Patrolman Likes 80-mph, but It’s Not for Everyone

By Dan Merritt, Advocate reporter

Driving 80-mph, South Dakota Highway Patrol captain Alan Welsh of the Sioux Falls area was glad he could be moving a bit faster toward the city where his office is located.

In mainly rural South Dakota with its wide open country, it’s a speed limit that makes sense, he said. For him, anyway, because he’s comfortable moving at that speed.

But some people aren’t, he acknowledged. In fact, it seems many aren’t.

“A lot of people are just driving 75-mph,” he stated while he was traveling I-90 on April 10 headed to Sioux Falls.

“Most of the traffic I clock (check) is between 75- and 80-mph. I’m out here on the interstate running radar right now.”

He continued: “I encourage (people) to stay in their comfort area (speed wise). I don’t want anybody to go faster than what they’re comfortable with.”

He disputed claims that if the state officially moved up to 80 mph on the interstate highways (which took effect April 1), motorists would be going 85- to 90-mph.

“When it was 75-mph, we’d get a few going 85 or 90. And we still get a few going 85, 90. But I don’t see more.

I’m not seeing more that think they can push it.

“In fact, I’ve seen a lot of people that are compliant with the speed limit. And that’s because I think they think it’s fast enough.”

It is plenty fast agreed local law enforcement at Winner.

Police chief Paul Schueth cautioned that drivers moving along at 80 mph need to be aware of the big rigs on the road around them, especially in front of them.

Most semis won’t be going any faster than 65- to 75-mph, like they have been. Drivers in other vehicles going faster now than they have been, need to take that into account, he advised.

“The closing rate is going to be a lot faster now at 80-mph coming up behind a semi on the interstate than what it was before.

“Hopefully nobody runs into them.”

Semis generally are restricted by their owner companies as to how fast they can rumble down a roadway, Schueth pointed-out. That’s between 65 and 70 for the most part.

And semi truck tires in general aren’t rated to go beyond 75-mph, he noted.

Both city police chief Schueth and Tripp County sheriff Shawn Pettit didn’t think local drivers on county or city roads were going to take license to driver faster just because the state has upped the legal speed on the interstates.

Pettit said he’ll be looking at reports about interstate accidents about six months down the line. ‘I’m waiting to see how that comes out,” he stated.

Particularly, he’s wondering if there may possibly be more mishaps or more severe ones.

That’s because vehicles will be traveling farther at such a high rate of speed in the time it takes for drivers to react to road/traffic circumstances around them.

That is, motorists will need more length of roadway in which to react and that length may not be enough to avoid a crash going 80 as opposed to 75 or 70, he indicated.

But patrolman captain Welsh said he doesn’t expect to see crash data jump with the new legal 80-mph speed limit.

“When we went from 65 to 75, everybody thought there was going to be a lot of crashes. But it hasn’t.

“Technology with vehicles being safer, handling better, airbags. We haven’t had issues, we haven’t had more crashes, we haven’t had more injuries.

“So, raising the speed limit did not result in more crashes. Certainly that’s our hope and expectation for this increase.”

Welsh said 80-mph is plenty fast enough to be motoring along and that those who plan to go faster had better be prepared to get pulled-over by SD highway patrolmen.

“We are enforcing it strictly. The speed limit’s 80 and we enforce the speed limit.”

Sure there will be discretion used by individual troopers. “Are we going to pull over every single person going 82 or 83, probably not. There’s enough to keep us busy stopping people at higher speeds.

“But could you get pulled-over at 83 and get a citation? Absolutely.”

Every South Dakota Town Needs a Big Idea

by Katie Hunhoff

Every South Dakota town we visit is looking for ways to attract new families. Well, there was that one mayor in the town of Cottonwood (pop. 12) on Highway 14 that didn’t necessarily want people poking around, thinking it was a ghost town. But generally every other town is trying something — from painting storefronts to offering free lots or building event centers — to rejuvenate their communities.

