What have they done to my Blue Book? My adventure as a published author.

I was noticing recently that over at the Dakota Free Press, that the Secretary of State’s office has returned to a practice that I bemoaned and refused to do while I was there – The full page vanity photo in the Blue Book Legislative Manual. I hadn’t bothered to read the latest edition, but now, I had it staring me in my face, so I was forced to go look.

The Vanity Photos are back? Aargh! What have they done to my Blue Book?

2011_blue_book_coverWith tongue firmly in cheek, I refer to it as “my book,” as during my tenure with the office, I wrote/compiled the 2011 book, which ultimately was issued as the “2011 South Dakota Legislative Manual”  or 2011 Blue Book.  Yes, that one. The sole softbound Blue Book in a century old lineup of hard bound volumes.

I’ve seen one or two people grumble about it, as if the world will stop turning if a state issued book is issued in a soft-bound versus a  hard-bound version. But there was a reason for it which I fought for because it was important in attempting to transform the concept behind the book from a vanity publication handed out to legislators, state agencies, libraries, and election nerds into an almanac and valuable reference of state information.

The genesis of being handed the book came about as one of those “duties as assigned” duties, where I was in charge of publications and printing, and this was a publication.  Probably the only publication bigger than a brochure, or election results booklet.

Yes, it is a book. A big book.

In looking at what was left in the office for files from previous editions, there were massive Microsoft Word documents in a folder and computer files that needed to be reviewed, and revised, along with collecting new information that needed to be gone through.  So, I sent out a nice e-mail to legislators that asked them to provide biographical information for the Blue Book, or update the information that they currently had, which they could find at a certain link, etc.

Most all got back to me quickly, so we could start the process of slogging through 105 bio’s, edits, and re-edits. I say most got back to me quickly, because Stan Adelstein chose the moment to send a blast e-mail to every legislator on the list, angrily demanding that none of his information be changed, etcetera, and so on. Which was probably the mildest thing he ranted about.

In other words, he was using the occasion to be a horses ass. I don’t think that was lost on his colleagues, whose responses to me varied from “Oh, Stan,” to privately offering me more pointed commentary.  I went ahead and changed his bio anyway, for historic accuracy, as his bio in the previous edition skipped over the gap in his service where he was beaten in a primary. Yeah, I didn’t miss that one.

Anyway, it was in the midst of this process when the office started to receive legislative manuals from other states.  And I noticed something about these books from other places. These weren’t the books which collected dust on the shelves of offices for decades at a time, until someone cleaned or died. They actually had useful information. They were directories, with phone numbers, and contact information. There were no massive page sized vanity photos of their elected officials.

These books actually looked like directories or almanacs. They didn’t look like they’d been printed off of MS Word on a state contracted Hewlett-Packard printer.  (Whirrr…. chunk. page 1. Whirr…. chunk… page 2) They looked like an honest-to-god reference volume that people used all the time. And from there, a genesis of an idea was sprung. God forbid – I wanted to actually make the Blue Book relevant.

We took a hard look at what the Blue Book required under state law, and were able to focus more closely on what we had to have, versus what had been in past volumes. And having been/being in the business of printing in my personal time, I knew that we could do better.  At that time, the office bought a license for the Adobe suite, which allowed concepts like layout, photo editing, typography, font kerning, and all those little things to enter into the picture.

Maybe….. just maybe…. we even could go from one column to two columns in places.  And we could dump the vanity photos.

Those vanity photos were actually a pet peeve, as they served no purpose, except to up the page count. You can’t tell me that John Thune, or Marty Jackley, or at the time Tim Johnson really care about whether their photo in the South Dakota Legislative Manual was a full page versus a 1/4 page, which is what I reduced them to.

In reviewing the books for other states, aside from a lack of vanity photos, we noticed a few things, such as the use of columns. They also used smaller fonts, which did not look like the larger fonts contained in South Dakota’s Blue Books. Even some of South Dakota’s older volumes before the days of desktop publishing would often use a smaller typeface.

There was change afoot.

Pressing forward in writing the book, there was a portion of the book that proved to be a tough nut to crack. Which I never managed to. The history portion of the Blue Book.

Looking at past volumes, the history portion of the blue book would vary wildly from short sentences in the early time of the state’s history to more recent times where is would encompass pages and pages in more recent history.  And the more recent history would include things that had nothing to do with South Dakota. We could do a better job of chronicling our State’s History than that. Couldn’t we?

