvement, efficiency, and quality.)

“Mackenzie brings enthusiasm and astuteness to every project assigned to her. She welcomes challenges to push herself to new levels professionally, and at the same time, also wants the team she’s working with to excel and succeed too,” said Dawn Dovre, Director of Public Affairs. “Mackenzie’s fun personality and quick sense of humor perfectly balance her can-do attitude and intelligence, making her a colleague you love to be around.”

The South Dakota State University graduate first joined the DLR team in 2011 before relocating to Virginia with her husband Dalton. The duo moved back to South Dakota, and Mackenzie worked for the South Dakota Lottery and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development before returning to her first stop as a state government employee, DLR.

“I have had the chance to move around to different positions in state government,” Decker said. “If you’re open to change and ready for a challenge, there can be a variety of opportunities in state government. I like the flexibility of finding the right fit without changing employers.”

Mackenzie coaches youth club volleyball and enjoys fishing on Lake Oahe. And the Minnesota native has her next challenge all lined up. She is expecting her first child at the end of the summer.


Mary Stadick Smith, Department of Education, 24 years

Mary Stadick Smith

Chief cheerleader, firefighter, facilitator and 911 operator are all titles attributed to Mary Stadick Smith, deputy secretary, in the Department of Education (DOE).

“(Mary) is the heart of the Department of Education,” Betty Leidholt, administrative assistant, wrote. “People feel comfortable going to Mary to talk because she listens and keeps everything confidential. She lends new meaning to the word professional. She exudes excellent work ethic. On the other hand, she will join in the fun and be the best cheerleader you could ask for.”

Stadick Smith, who started in communications for the agency, uses her 14 years of experience in DOE to help others with challenges and obstacles. Her door is always open.

“I love the variety,” Stadick Smith said. “There is never a day that is the same as the next. I learn something new every day, and I have been here for 10+ years.”

The Minnesota-Morris graduate started her career with state government in Tourism and the Governor’s Office for Economic Development. Stadick Smith recently finished her Executive Master’s in Public Administration at the University of South Dakota.


Rachel Edwards, Bureau of Human Resources, 13 years

Rachel Edwards

Rachel Edwards is shy and unassuming. She is behind the scenes, using her computer as a magic wand and her sweet, calm personality to make things happen.

The Gettysburg native started in state government with working in the Training division of BHR. She processed every single registration email manually. It was so efficiently and accurately handled that most people, even in BHR, did not know it wasn’t automated. She quietly processed all billing, managed class materials, and solved problems every day.

“Since I first hired Rachel, she has always been willing to do anything she is asked, learn anything she needs to, and help anyone who needs help,” Ellen Zeller, Rachel’s supervisor said. “When she was the Training program secretary, I routinely received emails from her ‘customers’ saying how helpful she was and nice to work with. And even now in her new role with Talent Acquisition, we receive comments from people she has helped. In a nutshell, Rachel goes above and beyond most days. That’s how she rolls.”

Last year, she accepted a promotion to program assistant. Now, you can find the avid runner in the Capitol, managing the state’s internship program, overseeing support staff services for the bureau, and helping anyone who crosses her path.


Rachel Williams, Department of Revenue, 6 years

Rachel Williams

Besides overseeing 51 staff members and managing the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) audit division, Rachel Williams led the charge to elevate the agency’s commitment to the Capital Area United Way campaign.

In 2015, DOR raised $10,325 and won the 2016 Capital Area Spirit of United Way State Agency Award. In 2016, Rachel, a division director, helped the agency to its new highest total - $11,037 – and was honored with the 2017 Spirit of the United Way Individual Award for her enthusiasm and hard work.

According to Secretary Gerlach, the fundraising activities not only benefit the Pierre community but also encourage employee comradery.

The Michigan native and Aquinus College graduate is also involved with her church, the Pierre Concert Series, Pierre Players (community theatre) and Beta Sigma Phi. Rachel and her husband Jason welcomed their first baby in March.


Sherrie Petersen, Department of Agriculture, 5 years

Sherrie Petersen

The Huron office of the Department of Agriculture lost an inspector this year and had an increase in drift complaint cases in the Mitchell area. Sherrie Petersen took on the additional case load and managed her regular inspections while maintain her high-quality work.