My hometown of Yankton is trying something different. We are holding a 100-day search for a big idea that has the potential to change Yankton for generations. The person with the winning idea will receive $10,000. But the hope is that everyone in Yankton will be a winner if we can have a conversation about Yankton’s future, and also find a project the whole community can rally behind. The search is dubbed Onward Yankton and you can follow along or submit ideas on their website, The Onward Yankton group hopes they get submissions from not just Yankton but also across the state and country.

Larry Ness, a local banker and a founder of Onward Yankton, says the old river city is just one of many places struggling in today’s fast-changing world. “We think a community-wide exercise to decide Yankton’s next step will have a lot of value in itself. But once we select an idea, a bunch of us are committed to seeing if we can’t make it happen.”

Carmen Schramm, the executive director of the Yankton Chamber, says Yankton has always been a town of big ideas — starting with its designation as the territorial capitol in 1861. “As a city, we’ve started colleges, built one of the first bridges across the Missouri and our residents even built a dam and a lake in the 1950s — not to mention schools, hospitals and serving as an agricultural center.”

“We’re proud of all we’ve accomplished,” she said. “But cities our size can’t rest on their laurels. We have to keep adapting and looking for the next challenge that will keep us as an exciting place where young people want to live and work.”

The May/June issue of South Dakota Magazine includes a feature article that talks directly to young South Dakotans, specifically to May graduates. Yes, they already receive advice from parents, teachers and mentors. But we found 18 interesting (and wise) South Dakotans to provide a unique and heartfelt perspective. One of my favorite submissions came from our poet laureate, retired SDSU Professor David Allan Evans. He begins with an anecdote from about 20 years ago when he was very earnestly and carefully teaching a writing class at SDSU. He finished the class feeling pleased with himself. But then a student came up to him and told him he had a leaf on his head. The young professor became embarrassed and agitated, and he felt it had ruined his entire lecture. Now, the story has become a lesson for him on humility and how not to take himself too seriously — “Something that all of us need to learn as we mature with time,” he writes.

I’d like to think the citizens of Yankton are following his advice by with our Big Idea contest. We’re not saying we know all the answers — that’s why we are asking for your ideas. And we’re not taking ourselves too seriously. We look forward to a lot of silly and fun discussion over which idea to pick. But we are serious about the future of our town and the futures of our youth. I encourage you visit the Onward Yankton website to learn more, and also to read our letters to youth in the May/June issue. Who knows, the letters might spark an idea worth $10,000. Even better, the project might provide Yankton and other rural communities some ideas on how to grow and prosper.

Katie Hunhoff is the editor of South Dakota Magazine, a bi-monthly print publication that discusses the people and places of our great state. Visit for more information.

Some Advice For New Parents

A column by First Lady Linda Daugaard

Much has changed for Dennis and me in the last five years. Moving from Dell Rapids to Pierre to serve as governor and first lady has been quite the adventure. But there are other titles we’ve recently acquired that we value even more: grandpa and grandma.

Becoming a grandma has reminded me how much new parents have to decide in nine short months. What color to paint baby’s bedroom, which stroller to buy, whether to know the gender ahead of time – the list of questions can be endless for first-time parents.

Though it can all be overwhelming, the decisions that really matter are those that affect a baby’s health. When Dennis was first elected, he was shocked to learn how many infants were not reaching their first birthday, and that South Dakota’s infant mortality rate was higher than the rates in surrounding states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.

This unsettling truth led him to ask me to lead a task force on infant mortality in South Dakota. I worked with a group of doctors, nurses, tribal health care workers, midwives, social workers and Department of Health officials to understand the causes of the problem. In our research, we found that deciding against early elective deliveries (EEDs), abstaining from tobacco, learning safe sleep practices and receiving prenatal care are critical to an infant’s wellbeing.

Inducing early for non-medical reasons can be dangerous. There are no known health benefits for EEDs, and there are significant health risks for baby – low birthweight, respiratory syndrome, pneumonia and even death. I’m very pleased that 20 of South Dakota’s birthing hospitals have signed pledges to work with us to reduce EEDs.

The infant mortality rate for infants of mothers who smoke is almost twice as high as it is for infants born of non-smokers. Last year, about 15 percent of pregnant women smoked. Though that is an improvement from 2011 when the task force began its work, South Dakota still has one of the highest rates of mothers smoking during pregnancy.

