AL editorial zeros in on Daugaard’s pick for PUC

I seen this editorial  in the Argus Leader.

Perhaps the most disappointing is the appearance of political favoritism in Daugaard’s appointment of departing Secretary of State Chris Nelson to fill an empty Public Utilities Commission seat.


On the face of it, though, there’s far too much of an appearance that this is a political appointment, a sort of golden parachute for the term-limited Nelson.

That perception of cronyism is unfortunate and does no favors for Nelson as he begins his new job in January – or for the reputation of the new administration.

A golden parachute for Chris Nelson?  I believe there are a number of companies that paid handsomely for Mr. Nelson’s services.  However it could have been Governor-elect Daugaard needed to appoint someone with a proven track record of honestly and integrity, someone he wouldn’t have to worry about.   Chris Nelson fits  the bill. Even the Argus agrees.

No one doubts Nelson’s administrative abilities. He was praised widely during his time as secretary of state for the efficiency with which he conducted elections, his consumer advocacy and the openness of his office.

For right now, Chris Nelson seems to be the best person for this position.  Who would have you selected for the open position? What’s next? The way the Christmas tree is decorated outside Dennis Daugaard current office?

71 Replies to “AL editorial zeros in on Daugaard’s pick for PUC”

  1. Anonymous

    I would have selected Dusty Johnson for the PUC job. That’s the job he told voters he wanted. Dusty Johnson was the best person for the PUC job.

  2. Anonymous

    PS, It’s not too late for Dusty to keep the job he was just elected to. Chris Nelson would make a fine cabinet secretary. There is plenty of time to find a chief of staff.

  3. john

    You are right it would b too much to expect to have the gov appoint someone qualified. Maybe someone with a day worth of experience regulating a utility. Or someone who has done more than turn a light switch on.

    When did we in SD get to the point that education and experiences don’t matter. Next thing you know my dog groomer will be doing surgery.

  4. shamrock

    How can someone with no knowledge of utilities be the best person for the position? Maybe he agreed to hire the rest of Denny’s extended family. This is a classic example of what’s wrong with one party rule.

  5. Midge

    So do I get this right? Dusty will be sworn into the PUC job then he will resign a few minutes later and Chris Nelson will assume the PUC job?

    I agree with the first poster that I voted for Dusty and that’s who I’d prefer to have.

  6. Anonymous

    I vote no on Chris Nelson. Not because he isn’t a good person. He was a great SOS but I don’t want him in another elected office unless he wins it. A cabinet appointment is fine but we just told him to get off the government teet.

    Where are the George Washington’s today I ask?

  7. Rediculous

    I don’t like this decision. Up until the CoS, PUC, Son/Son-inLaw this was going good. SO 99% good so far and 1% rediculous and all 1% has come in the last few days.

    Never appoint a politician to do a citizens job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. CaveMan

    Gov. Daugaard is going to do what he thinks is right without putting his finger up in the air first. And he certainly won’t worry about what this or that newspaper thinks about his decisions.

  9. shamrock

    Well I for one am glad that Denny is going to do whatever he wants without any thought as to what other people think/want (insert sarcasm)

    Perhaps Denny should worry more about the people of SD and less about handing out polical favors and scoring cush jobs for his family.

  10. CaveMan

    Aw Shamrock you’re just being pissy cause your boy lost. Your use of “Denny” shows your lack of respect and high contempt for our Governor.

  11. I would rather be fishing

    If you democrats don’t like what is going on in Pierre then put your own person in. Oh, wait a minute; you have been trying that for years haven’t you. And now there are only about 8 or 9 of you totally left in Pierre. I even heard the word that your party could probably even now be added to the endangered species list!

    Come on Argus, Is that all you can find?

  12. I would rather be fishing

    And I also wanted to add: Hey Argus Leader! WE WON! In fact we kicked everyone’s butt! We have a mandate to now totally control South Dakota’s government. So we really aren’t going to worry about what you say and probably 5% of the voters that agree with you.

  13. grudznick

    Does anybody care any more what the Argus Leader thinks? I haven’t spent a dime on that paper in more than 5 years, and can’t wait for them to go out of business. I see they’ve raised the price up to $1.00 and dropped quality even further. Pretty soon you’ll be able to flush a dollar down the portapotty in the park and read the scrawlings and get exactly the same experience.

  14. Anonymous

    So for those wishing the governor-elect had appointed someone with utility experience…how much experience did Dusty have before he was elected the first time? Or Bob Sahr before his appointment to fill Laska’s spot? Where was the outrage then? And how much experience do you want a person to have? TRULY experienced people would be assumed to be in the pockets of the utility industry. Is that what you’re looking for?

    I think Chris Nelson was an excellent selection. Hard working, intelligent, and willing to dig in and get his hands dirty. If not…we have the opportunity to put someone else in his spot in two years.