“Sherrie was able to manage inspections, the additional drift cases while still providing consistent and professional customer service to farmers, applicators and retailors,” said Ag Services Program Specialist, JD Farley.

The Tripp native started her career as a certified dietary manager before going to work as an inspector with the Department of Public Safety. She was assigned to do inspections for more than eight agencies, including restaurant inspections because of her background.

“The ag inspections I did were fun,” Petersen said. “I love the farm aspect. Visiting with the farmers and ranchers is just wonderful.”

When she is not working, Sherrie is a mother and wife and a runner. She has completed five, half-marathons, a hobby she said she needs to counter her love of baking.


Todd Taylor, Department of Corrections, 4 years

Todd Taylor

Sergeant Todd Taylor uses respect and communication to de-escalate confrontational situations with offenders at the South Dakota Women’s Prison (SDWP). His work demeanor, attitude to get the job done, willingness to drop everything to lend a hand, and the way he communicates with staff has helped him earn the respect of the staff and offenders.

“Sgt. Taylor carries a positive attitude with him at all times while working. His upbeat personality spreads quickly through the facility, brightening up anyone who comes into contact with him,” said Darren Berg, SDWP deputy warden.

Todd is also a member of the SDWP Mentorship Committee. Under his guidance, new officers are taught the correct way to complete daily tasks. There are many times that new officers will specifically mention that Sgt. Taylor has been very helpful and considerate to them on the 90-day new employee survey.

The Pierre native started his career with the DOC in July 2013 and was promoted to Sergeant in November 2017. When Todd isn’t lending a hand at work, the father of three is keeping up with his kids who range in age from 6-12 years old.

“Sgt. Todd Taylor is a great example of what a Corrections professional should look like,” said SDWP Warden Brent Fluke.


Amber Nogelmeier, Department of Corrections, 10 years

Amber Nogelmeier

Watertown’s Amber Nogelmeier was named the 2017 Annual Juvenile Division Team Member Award because of her consistent and solid teamwork approach in addition to her leadership on special projects.

Her performance with the Youth Level Service (YLS) team was noted by national partners as well. She was selected to speak in October 2017 at the National Symposium on Juvenile Services by the Crime and Justice Institute in Orlando, Florida. She shared the processes that the South Dakota juvenile division implemented to gain inter-rater reliability with the YLS assessment across the state.

Nogelmeier, who started her career in state government as a Family Service Specialist with the Department of Social Services in 2007, moved to the juvenile division of DOC in 2013. In 2016, she was promoted to Sr. Juvenile Corrections Agent to focus on her specialty area of juvenile risk and needs assessments. Less than two years later, on May 24, she will become the Southern Region JCA Supervisor.

“Amber has been integral in the success of the juvenile division staff reaching an appropriate inter-rater agreement level with their YLS assessment,” said Supervisor Steve Polchow. “The success of the YLS team can be directly attributed to Amber’s involvement. Her team based approach and eagerness to achieve success has helped a number of agents become proficient in the use and scoring of the YLS assessment.”

The wife and mother of two enjoys camping and spending time with family. In the winter months, she crochets hats for babies/children to sell at craft fairs.


Gerald Lucero, Department of Corrections, 4 years

Gerald Lucero

Corporal Gerald Lucero was named acting Lieutenant to supervise security staff at the Rapid City Community Work Center (RCCWC) for three months starting September 2017. He relocated for three months for the special duty.

“Improvement in the accountability and supervision of security functions and staff were immediately seen,” Bob Dooley, warden at Mike Durfee State Prison, said. Through focused supervision, he quickly addressed security concerns and counseled his subordinates. He has contributed greatly to the growth of the RCCWC and was a consistent security leader to provide guidance to security staff.”

During his relocation, Lucero worked overtime on his days in Rapid City to assist with staffing shortages.

“Corporal Lucero demonstrated exemplary service and has set himself apart from his peers by continually displaying the highest levels of efficiency, professionalism and leadership,” Dooley said.


Jeremy Ortman, Department of Corrections, 15 years

Jeremy Ortman

In the past year, Agent Jeremy Ortman has been challenged with providing additional assistance in the Southeast region for the Department of Corrections.

