Two talented Cabinet members are departing the Daugaard administration in the weeks ahead as the governor prepares to start his second term. Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth deserves her reputation as a very nice person who believed in improving public health. She’s been in the post since 1995 when then-Gov. Bill Janklow appointed her. She stayed through Janklow’s fourth term, two terms of Mike Rounds and now the first term of Dennis Daugaard. She retires Dec. 12. Then there’s Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Jeff Vonk, who spent most of his life as a civil servant in the natural-resources field in other places before Rounds appointed him in 2007. His skill set includes the ability to work with/under the person who preceded him as GFP secretary, John Cooper, who was appointed by Rounds to the GFP Commission in 2010. Vonk retires Jan. 8, 2015. It seems no replacements are lined up yet. Said the governor’s new chief of staff Tony Venhuizen today, “The governor hopes to have successors for Vonk and Hollingsworth in place before they retire, but he always prioritizes finding the right person over speed. He’s open to appointing an interim if need be.”
Must have been a great going-away party last Thursday night for Dusty Johnson, whose last day as chief of staff was the next day. Four years ago he gave up a second term on the state Public Utilities Commission, after he had already won it, to work on the Daugaard transition team and then be the chief of staff. Johnson headed home to his family at Mitchell last weekend and a new job in the telecommunications industry. Venhuizen, who is a son-in-law of the governor, moved up one rung to succeed Johnson. Venhuizen has been director of policy and communication. Also moving up to the governor’s senior team is legal counsel Jim Seward and policy advisor Nathan Sanderson. Others in the top tier are Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, senior advisor Kim Malsam-Rysdon, commissioner of economic development Pat Costello and state finance commissioner Jason Dilges.