  15. Anonymous


    Exactly. Dusty made his case before the people. Chris Nelson was not approved by the people. He is a career politician and needs to retire.

  16. toad

    I don’t like the appointment of Chris Nelson to this position. It is a lot like musical chairs and is disrespectful to the voters who asked for termlimits.

  17. William

    In a little less than 2 years, we’ll all have the opportunity to evaluate Chris Nelson’s job performance and vote to either keep him in the position, or not. I expect he’ll be chosen to continue in the position on his own performance.

  18. Arrowhead

    Dusty ran for PUC and should fullfil his committment to the people of SD. Chris Nelson should thank South Dakota for his time in the SOS office and we should be thankful that he was a great SOS but as a conservative who supports term limits I think this is very disrespectful to the voters. We expect people to serve our state for a set number of years and then make room for others.

  19. Arrowhead


    I totally disagree with you on this.

    Do you believe that a politician should serve his/her entire career in elected office? The voters told Nelson no and then he was appointed to this position.

    What is the difference between SHS who would’ve served her entire career in DC or Chris Nelson who will serve his entire career in Pierre? People don’t need to be in public office for the duration of their productive life.

  20. The Dude

    I don’t care for the appointment of CHRIS NELSON to the PUC. Chris should accept that he has served his time in state government. He was a great SOS but that doesn’t mean he is entitled to serve in every elected office. Chris has already spent 25 years in the Capitol building as a staffer and an elected official. I thought the voters chose a different candidate during the congressional primary partly because she was not a career govenment employee/elected official?

    DUSTY JOHNSON was elected to the PUC and should serve our state for at least a portion of his second term. He did make a committment to the voters of our state when he ran for re-election.

  21. Stace Nelson

    Gov. (Elect) Daugaard wisely listened to the endorsements of those that should matter in this debate, and I am not talking about the biased Argus Leader! Dusty and Chris came with the overwhelming endorsement of the voters of SD! These two admittedly fine public servants have repeatedly been recognized by the voters as being worthy of the public trust by overwhelming numbers!

    If a man or woman serves this great state as loyally and effectively as Chris Nelson, by ALL means they should be allowed to continue serving to the point that they can take a well deserved retirement! Retaining the services of Chris Nelson, for SD, is just plain good common sense!

    It is REAL easy to snipe at these folks anonymously in a blog or via the grossly biased Argus Leader; however, let’s remember that this man is a proven dedicated public servant who is widely respected across the state for being one of the most dedicated, honest, hard working employees that the people of SD employ!

    Gov. (Elect) Daugaard showed true leadership in giving Dusty Johnson an even more active role in the affairs of SD and in retaining the proven leadership and professionalism SD enjoys with the service of Chris Nelson.

    SD is well served with both men serving in their new positions.

  22. Anonymous


    I think a lot of what is wrong with most of the comments on here has to do with the fact that because Nelson and Dusty are great people doesn’t mean they get a free pass and are entitled to do anything they want.

    Pure and simple. We need new people in Pierre and those we elect to stay in the positions they are elected.

    Congrats on your win Stace you will be great for SD! Nobody knows better than you that we don’t need career politicians.

  23. anon

    ip, wtf??? Who should he have picked, Ben Nesselhauf (SP). Understanding of course Ben needs a job. Don’t cast stones. Chris is a good public servant, nough said. Mercer has it right, who would you have the Gov pick, a lobbyist or utility executive. How about someone connected to TransCanada?

  24. Anonymous

    3:14 et al: IGNORE THAT Slobbering Obnoxious B-d at 1:40. He gets off on our responses. But wait. Maybe he gets off on pushing people’s buttons the way Ted Klaudt got off on…well, you know.

  25. William

    Arrowhead 12:23 pm,

    I’m not really concerned about the amount of time one serves as a public official (elected or appointed), per se. To me, it’s really more important that they realize they’re serving the public and not the other way around. Some folks understand it, some folks understand but forget it, some folks never get it at all. The folks that “get it”, I’m not really worried about.

  26. ip

    Career politicians are targets everywhere except in South Dakota where they collect like maggots on turds while the electorate ices them with Kahlua. Except another round of power outages on the Standing Rock while Chris Nelson draws a fat sum.

  27. grudznick

    Standing Rock should elect their own utilities commission, or join with the rest of the world. They’re their own country, Mr. ip, as I’m sure you know. Same with Piney Ridge. Hey…you see they had another great election down there? I’m a big fan of Mr. Steele. He’ll fix everything.

  28. Veritas

    It is not just the democrats who are upset about what the governor elect is doing. What he is doing, while legal, certainly isn’t ethical.

  29. Veritas

    “If a man or woman serves this great state as loyally and effectively as Chris Nelson, by ALL means they should be allowed to continue serving to the point that they can take a well deserved retirement! Retaining the services of Chris Nelson, for SD, is just plain good common sense!”