“Despite having a workload over 122 percent, Jeremy was always willing to step-up and assist whenever he was called upon. Jeremy’s caseload management skills are among the best – no matter what the situation may be,” Supervisor JC Smith said.

In 2017, he had many of the best performance indicators in the state – 100% contact compliance and 100% compliance with the issuance of incentives. Not only did he meet Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS) standards, the Freeman native frequently completed additional, discretionary sessions; and Jeremy collected $49,480 from the offenders he supervised for payments towards financial obligations – this was 5.8% of the offenders’ earned income.

“Jeremy works well with the team and is also very comfortable working independently. He has a huge capacity for work and his work output is always professional. I think one of the keys to his success in any environment is that he has a unique ability to connect with individuals.”

Ortman is active with the South Dakota Corrections Association and has twice been recognized by his peers with the Herm Venekamp Outstanding Member Award. Additionally, Jeremy has been an active member of the Freeman Volunteer Fire Department since 2005 and mentors local youth at his church. 


Merlin Weyer, Department of Social Services, 43 years

Merlin Weyer

The children of South Dakota are safer because of Merlin Weyer’s 43-years of service in the Division of Child Protection Services for the Department of Social Services.

As Assistant Division Director, he was instrumental in the development and implementation of Continuous Quality Improvement to Safety and Permanency and Well Being Office Reviews to Centralize Intake. He authored the division’s Five-Year Child and Family Service Plan.

“Merlin always approached every decision made with asking what would be best for the children and families the division served and the staff who provided the services. Merlin’s ability to handle whatever came his way with the same calm, reassuring, supportive voice, day after day and year after year, is one of his qualities that staff within CPS have always appreciated,” Virgena Wieseler, director of Child Protective Services wrote.

“He has been a mentor, teacher, supervisor and colleague to many, not only in CPS, but outside of the division as well. Those of us who have had the privilege of working with Merlin over the years are better at what we do because of him.”  

When he retires in June, his service to South Dakota families will have spanned eight governors and seven division directors. In retirement, Merlin plans to travel, play golf, and enjoy time with his wife, daughter and three grandchildren.


Adam Hansen, Bureau of Finance and Management, 16 years

Adam Hansen

Adam Hansen works with financial systems across state government, like the accounting system, payroll, and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), troubleshooting, setting policy, and training on behalf of the Bureau of Finance and Management (BFM).

“(Adam) has created numerous tools to streamline processes and save a tremendous amount of time for BFM and agency finance staff,” Colin Keeler, director of financial systems for BFM, said. “Because of his knowledge and customer service, Adam is a go-to person for agency finance staff across the state and is frequently called upon to find solutions to the most complicated problems. Adam is always willing to help without complaint, and state government is lucky to have him in our employ.”

The Yankton native started his career with state government right out of college 16 years ago in the Department of Legislative Audit and moved to BFM in 2007. Adam says he likes the big picture perspective of being in a bureau and understanding how things need to work across state government.

“(The best part) is the work itself. I am challenged every day, and it is never mundane,” Hansen said. “You come to work with something you plan to do, and you end up working through another unexpected issue instead.”

Hansen, who is known to always be on the move at work, seems to keep up the same pace at home too. He and his wife, also a state employee, have two daughters, ages 9 and 12. When the Dakota State graduate isn’t coaching his daughters in youth soccer, basketball or softball, he plays basketball and softball himself.


Judy Hoscheid, Department of Social Services, 39 years

Judy Hoscheid

In June, Judy Hoscheid will say goodbye to her 39-year career in state government and hello to more time with her family, including her daughters, 12 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Judy works for the Department of Social Services (DSS) and has oversight of the State Review Team to assess appropriate treatment and placement for children with serious behavior and mental health needs and oversight of the Auxiliary Placement program to provide for educational needs for children in need of psychiatric residential treatment.

“I work with parents, school districts and Mental Health Professionals who are concerned about a child and want to get help.” Hoscheid said, “It has been a very rewarding career for me.”

Before starting with DSS, the registered nurse from Presentation College worked for the Department of Health and then in the Medicaid Fraud Unit for the Attorney General’s Office.