Apparently not.  I contacted university history departments, professors, and others, desperately seeking an editor, or someone in the field who would want to ensure that going forward, we’d leave an accurate snapshot of our state’s events in particular years.  And no one was interested. At all.

The responses ranged from polite “thank you, but no, I don’t have the time,” to snippy comments about teacher pay.  Because a middle manager in the Secretary of State’s office has control over what you’re paid? Really?   So, we did the best we could do, and tried to parse a bit, and I had others temper my tendency towards verbosity.

The rest of the book came together a bit more smoothly. The State Bureau of Administration (Who I’ll talk about later) was gracious enough to hook me our with a couple of photographers in state government who did absolute yeoman’s work in photographing, and allowing the Secretary of State’s office to use their photos in the book. They made the portion of the book about state buildings happen. For their part, they were given photo credit in the 2011 South Dakota Blue Book, and in the 2013 edition which came after my time when they were used again.

In keeping with the goal of making over the blue book into a useful reference, we went beyond the information provided in past volumes, and added contact information for elected officials that was new to the 2011 edition.  We added contacts information, addresses, and dates that terms ended for County Officials.  For the first time, we added e-mail or website contacts for elected officials. And it was arranged in a format that was far easier to read than prior editions, allowing people to pick out information.

There were various other chores, such as gathering more information & photos, taking photos, obtaining information from the state archives, etcetera. And despite the occasional bump in the road (apparently many Judges don’t have pictures suitable for reproduction), the 2011 edition was really coming together.

Along with the information coming together, based on what other states were doing, and how the book could be modernized, I pressed hard for it to be a softbound cover. It was cheaper than hardbound by around $2000, and had other advantages. It was physically smaller to store. And that actually came up.

One thing that was discovered during the time of assembling the book and going to trying to make it more useful was how many books actually didn’t sell. I had to find an old one one day, and contacted the Bureau of Administration for it. And they informed me that they’d had quite a few old books taking up space for years.

Yes, they’d already been distributed to libraries, and every other place under the sun. But, they’d been ordered as they had always been for years… and nobody wanted them as they had in the past. So the pile of old books grew, and grew, and grew. Now it was pallets, and not piles.

We pared down the order list, and based it on the distribution list in statute, and what BOA had sent out in the past.  And a smaller softbound edition was not only cheaper to print, and easier to store, but it was less expensive to mail.

Yes, I was a pest about it, and pressed my case for it at every opportunity. And based on the economics of it in a time when things were pretty lean in State Government, I was able to argue it successfully.  So, softbound Blue Book haters, you can blame me.

Was it perfect? No. I wanted to do so more things with the reference portion of it, such as including more information on local divisions of government, such as municipalities and school districts. But, when you’re doing one of these things, you can’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. You also have a deadline, and you can build on it the next time.

Yeah – We can do that in the next one!

Or, maybe not.

For better or worse, there was no 2013 edition in my future, as I made the decision to leave the office in mid 2012. Both I and my wife were sick of me living in my Dad’s basement, and commuting home to see the family every weekend. My ‘old friend’ Sen. Adelstein was taking every bit of silliness & rumor he could find on the Internet about me, forwarding it to the AG, and demanding it be investigated. Ugh. To say the least, I was not enjoying my job anymore.

I took a brief vacation in early July of 2012, and that was probably my downfall. I found that going back to work was the absolute last thing I wanted to do in the world. So I got back, and told the boss that I was going home.   A couple of weeks later, after going through 60,000 of my e-mails, and a million of the offices’ computer files, the AG concurred that none of Stan’s allegations were founded. At all. And Stan later begrudgingly admitted it might have been a vendetta against me.

But, I had already submitted my papers, turned in my keys, and was already moving furniture. And officially, the 2013 edition of the Blue Book was officially someone else’s task.   I got to come home and returned to writing South Dakota’s #1 Political Web Site.

For the 2013 edition, I was pleased to see they kept much of the interior format, although, they made the decision to go back to the hardbound edition. I ribbed Secretary Gant a little about it, but he’s even more of a South Dakota history buff than I am, and he opted for tradition.  I’m sure I would have argued with him about it if I was still there.