    What a sense of entitlement!

  30. Veritas

    Stace, politicians should ONLY, as opposed to “by ALL means,” be allowed to coninue their service if duly ellected. Yes, I understand the vacancy needs to be filled. That said, Chris has no rightful claim to the position.

  31. Veritas

    Further, citizens should not be responsible for paying the retirements of career politicians. You’re not in office to provide for yourself; you are there to serve the people.

  32. raider

    Nelson the best person for the PUC job? QWhat is wrong with you? Nelson doesn’t know anything about public utlities.

  33. Stace Nelson

    @Veritas Please do not lecture me about service or sacrifice, when mine is public record and you have none in a nom de plume. It is easy to snipe at others from anonymity and deny them the merit or rewards they have earned from their life’s service; however, your detractions cannot take away the fact that first and foremost Chris Nelson is an honest public servant, he is a great choice for PUC, and he was appointed legally. No one, other than yourself, has claimed he is entitled to anything.

  34. Why did they drop all of this just before Thanksgiving?

    “Chris Nelson is an honest public servant, he is a great choice for PUC, and he was appointed legally.”

    This from above is that standard line that allows a career politician like Chris Nelson to spot swap whenever it is in his best interest.

    It was a selection of Cronyism and I think it shows that this was in the works long before the election ended.

  35. shamrock

    Nice article in the Journal today on the questionable nature of Dennis’ appoitments up to this point. The RCJ even has the courage to point out that our governor elect’s daughter works for Lawrence and Schiller who receive huge no-bid contracts. Hmm…. I wonder if she was still receiving a check while working on daddy’s campaign. I bet she was.

    But hey at least the spoils system is alive and well in SD.

  36. Stace Nelson

    Detractors also clamored “cronyism” when the father of our country appointed Alexander Hamilton, his aide during the Revolutionary War, as our first Sec. of the Treasury. History is replete with evidence that Hamilton was the right man for that job and is attributed as having been an instrumental “founding father.”

    Simply parroting the word cronyism does not make these appointments in of themselves so.

    Chris & Dusty are the finest of public servants, and will continue to serve this great state well. A legion of anonymous detractors do not change that fact.

  37. ip

    How are you related to Chris, Stace? John Thune didn’t have diddly squat until he found his niche in DC.

    Ignore requests from lobbyists when they ask to cozy up to you in a tight space, Mr. Nelson.

  38. Veritas


    I use a pseudonym. That doesn’t mean I’m hiding in the shadows. My name is Justin Warfel.

    For the record, you are misrepresenting my statements. I don’t believe it is an attack to point out that what the governor elect is engaging in is unethical, even though legal. I have nothing against Dusty or Chris, I simply don’t agree with the process by which they have been appointed. As to the governor elect’s appointment of family members, it’s disgraceful.

  39. CaveMan

    I truly enjoy reading everyone’s opinion here. That said we all get to have one but in the end they are all still just our opinions. The separation of power between the governor’s office and the legislature and the judicial system is well written in our constitution; has survived many attacks by uninformed citizens and will continue serving our state well long past the life of all of us. Elections are all about term limits therefore in two years if the public is not satisfied with Mr. Nelson’s performance someone will beat him for the remaining four years of Dusty’s term. The public did elect Mr. Johnson to the PUC; no one else. Mr. Nelson will fill Dusty’s spot on the PUC commission for only two years and then it becomes whomever wins that election. This is a tricky public opinion matter which Gov. elect Daugaard obviously has given much thought to. Pick the wrong person and deal with it at the next gubernatorial election (the Governor’s term limit public option); pick the right person who wins the public perception election held in two years for the PUC spot and it helps the next gubernatorial election. This is not rocket science it is trust perception. Who does Mr. Daugaard trust and whom does the public trust? The public has proven they trust Mr. Nelson, even the Democrat public trusts him as his unopposed election proved.

    So there; thats my opinion. Game on!

  40. Stace Nelson


    Donning a pseudonym affords such known cover & concealment.

    Your statements misrepresent themselves and good people that deserve better. You make personal condemning comments about these good people’s appointments/employment, without reflection or due credit for their qualifications, then you personally malign & insult me for daring to request these people’s employment/appointments be judged without malice.

    After your own apparent maligning by the press & POTUS, you think you would afford others the facts of the matter over projected misrepresentations…

  41. Veritas


    Thanks for asking.

    I’m still here in Afghanistan. It will be several months yet before we return home. Our unit is settled in and doing well.

  42. Veritas


    I’m a big boy; I can take it.

    As to maligning anyone; I don’t believe I have. The governor elect has engaged in nepotism and cronyism; those are simple facts.

