There seems to be a pattern. This week Gov. Dennis Daugaard turned once again to familiar faces to fill appointments to state boards. Today he selected state Rep. Kim Vanneman, R-Ideal, and Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribal chairman Robert Shepherd to serve in two new seats on the state Board of Military Affairs. Vanneman didn’t seek re-election last year and her term ends Jan. 8. Shepherd was in the U.S. Navy for eight years.
Their selections follow that of Rob Skjonsberg, whom the governor named to the state Board of Economic Development earlier in the week. Skjonsberg was employed in banking when he began a new career as the driver and chief aide for Mike Rounds during his 2002 run for the Republican nomination for governor. We know how well that turned out for both of them: Rounds was elected governor for two terms, and Skjonsberg was his first chief of staff, before leaving to become a government affairs official for what was Broin and now is Poet ethanol company in Sioux Falls.
Skjonsberg returned to Pierre last year to become chief executive officer for the Fischer Rounds insurance and real estate agency in Pierre, and has since joined forces with two other Rounds-era Republican leaders to form a political consulting company that will work on Rounds’ campaign for the U.S. Senate seat that comes up for election in 2014. Skjonsberg’s partners in that venture are state Sen. Bob Gray of Pierre, who was term-limited in the Senate and didn’t seek election to the House last year, and Jason Glodt, who was a top aide in the Rounds and now Daugaard administrations. Glodt’s credentials include years of service to Republican candidates — he was part of Mark Barnett’s campaign team in 2002 when Barnett lost to Rounds — and Gray was also part of the Barnett campaign and most recently served four years as South Dakota Republican Party chairman until he stepped aside in 2011.
Skjonsberg replaces Mark Mickelson of Sioux Falls on the Board of Economic Development. Mickelson’s father, George S., and his grandfather, George T., each was a two-term governor of South Dakota, and George Mark Mickelson was elected to the state House of Representatives in last year’s elections without an opponent. As a legislator, he now becomes ineligible to continue on the board. South Dakota Democratic Party chairman Ben Nesselhuf is demanding that Daugaard rescind the Skjonsberg appointment because of the political ties. (Just as an aside, memory fails to recall any such demand when President Barack Obama appointed Brendan Johnson as U.S. attorney for the South Dakota district. Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson is his father and Rounds is running for the Senate seat held by Johnson.)
Last month the Republican governor did another interesting switch, naming two departing legislators to the state Lottery Commission as replacements for two newly-elected legislators. Joining the commission after Jan. 8 will be Sen. Jim Putnam, R-Armour, and Rep. Chuck Turbiville, R-Deadwood. They succeed Rep.-elect Dick Werner, R-Huron, and Rep.-elect Jim Peterson, D-Revillo.
None of these recent appointees seems like an out-of-bounds choice. In fact, Skjonsberg adds an important element of diversity and some important tribal perspective to the Board of Economic Development, although that’s a card this reporter has never seen him play.