Along with abstaining from tobacco products, it’s critically important for expectant mothers to seek the care they need during the first trimester. In South Dakota, 72 percent of women received prenatal care in the first trimester last year. I’ve heard stories from women who have been told to wait until they are 12 weeks along to schedule prenatal care visits. That’s not good advice. Those who seek that care early on are less likely to lose their child within the first year.

Also before baby is born, expectant parents should learn about safe sleep practices. Infants need to sleep on a firm surface covered by a fitted sheet. Pillows, blankets, toys and crib bumpers should not be in the crib. Babies need to be placed on their back and it’s best for them to sleep in light clothing. Family members and other caregivers also need to know about these important practices.

The good news is that the infant mortality rate is declining in South Dakota. According to the Department of Health, the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births is down from 2013’s rate of 6.5 to 5.9 in 2014. Last year’s rate is also below 2011’s 20-year low of 6.3. It’s important we keep working to increase prenatal care, promote safe sleep practices, and decrease tobacco use and EEDs to make sure that decline continues.

I know from experience there’s no way to fully prepare yourself for parenthood. Don’t sweat the small stuff. No parent is perfect. Know that by concerning yourself primarily with your baby’s health and safety, you’ll be just what your little one needs.

Fewer South Dakota Babies Die In 2014

PIERRE, S.D. – For the second year, South Dakota saw a decline in the number of babies dying before their first birthdays. New data released by the Department of Health today shows 73 infant deaths in 2014 for a rate of 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. That’s down from 2013’s rate of 6.5 and below the previous 20-year lows of 6.3 in 2011 and 6.4 in 2007. o ignored

“It’s so encouraging to see the number of infant deaths down for the second straight year,” said First Lady Linda Daugaard. “All the work to promote safe sleep practices, encourage early prenatal care and help pregnant women stop smoking is having an impact.” o ignored

Early prenatal care, decreased tobacco use in pregnancy and safe sleep practices were some of the strategies recommended by the 2011 Governor’s Task Force on Infant Mortality. That group was chaired by First Lady Linda Daugaard and its members have worked since then to implement the recommendations to reduce infant mortality and improve birth outcomes for South Dakota babies. o ignored

The 2014 data also showed 72.2 percent of pregnant women in South Dakota received prenatal care in the first trimester as recommended. The percentage of women who smoked during pregnancy was 14.8 percent, essentially unchanged from 15 percent the year before. There were five deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 2014, compared to nine in 2013. o ignored

“While we’re pleased with this progress, there is still more work to be done,” said Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of Health. “We recognize the commitment of health care providers to assuring healthy birth outcomes for more South Dakota families and we’re pleased to be part of that effort as well.” o ignored

South Dakotans can learn more about healthy pregnancies at the department’s website.

Acid Food Processing Authority Program

According to the South Dakota Home Processed Foods Law, jams and jellies must be verified by a processing authority before they can be sold at a Farmers Market.  SDSU Extension is hosting a DDN program to train processing authorities or to update those who are already a processing authority.  The class will be held on Tuesday, April 28 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Sites include the SDSU Regional Extension Centers is Sioux Falls, Pierre, Mitchell, Winner, Lemmon, Aberdeen and Watertown. Additional sites include the West River Ag Center in Rapid City, Human Services Center in Yankton and SDSU (Brookings Campus).

If you are interested in attending this class or have questions about this class, contact Lavonne Meyer at the Sioux Falls Regional Center in Sioux Falls.   She can be reached at phone number: 605-782-3290 or email address:

29 Students Represent WHS at State Convention

winner at state student council


Twenty-nine Winner High School student council members attended the annual South Dakota Student Council Association state convention March 29-31 in Pierre.

The students were accompanied by student council advisors Mona LaCompte and Lorna Phillips.