    I’ve worked with Dusty in the past; I think he’s a decent and capable guy who will serve well as Dugaurd’s Chief of Staff. Nevertheless, I think his vacancy and the means by which it is being filled rightfully upset many people, and I’ve expressed why.

  43. Bill Fleming

    Justin, good to hear from you. Seems like we went through this before but aren’t you related to my old friend Jeff Warfel from Custer, class of ’68?

  44. Stace Nelson

    Please crack a Websters and review “fact” and “opinion.” You make a rush to judgement off of speculation and cursory information and publicly condemn those involved as being engaged in “disgraceful” corrupt practices.

    One of the core elements of nepotism/cronyism requires appointees to be unqualified and/or unfit for their appointments. Pray tell, how are these 4 unfit or unqualified for the administrative positions they will occupy?

    This country goes out of its way to coddle terrorists and give them all the rights of American citizens and yet these gentlemen get treated to this asinine version of kangaroo court?

  45. Veritas


    The politically correct (and insane) way in which some of our military and political leaders seem to ignore the genuine threat of islamic insurgents within our borders and indeed military is shocking, I agree. That said, it has no bearing upon this conversation.

    As cronysim relates to the appointment of Chris Nelson, I would argue it is incumbent upon the governor-elect to make the case for Nelson’s selection. Chris has no experience, that I know of, working with or regulating public utilities. That speaks volumes about his qualifications, or lack thereof.

    Meriam-Webster defines nepotism as “favoratism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship”; the governor-elect’s hiring of family members certainly qualifies as a matter of fact.

  46. Veritas


    I don’t know whether or not we’re related. I moved to South Dakota after having grown up in Illinois, so am unfamiliar with the Warfels of South Dakota.

    And yes, I do think having cut my political teeth in Illinois gives me some insight into cronyism and nepotism 😉

  47. CaveMan

    You are here: Magazine /
    The Anti-Obama Hot Topics:
    2010 ElectionsEconomyObamacareThe Magazine
    The Anti-Obama
    From the August 2, 2004 issue: He no longer has an official opponent, but Justin Warfel is still on his case.

  48. Stace Nelson

    @Justin The comment was “This country goes out of its way to coddle terrorists and give them all the rights of American citizens and yet these gentlemen get treated to this asinine version of kangaroo court?”

    The Gov. (Elect) appointed one of the most qualified public servants in the country, who has more applicable experience for the position than the majority of the people who run for office!

    You assume that the Gov. (Elect) showed favoritism in his appointment (not hiring) of Tony Venhuizen! You do both men, and yourself, a disservice with such asinine and admittedly ill informed statements. The overwhelming evidence is that he appointed Tony as his advisor because the man is brilliant, and he earned the trust and respect that garnered the appointment:

  49. CaveMan

    We should all be damn happy about the current state of affairs in South Dakota. Here we have two far right military gentlemen arguing over the basic value system being used by our Governor Elect in appointing and hiring obvious true public servants to much needed positions few shoes could fill.

    Thank you both. I have been awarded one more reason why I love living in South Dakota and love being a Repbublican!! 🙂

  50. CaveMan

    Veritas you have another gentlemen in the Il Senate who could be 10 times the President Obama is without changing one thing in his moral fiber. And that person is Senator Chris Lauzen. If you don’t know him you should make contact and persuade him to be Senator Thune’s running mate in 12!! 🙂

  51. Semper Fidelis (Latin you can believe in)

    @Caveman Leadership experience has taught me to trust but verify.

    I also know what it is like to be on the receiving end of some blowhard running their suck and making up dishonest statements about me. I was fortunate enough to have other honest men point out to my wise fellow South Dakotans that it was the twisted words of a dishonest politician desperate to stay in office.

    I have the pleasure of knowing all of these good people this young man derides and impugns. A gentleman would not be so cavalier in impugning good men’s good names.

    May this young man be blessed in life with leaders of my ilk and not his own.

  52. CaveMan

    There are many ways to kick someone’s a_ _ and in the public eye is the hardest of all. We all have much real work to do and bickering about this appointment or that nomination can be snarky at best, but at the end of the day totally meaningless in the real world. What the public truly wants from government is as little waste with their hard earned tax dollars as possible and people working for them whom they trust. For all the folks who work here at undermining the trust obtained by Gov. elect Daugaard from the general public in the last year of obscenely hard work; good luck.

  53. Les

    We commonly say, that’s just politics.

    I do not agree with being able to say anything and get away with it because it’s just politics.

    That being said, I supported Dusty, Chris and Daugaard at the poll, still do in Chris and Dusty and all I took from Justin was an opinion of which he is entitled.

    As for the family appointments, in my public affairs, I have held friends and family back to avoid those controversies. I didn’t always feel good about putting someone ahead of far more talented family.

    What is fact, entrance into the public eye as the man in the arena, will bring opinions, facts and lie’s to light.


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