Even so, the 2011 edition remains something I remember with the most fondness of my time there, representing a minor footnote to an even more minor historical reference volume while I was there.  You won’t find an editing credit in the book for me. It was the Blue Book for the office, and designed with the intent of it being “for the people.”

It wasn’t the first print project I’d worked on, and it wouldn’t be the last. We had started the genesis of the discussion for the update on the compiled election results for the last 125 years, as it had been around 25 – 30 years since the last one was done by the SOS. It wasn’t a statutory requirement, but something the office did as the custodian of the Government’s records.

And there were other projects, but this is one I will always remember. My adventure as a published author. An actual book.

Within the broad confines of the law, every Secretary of State is given free reign to do with the Blue Book what they will in terms of design, layout, format, and more. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs chose to go back to the layout of the Blue Book as it had been before my time, and that’s absolutely her prerogative.   I know how difficult it is to assemble the darn thing, and more power to her for getting it finished.

But, I can’t also help but find myself a little melancholy for the book and the hopes of transforming it into something with loftier goals in mind.

Blue Book forward As noted in the forward of the 2011 book:

Gone are the page sized photos of elected officials in favor a smaller photo, with more emphasis on direct contact information; to allow the taxpayers of our state to reach out and communicate with the people they’ve elected to office.

As opposed to the prior volumes which sit on many shelves with little use, this edition is intended to be a reference for daily use. It is designed to give everyone the ability to send their elected representatives a message at a moment’s notice.

On behalf of the State of South Dakota, I am very proud to dedicate this years’ blue book to our spirit of open government.

It will be interesting to see how the Secretary of State’s office treats the book in upcoming years. A bill – HB 1009 – has already been pre-filed to drastically cut the already limited number of books produced and to allow electronic distribution, as well as some limited hard bound editions in “a price set by the Secretary of State.”

I know how much time goes into the darned thing. I suspect that compiling and printing the manual might be viewed by some as a bit of a chore. But, I can’t help but think that even in the time of the Internet, there is value in the permanence of books.

And maybe HB 1009 could be amended from the Blue Book being a statutory chore, and transformed into an opportunity. An opportunity for more accessibility, for open government, and a greater ability for the common man to reach out to their elected officials at every level of government.

At the very least, let’s get rid of the vanity photos. They are the worst.

US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Nominating South Dakota Students to Our Nation’s Service Academies

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateNominating South Dakota Students to Our Nation’s Service Academies
By Senator Mike Rounds

This year, I had the opportunity to nominate 24 exceptional South Dakota students to our nation’s military service academies for the fall 2016 semester. Each year, I can nominate a certain number of students to the four service academies that require a nomination. They include the Military Academy at West Point, New York; the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland; the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado; and the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York. All academies offer a great opportunity for young people to become leaders in our nation’s military.

It is truly an honor for me to nominate young South Dakota students to become the next generation of military leaders. The United States service academies are looking for the best and brightest to join their ranks. Each of the students nominated this year exemplify the leadership qualities and academic excellence that our country’s service academies are looking for in their recruits.

Being admitted to the service academies isn’t easy. Only a small number of students are selected each year, and those who do get accepted are the best of the best. They must meet difficult eligibility requirements in leadership, physical fitness, character and scholarship. That being said, those who graduate from the academies can go on to do great things. They are among the highest caliber our country has to offer, and that is a direct result of the training and education they received at whichever academy they attended.

The multi-part process of applying to the service academies can be difficult and oftentimes confusing. I have staff members in my South Dakota offices who are experienced in the process. They can assist with the application and answer any questions students or their parents may have. Additionally, I have implemented “Military Academy Day” events throughout the state. We held a series of these events in 2015 and will do so again in 2016. At these seminars, my staff is joined by representatives from the academies to give presentations and answer any questions from interested students and parents. They are a good way for students who are thinking of attending a military service academy to learn more about the application process and see what life is like at an academy. Dates and locations for 2016 Military Academy Day events will be released in the coming months.

To learn more about academy nominations, visit my website at www.rounds.senate.gov or call any of my state offices. You can also email [email protected]. By attending an academy, not only will students have the opportunity to serve our nation and help lead the best military in the world, but they will receive an excellent education at a top-notch institution. It is an honor for me to be able to nominate South Dakota students to the U.S. military service academies.


Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Back to Work

noem press header kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Back to Work
By Rep. Kristi Noem

There’s something so energizing about flipping the calendar from December to January.  It’s a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate.  I’m heading back to Congress this year with a renewed optimism as well.  We have a lot of work to do, but I’m hopeful we have momentum moving in our direction.

Truth be told, we’re going to need every bit of that momentum we can get.  2015 concluded with a heightened sense of unease about our national security – and rightfully so.  As we return, this is an issue that will need to be addressed.  I firmly believe the President, as Commander in Chief, has a responsibility to put forth a comprehensive plan to defeat and destroy ISIL.  Doing so is the most effective way to keep terrorism off U.S. soil.  Congress also must continue to ensure our military has the tools and resources it needs to be successful, while closing any security loopholes that may exist in federal law.  That is going to be at the top of my agenda in 2016.

Addressing the President’s health care law will be another area of focus during the first part of 2016.  Speaker Paul Ryan has already announced that the House, in coordination with the Senate, plans to place legislation on the President’s desk in the coming weeks that repeals the core tenants of Obamacare, including the individual and employer mandates.  This last December, thousands of South Dakotans saw their health care costs skyrocket.  I have supported and will continue to support the repeal of Obamacare, but until we can achieve a full repeal, I will do what I can to incrementally lift the burden for South Dakota families.

We are also working very hard on efforts to keep the Hot Springs VA Hospital open and fully staffed and operational.  In late-2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released an Environmental Impact Statement on a plan to close the VA facility in Hot Springs. From now until February 5, the VA will be accepting public comments.  I encourage everyone impacted by this proposal to let their voice be heard.  For my part, I have reached out to the VA Secretary directly, urging him not only to settle on a solution that will work for all involved – especially our veterans – but also to visit Hot Springs before making a determination about the hospital’s future.  Those who have served deserve nothing less.

The reality is that these topics are just the tip of the iceberg.  We have a lot of work to do because our country is facing a lot of big issues today.  I’m determined to find real solutions and produce the milestones that you seek and deserve.


Herseth Sandlin betting on her employer’s stock to go up.

Former Congresswoman and potential 2018 Gubernatorial Candidate Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was mentioned yesterday at the Insider Trading Report website for grabbing 500 shares of stock with her employer, Raven Industries:

Raven Industries Inc (RAVN): Stephanie Herseth Sandlin , Gen Counsel & VP Corp Dev of Raven Industries Inc purchased 500 shares on Dec 30, 2015. The Insider buying transaction was disclosed on Dec 30, 2015 to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The shares were purchased at $15.77 per share for a total value of $7,883.00.

The company shares have dropped 36.88% in the past 52 Weeks. On December 29, 2014 The shares registered one year high of $25.95 and one year low was seen on December 18, 2015 at $15.07. The 50-day moving average is $17.14 and the 200 day moving average is recorded at $18.21. S&P 500 has rallied 1.33% during the last 52-weeks.

Shares of Raven Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:RAVN) appreciated by 3.41% during the past week but lost 4.06% on a 4-week basis. The shares have outperformed the S&P 500 by 0.63% in the past week but underperformed the index by 2.7% in the last 4 weeks.

Read it all here.

Petition circulation begins TOMORROW. Weren’t the dems running someone for something or another……?

Instead of New Years’ Eve, in South Dakota should we be calling this Campaign Eve?

Petition circulation kicks off tomorrow, and within a few weeks’ time, we’ll get to see who we have running for what office. If you’re considering it yourself, take a moment to read what I put together a couple of days ago to help you not to screw up your petitions.  (We don’t need anymore budding Bosworth’s, do we?)

The other thought that came to mind was the fact that Democrat Party Chairwoman Ann Tornberg had been promising for most of the year that Dems would have a candidate for US Senate. And yet we still hear crickets.  Any potential Dem challenger has managed to skip the entire preceding year where US Senate candidates typically scramble to meet people, raise their name ID and try to bring in cash.  Now, instead of noting the missed opportunity of days that they missed, starting tomorrow, we’ll have to start counting down the days they’re not out there gathering names on petitions to run.

If you can’t tell, I’ve been pretty doubtful that Democrats could live up to Tornberg’s boast that they had someone to run. And I still am.

With Tornberg so far unable to produce all these people she claims will be running, the downside for the leader of the Democrats is that with all of her continuous and boastful claims of Democrats running people in all statewide and in just about all 105 legislative races, she’s placed her credibility on the line.   She risks her name becoming an adjective for failure.