The high school students attending were: Dusti Littau, Nick Hossle, Kylie Horstman, Calah Covey, Molly Connot, Tawny Sherman, Sydney Schuyler, Casey Norrid, Kelsey Bertram, Lesley Soles, Sam Naasz, Grant Winter, Sydney Fritz, Bailey Volmer, Sydnie Peters, Shannon Duffy, Rachel Sherman, Chloe Bartels, Samantha Schuyler, Brekken Nagel, Ronae Klein, Macy Olson, Madelyn Hanson and Macie Ferwerda.

Also attending were five 8th graders who are members of the middle school student council—Madison Thieman, Bayli Beehler, Casey Stickland, Gabby Kocer and Sierra Hanson.

Winner received the award for outstanding student council.

Sam Naasz served as a regional representative on the state board.

The Winner senior said he enjoyed being on the state board as it gave him a chance to meet new people. “It gave me the chance to advance further as a leader,” he said.

Naasz has been a member of the WHS student council a total of four years.

Naasz says working with the student council association has helped him be a leader. “It starts with just you wanting to be a better person and then it branches off and you help others,” he said.

LaCompte said she is so  proud of Sam. “He gave so much to the make the state convention better for all of us,” she said.

At a Monday night banquet, Naasz was recognized as being one of the state board members.  “It was an honor,” he said.

Chloe Bartels was elected sergeant of arms for the state.

Those  attending  the convention had the opportunity to presentations  by Jeremy Brech, one of the world’s top ranked DJs. Brech’s presentation was one the “Power of One.”

The Monday morning general session was presented by four time para Olympic medalist Mike Schlappi. Naasz said this man was paralyzed in high school and he told how it changes his life.

During the closing session, students presented money raised by student councils across the state for Children’s Miracle Network. This year student councils raised over $27,000.

Over 1,100 high school and middle school student leaders attended the convention.

The goals of the annual convention include motivating student leaders from each school and providing the students with a basis to exercise better leadership skills when they return to schools and communities.

Hammer beating: one of the real calls, part of his 911 training

jon burdette


By Dan Merritt, Advocate reporter

A phone call about someone being beaten with a hammer wasn’t a fun 911 recording to listen to.

But Jon Burdette, dispatcher with the Tripp County sheriff’ s office, had to endure.

There were a variety of other real-life recordings he and others had to sit through and evaluate during 911 training.

Burdette graduated the two-week course in early March.

911 training and certification took place at the Law Enforcement Training facility in Pierre.

During classroom time, actual 911 calls were played for the group of 17 trainees.

“Some of those calls, you’d get goosebumps,”  Burdette remembered.

In fact, the training invoked a lot of emotions. Intentionally, it seems.

But emotions, particularly panic, had to be squelched and replaced with calm, Burdette noted.

Anger, too, had to be suppressed because some 911 callers can be particularly provoking, engaging in name-calling or making insulting remarks.

“You don’t get into a yelling match with them. Don’t try to out-yell them.”

That also goes for a panicky caller who may be extra loud on the phone because of the circumstance that prompted the call.

In that case the 911 call responder has to not only remain calm but work to calm the caller, Burdette explained.

Calm, because that is how important information is obtained: the caller’s address, phone number, and name.

Burdette and his fellow classmates were constantly evaluated while practicing their responses to a variety of 911calls for help.

Evaluations that helped them, as responders, improve, Burdette said.

Improve to the point of surviving a tough 90-question test and, even tougher, successfully handling a final session series of simulated 911 calls at the end of training.

Burdette said that final session made him nervous whenever he thought about it during the two weeks of training in Pierre.

“That’s what stressed me out the most (during) the days leading up to that.”

But the day finally arrived and he had to don his headset and take-on whatever situations may be concocted by one of the 911 course supervisors.

“There were two computer screens and I had a microphone.

“And then the teacher (evaluator) sat two rows behind me.”

At first, Burdette said he was very aware of the instructor’s presence. “But after awhile, you kind of get used to it.”

There were four simulations.

“One was, there was a little girl calling and her parents were fighting downstairs.”

Burdette said he could hear the adults, verbally sparring loudly and angrily in the background.

“On the computer they have different sound effects,” he explained.

There were no gunshots, he added.

He kept the girl on the line, collecting important basic information. Then he dispatched to the scene the number of police officers he thought would be necessary.

