Home > SD 2014 Ballot, South Dakota > Two strong Republican candidates for South Dakota Commissioner of School and Public Lands

Two strong Republican candidates for South Dakota Commissioner of School and Public Lands

September 16, 2013

Yesterday I took a few moments to talk with Ryan Brunner and Jim Bolin at the Spink County Republicans Lincoln Reagan Family Lunch in Redfield, SD. Both candidates gave their case as to why they are the best candidate for the Commissioner position during speeches. I won’t focus much (if any) on that. Anyone wanting to know their experience can check out their campaign pages. At a glance the Commissioner may not seem like an important position. Yes, technically the Commissioner does oversee a lot of land that in turns generates a tremendous amount of revenue for the state; but I’ve spoken to a few about the Commissioner that simply say the have no interest in who wins the position. Instead of simply passing on their message I asked of their opinions about a topic in which I have some firsthand knowledge: the Richmond Lake Dam. I believe topics such as this highlight how important the office is.

The Richmond Lake Dam does not have a new leak that will break imminently (well, at least we don’t think it will.) The leak in Richmond Lake Dam is two or three decades old. Long-time residents have noted each year the leak appears to be getting worse (you can tell by the amount that pools up when the lake is iced over). This last year the legislators in Pierre worked to get money appropriated so a monitoring system could be placed on the dam to determine just how much leakage there is. This monitoring system is not in place and so far there are no timelines as to when it will be. It is public safety issues such as Richmond Lake Dam that makes me consider this an important election decision. If the Richmond Lake Dam were to break a large portion of Aberdeen is directly in the path of destruction. I don’t believe this is imminent, but I am no expert and I believe the Commissioner should be working hard to ensure that infrastructure items such as this dam are properly maintained.

Here are my impressions of the two candidates:


Rep Jim Bolin in Redfield

Representative Jim Bolin is an experienced history teacher. When I asked him about the Richmond Lake Dam he not only had an answer for me, but he also gave me a good history lesson on how these dams came to be placed all over the state. As a legislator on the Appropriations Committee he knew about the Richmond Lake Dam leak and how important the project was to be funded. He remembers how Commissioner Johnson had worked with legislators to get funding for this project and other important dams of concern. Bolin would like to continue the work began by Johnson to ensure lack of maintenance on these public works does not become a critical situation.

Aside from Richmond Lake Dam it was clear Jim Bolin understands what the South Dakota School and Public Lands division does. He understands where the money generated by the division is used. Most important among the uses for this money is funding education within the state. One last thing to note is Rep Bolin believes he is the best candidate to beat any potential Democrat candidates.

Ryan Brunner

Deputy Commissioner Ryan Brunner in Redfield

Ryan Brunner is currently the Deputy Commissioner of School and Public Lands. In this position he has more working experience within the job. This is actually the second time I had spoken with him about Richmond Lake Dam. The first time was a few months ago in Pierre when a group of us were looking for updates from the School and Public Lands division. Both times Deputy Brunner has been very knowledgeable on the subject and was more than willing to work with those of us that had a concern about the perceived lack of progress on the project.  Ryan was able to discuss the changes made to the monitoring system and how it would allow greater transparency for local residents to actually monitor the dam leakage. Part of me feared there would be a lack of focus on the Richmond Lake Dam when Vern Larson took over the Commissioner position from Jared Johnson because you never know how a new ‘boss’ will re-prioritize after taking over an office. However Brunner appears to be just as focused on the dam leak as he was a few months ago.

As the current Deputy Commissioner it was easy for Brunner to make the case that he has firsthand knowledge of the School and Public Lands office. Before speaking with Brunner I had no idea the State of South Dakota acts a landlord in some situations. This included replacing out a fridge on a rented ranch house. The longer I spoke with Brunner it became obvious this office does a lot more than I ever imagined.

Going forward I see both candidates worthy of getting the Republican nomination (chosen via convention). Personally I like Brunner just a little bit more for the position, and that is only because I have seen the hard work he has put into the Richmond Lake Dam project. However both candidates bring a lot of knowledge and relevant experience to the office and I don’t think the Republican Party, or South Dakota, could go wrong with either choice.

PS. Party of me wishes Bolin would go for an elected position where he could fight directly against Common Core. He is very knowledgeable and passionate when talking against Common Core.

  1. Reagan Republican
    September 16, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Two good people. I think Republicans are fortunate to have them running for office. Knowing both they remind me of each other quite a bit but with an age difference. Both will grow into this role more as time goes on.

    What I look forward to seeing is not just their message but how strong their campaign apparatus is.

    Early on I would give Bolin a substantial edge with the delegate demographic breakdown. Being a legislator and from the delegate rich South Eastern part of the state and being tremendously active in the party gives him the advantage in a convention scenario.

    What I like about both is that they are smart and willing to stand on their own when it is an issue of importance to them.

    • Ken Santema
      September 17, 2013 at 8:19 am

      I agree Bolin definitely has an edge; especially in convention. When Bolin said he has the best chance to beat any potential Democrat challenger I think he is right.

      I wonder if a west-river candidate entering the race would change anything.

      • Reagan Republican
        September 17, 2013 at 12:11 pm

        Maybe. The only person I’ve heard as a possibility from west-river is Senator Ryan Maher. Maher would be intriguing because he is conservative but also because he had a couple terms in the legislature as a Democrat before switching to a Republican. Looking at it through Maher’s perspective he would have to lean on his senate colleagues and make sure there was substantial support in Pennington, Lawrence and Meade counties (Maher is from Dewey County which doesn’t give him much strength off the bat). He would have to play for second place on the first and second ballots until one of his opponents dropped out and then hope he was close enough to the top vote getter (most likely Bolin with Minnehaha and Lincoln in his corner) and be able to get enough support from delegates who supported the candidate who dropped out.

        Maher could take some legislator support from Bolin but he would most likely hurt Brunner more because he’s young and he would make west-river less of a neutral playground.

        A three way race is the best chance Maher has. Undecided delegates will remain neutral for a longer period of time if the field is crowded.

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