Truly, all of us who prognosticate on the future of the political scene do it without the benefit of knowing what events will occur in the intervening 11 months until the election.

You never know, we could experience the Rapture, and God could decide to leave the Liberals behind on a devastated and depopulated planet. With Democrats shifting further to the left in a conservative South Dakota that’s decidedly moved towards the right, that might give them a fighting chance to field candidates and win elections.

But short of that happening, I feel pretty secure in stating that Republicans are going to have a pretty good year in South Dakota in 2016.

Whether Democrats are able to find a warm body to take on John Thune for the US Senate is immaterial as to whether he, Kristi Noem, Chris Nelson, and a vast majority of Republican Legislators are going to win office in 2016.

In most instances, the races are inevitable, or they have already been won.

Thune talks to Argus about accomplishments, what’s coming up.

John Thune is featured in the Argus Leader talking about what the Senate has accomplished in the last year, as well as what we can see coming up in 2016:

John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressThe state’s senior senator spoke with reporters from Argus Leader Media to outline his office’s legislative successes and Congress’ accomplishments in 2015. Among them was the first comprehensive highway funding bill in 10 years, the first major overhaul of federal education policy since 2002 and trade agreements with Asia and Europe.

His office also ran political cover for the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex, which increases training opportunities for bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base, making the base more relevant in the event of another round of closures.


“There’s a whole long list of fairly consequential legislation that finally moved,” Thune said.

Congress also passed legislation that added new requirements to the country’s visa waiver program. That program allows visitors from 38 countries to travel to the United States without first having to obtain a visa. The program makes it more convenient for U.S. citizens and the citizens of the 38 countries who participate to travel internationally.

Read the entire story here.

Is Noem helping to pick our next president?

Congresswoman Kristi Noem had endorsed Marco Rubio for president several weeks back. But, how important is that endorsement to his winning the presidency?

One theory is that it could make all the difference in the world.

Sen. Marco Rubio has occupied an odd place in the GOP race all year: Never the front-runner, but always — in theory, on paper, hypothetically — on the verge of breaking out.

On Tuesday, Rubio once again showed signs of imminent liftoff after snagging one of the biggest endorsements in the race so far in Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.

Gowdy, the high-profile chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, is the increasingly rare politician who’s popular in both conservative and establishment circles. He easily could have succeeded John Boehner as House speaker had he chose to run.


Rubio has good reason to think his plan might work. The most prominent political science theory today is that party elites tend to pick the eventual nominee over the course of an “invisible primary” that takes place in the months and years before voters head to the polls, at which point rank-and-file partisans usually fall in line behind their choice.


So how’s Rubio been doing on that front? Sure enough, he’s made gains as rivals like Bush and Scott Walker have fallen. Bush took an early lead in endorsements from top donors and federal lawmakers that he still holds, but Rubio has racked up more support from both in the last three months than anyone else in the race. Among the big names: Rising stars Cory Gardner and Steve Daines in the Senate, well-known figures like Kristi Noem, Darrell Issa, and Mia Love in the House, and major party funders like billionaire Paul Singer.

All this is good news for Rubio, who surely has more names ready to roll out before voting begins, but it’s still a long way off from a tipping point.

Read it all here.

Could Kristi be helping to coalesce the party around the man who might be our nation’s next president?

Governor Appoints Russ Olson To Game, Fish And Parks Commission

daugaardheaderGovernor Appoints Olson To Game, Fish And Parks Commission

PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced today that he will appoint Russell Olson of Madison to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission.

“Russ will be a great addition to the Game, Fish and Parks Commission. He is an avid outdoorsman who is committed to conservation,” said Gov. Daugaard. “I appreciate Russ’ willingness to serve in this important role.”

Olson is the chief executive officer of Heartland Consumers Power District, based in Madison. He served in the State House of Representatives from 2007-09 and the State Senate from 2009-13, serving for three years as senate majority leader.

russolson“As a lifelong resident, with generations of hunting and fishing traditions on both sides of my family, I want to do my part to make sure that the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts are able to enjoy the outdoors as I have,” said Olson. “It is vital that we continue to build better relationships with landowners as they hold the key to access and stewardship of one of South Dakota’s most precious resources.”

Olson will replace Duane Sather of Sioux Falls, who is retiring after four years on the commission. Olson’s term ends January of 2020.