“She is genuine in her commitment to the Department of Social Services, state government, and especially to the children and families that she works with,” Carrie Johnson said. “She has a passion for doing everything she possibly can and in the most appropriate fashion. She will be missed.”


Steve Hoiten, Department of Corrections, 17 years

Steve Hoiten

Steve Hoiten, a senior correctional officer at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, was named 2017 Employee of the Year for the facility.


Vicki Jones Murray, Department of Environment & Natural Resources, 30 years

Vicki Jones Murray

Vicki Jones Murray brings a customer-service focus to work every day as the executive assistant to the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“Vicki is definitely the "go to" person in DENR, so if people have a question about what is going on or they need tools for work, they automatically seek her out,” Secretary Steve Pirner said.

Besides her executive assistant duties, the Bath, SD, native is DENR’s facilities manager, telephone coordinator, team leader for the clerical team, and constituent correspondence liaison to the Governor’s Office. She also assists with events, like luncheons and dinners, at the Governor’s Mansion.

“My favorite part of my job is the satisfaction I get from knowing that I helped someone,” Vicki said.

In her 29.5 years as executive assistant, she has worked for seven different DENR secretaries and interim secretaries under five different Governors.

The mother of two grown sons clearly takes great pride in her work but says her two-year old granddaughter is her real pride and joy.


Kathy Aplan, Department of Tribal Relations, 5 years

Kathy Aplan

Kathy Aplan uses her talents as a writer and photographer to help the Department of Tribal Relations build bridges with the nine Tribes that share South Dakota's borders. The member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is passionate about her position.

“We do a lot of outreach to work with the Tribes in many different ways,” the South Dakota native said. “We have been able to be part of successful collaborations that I never dreamed would happen in my lifetime.”

As the public information officer for the department, Aplan manages outreach to Tribal communities through monthly newsletters, social media, constituent correspondence and coordinates the agency’s signature event - State-Tribal Relations Days - during legislative session.

“When I first started here, Kathy took the initiative to start a state Tribal newsletter,” Secretary Steve Emery said. “It is distributed to (the Governor’s) Cabinet, Tribal leaders, our congressional delegation and others. It has been well received here and across the country, demonstrating how we collaborate with our Tribal communities.”

The University of South Dakota graduate started her career in television production, working for South Dakota Public Broadcasting and a variety of television stations. She transitioned her experience to teaching at Oglala Lakota College before returning to Pierre, where she spent much of her childhood.

“She is always on time and astute,” Emery said. “She is just a great employee.”

Besides being a history enthusiast and the Regent of the Spirit of the Prairie Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Aplan is a mother. She is excited that her son, who is in the military, is going to be stationed back to the continental United States soon.


David Reiss, Department of Tribal Relations, 5 years

David Reiss

David Reiss loves legislative session. As the senior policy analyst for the Department of Tribal Relations, he is involved in drafting legislation starting months before a session begins.

“We do a lot of educating,” Reiss said. “You have to consider issues from an entirely different point of view for Tribal citizens and take into account Tribal law and Federal law.”

In 2016, Reiss, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, was instrumental in introducing the State of the Tribes address, which is aired live by South Dakota Public Broadcasting, during legislative session.

“We have been able to pass a lot of impactful legislation in the last three years,” the Pierre native said. “It has been very rewarding to pass bills and work on efforts we would have never thought possible.”

Outside of legislative session, Reiss is a liaison between state agencies and the Tribes. His goal when attending meeting after meeting is to help state agencies understand the needs of Tribal citizens and provide the best possible service to citizens in Indian country.

“(David) is my go-to guy,” Secretary Steve Emery said. “I can always reach him in the evenings or on weekends, and he offers advice and support. David comes in early, leaves late and travels whenever needed without complaint. He is a very solid employee.”

A former college athlete and Drake University graduate, David was selected to participate in the Governor’s Leadership Development Program a few years ago. After completing the leadership program, he continued taking graduate classes at the University of South Dakota and is scheduled to finish his master’s degree in December 2018.

He and his wife, who is also a state employee, have three children ranging from 2 to 9 years old.