By Sen. John Thune
It’s been a busy and exciting few weeks in South Dakota. On a personal note, the highlight for me and Kimberley was welcoming our fourth grandchild just before Easter. We’re so blessed, and I’m so proud of both of our daughters. They’re strong, amazing women, and they exemplify what it means to be a good mom, which is no surprise, considering Kimberley is the perfect example to follow. The whole family, including the newest addition, was able to spend the holiday together, and with the help of the other grandkids, we were even able to find a few eggs, too.
Aside from sharing some of these moments with my family during the last state work period, I’m once again humbled by the fact that so many of you were willing to share what’s happening with you, your family, or your local business. For me, there’s no better way to learn about how Washington’s laws and regulations are affecting people than by hearing about it and seeing the results firsthand – by touring local small businesses, for example, and discussing important policies like trade, tax reform, and regulatory relief with workers and business leaders.
Those kinds of stops are important, which is why I recently visited Energy Dynamics in Carthage, Valley Queen Cheese in Milbank, Persona Signs in Madison, A.H. Meyer & Sons in Winfred, Royal Canin Pet Food in North Sioux City, and DeGeest Steel Works in Tea, and I was thoroughly impressed with these local success stories. These engines of economic growth have accomplished a lot of big things in their communities, and the sky is definitely the limit.
While I’ve learned that each business has its own fingerprint and its own story to tell, I’m always amazed that there’s something uniquely South Dakotan about them – whether it’s the product they’re making, the service they’re providing, or the hardworking people who are behind the effort. When I was in Tea, for example, I met three generations of the DeGeest family, including Glenyce, the co-founder of the family business, and her grandson Derek, who was named the 2019 South Dakota Small Business Person of the Year. These are the faces of South Dakota’s entrepreneurial spirit.
During my recent trip around the state, I also spent time at the Avera Flandreau Hospital and Sanford Clear Lake medical center to learn from staff and community leaders about the unique challenges facing rural communities, including the hurdles that can exist with delivering high-quality health care. Whether it’s expanding telehealth opportunities or incentivizing talented medical professionals to serve in rural areas, I’ve made this issue a priority, and I appreciate the good work these folks are doing in communities large and small.
Flooding is still a big issue for many people in South Dakota, and after having toured some of the damage myself, I’ve seen what can happen when the water level reaches dangerous levels. I met with leaders in Sioux Falls in March, and I most recently sat down with Watertown Mayor Sarah Caron to hear how the community is dealing with the high water and learn more about what they’re doing to prepare for future risks. I’m paying close attention to this issue, and the congressional delegation stands ready to help when and where we can.
I recently spent time with the Milbank Chamber of Commerce, the Madison Kiwanis Club, the Watertown Rotary Club, and North Sioux City’s economic development organization. If you want to get the pulse on what’s happening in a local community, these are the organizations to which you should listen. I also had the chance to catch up with our hometown heroes at the South Dakota National Guard associations’ joint conference in Sioux Falls, and I’m thankful, as always, to have heard from students in Iroquois and Milbank.
If I’m not in Washington, odds are that I’m either trying to keep up with the grandkids, or you can find in me in one of the cities or towns that dot South Dakota’s map – maybe even your hometown – learning directly from the people who do what they do best. There’s no better way to do it.