For the last two weeks, I have been crisscrossing the state to meet with business owners, students, teachers, health care workers, community leaders, and South Dakotans of every walk of life. It might sound cheesy, but “Great Faces, Great Places” refers to a lot more than the faces on Mt. Rushmore. In cities and towns across the state, I always find people willing to spare a few minutes, or sometimes more, and I am incredibly thankful for the stories they share.
My first stop was North Sioux City, where I dropped by Dakota Valley High School to speak with students. I’m always impressed with the informed and thoughtful questions I get from South Dakota students. I also checked in on the VA outpatient clinic, where staff are working hard to ensure veterans who want the vaccine have access to it. The final stop of the day was a tour of Sterling Computers, a great South Dakota company that’s brought high-paying tech jobs into the area.
Next, I headed out west to Sturgis, Spearfish, and Newell, where I was briefed by firefighting teams, toured health care facilities, checked in with local residents, and had candid discussions with community and business leaders. A hopeful part of my time in West River was witnessing two local residents get their vaccine. It’s truly a testament to American ingenuity and grit that our country developed, manufactured, and distributed a safe vaccine in record time.
A highlight of my two weeks traveling the state was visiting St. Francis House. Its mission of moving people from homelessness to hope was especially poignant leading into Easter weekend. Fortunately, in 2018, my office was able to assist St. Francis House in getting the correct IRS designation to begin construction on a new facility. This meant its new (COVID-compliant) transitional home was up and running just in time for St. Francis to help hundreds of people safely through the pandemic.
After spending Easter weekend with family, I was back on the road to Madison and Yankton. I had discussions with health care staff at Madison Regional Health System and with local business and community leaders and Rotary Club members in both towns. I share many of the concerns I heard about Democrats’ plans for our country, and I reassured everyone I spoke to that I'm using every available tool to fight back against their radical liberal agenda. And, as always, I continue to do everything I can to promote issues important to South Dakota.
The last stop on the trip was back out west in Box Elder and Rapid City, where I was able to join the Box Elder community in celebrating the groundbreaking at the Liberty Center. This new addition near Ellsworth Air Force Base will give our airmen, their families, and the Box Elder community a new, world-class recreation facility. This is part of the larger plan for the Liberty Plaza development, which will further enhance the quality of life around Ellsworth as it prepares for the arrival of the B-21 Raider. This center will have a real impact on our service members and their families. I also toured the new Ascent Innovation Center – expanding on the success of the current incubator located on the SDSM&T campus. There is a lot of good work being done to foster the fantastic high-tech innovation and entrepreneurship we’re seeing in Rapid City. It’s really inspiring to see the investment being made in our state.
When the Senate is not in session, extended work periods allow me to make stops around the state and connect with South Dakotans with different backgrounds and expertise. Nothing is more critical to my work in the Senate than hearing from South Dakotans about their views on the issues we face as a nation. After the year we have had, it’s an opportunity that makes me feel particularly grateful.