Senator John Thune
Former Governor George S. Mickelson is a tough guy to forget. Twenty years after the tragic plane crash that claimed his life, it is still easy for those of us who knew him to tell stories about his striking personality and his zest for life. As the son of former Governor George T. Mickelson, George was instilled with a strong sense of community and a great belief in the impact of servant leadership. It was his larger than life personality and passion for our state and public service that that so impressed me while I was working in Pierre during his tenure as governor. Throughout that time I had the privilege of serving as his State Railroad Director, and through our work together we became friends. I was inspired by his leadership and because of his example and guidance was encouraged to later run for public office.
George’s passion for building communities led to his legacy in South Dakota as a job creator and champion for economic development. During his time as governor, George spearheaded the creation of the Revolving Economic Development and Initiative (REDI) Fund in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). The REDI Fund was created to help diversify South Dakota’s economy, increase capital investment, and create lasting jobs for hard-working South Dakotans. The governor’s vision and the hard work of GOED has allowed the REDI fund to leverage more than $200 million in new capital investment and has created more than 30,000 South Dakota jobs.
George’s community development didn’t end with economic advancement. It was during his time as governor that South Dakota entered into the “Year of Reconciliation” with the tribes across the state. The governor wanted to mend broken relationships with the tribes and ignite constructive dialogue to bring healing between the state and Indian Country.Kimberley and I will always remember George’s friendship, mentoring, and passion for improving communities throughout South Dakota. His legacy will live on in the hundreds of projects he touched, lives he impacted, and businesses he grew while he was governor. On this 20th anniversary of his passing I encourage all South Dakotans to join me in celebrating the life of one our state’s most esteemed public servants.