“They called for back-up,” he reported.

In another simulation, “there was a bar fight going on.”

He could hear it in the background as well, via computer sound effects.

“And one, there was a semi that rolled over that had hazardous material.

“There was stuff coming out from under the truck. And then the fire department gets there and tells you what the hazmat number is and you have to find out what it is.”

Though he had already “graduated” the 911 training course — his photo taken with South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley at 11 a.m. on final testing day — Burdette didn’t actually undergo his last and deciding 911 emergency simulations until about 4 p.m.

They continued until around 5 p.m., at which time Burdette was officially deemed qualified as a 911 call-taker, having passed the simulated calls and responding to them effectively.

“I was glad to be done,” he remembers vividly.

Burdette is also the Tripp County emergency manager. He was hired in fall last year as dispatcher with the sheriff’s department.

He replaced Jeannette Long who had been with the sheriff’s office for three decades, he informed. That’s quite a time period of service, he added.

Being a new dispatcher, he had up to a year to take the 80-hour, 911 training course in Pierre. And now, though certified to take 911 calls, he remains at the sheriff’s office in his current dispatch job.

To work 911 calls constantly, he’d have to hire-on with the 911 office inside the Winner police station, he commented.

Burdette’s glad he experienced the training; it has helped him be a better dispatcher, he feels.

One thing he realized, he said: “Each call is important to that person.” It’s not to be dismissed as a waste of time, because to the caller it’s not a waste of time. And the call-taker can’t come across as uncaring or unimpressed, he elaborated.

There was another important point of emphasis Burdette obtained from the 911 course.

“One of the biggest things they kept saying is dispatchers are a lifeline for police officers, first-responders.

“An officer goes to a call and the guy ends up having a gun right there.

“The officer is going to call you first. You got to get him help.

“You’re the lifeline.”

Burdette, 23, a Colome native, is a 2010 high school graduate. He took a year of college classes at South Dakota State University, Brookings, in 2010-11.

Prior to coming to the sheriff’s office, he was the assistant manager at Casey’s of Winner.

School Board Accepts Wonnenberg’s Resignation

By Dan Bechtold


Winner School Board accepted the resignation of Winner teacher Roger Wonnenberg at a special meeting Friday afternoon.

Wonnenberg is a middle school teacher and his  resignation is effective May 26..

The school board met in executive session prior to making a motion to offer Wonnenberg early retirement.

In its motion, the school board approved a medical leave for Wonnenberg effective immediately. Wonnenberg is no longer teaching at the middle school.

Wonnenberg has taught in the Winner School District for  22 years.

Engel Featured in Art Show set at the Matthews Opera House



Eight Black Hills State University students will showcase their time and talent during the BHSU Senior Art Show this month at the gallery in the Matthews Opera House in Spearfish.

The BHSU Senior Art Show is an annual event and culmination for students earning a degree in art or art education. The exhibit is on display April 3-25. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., Friday, April 10 at the opera house. The event is free and open to the public.

“This show is a strong representation of the students’ talents, primarily created during their junior and senior year in the art program,” said David Wilson, professor of art at BHSU.  o ignored

The exhibit will include a variety of paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints and ceramics. Many of the art pieces will be available for purchase.

Students exhibiting in the show include: o ignored

•             Brittany Whitney, art major from Rapid City

•             Kelly Lake, art education major from Ronan, Mont.

•             Ethan Engel, art and graphic design communication major from Winner

•             Katie Ribstein, art education major from Sioux Falls o ignored

•             Diane French, art and graphic design communication major from Keystone

•             Ashley A. Hein, art education major from Mitchell o ignored

•             Jessica Hill, art and graphic design communication major from Bowman, N.D.

•             Jenna M. Keller, art major from Rapid City

Ribstein will feature an array of artwork from oil paintings to hand-made jewelry in the show.

“The pieces directly reflect myself and how I might have been feeling when I created them,” Ribstein said. “I like to play with color and I also really enjoy using organic lines and shapes to create visual stimulation.”

As Ribstein pursues a career in teaching art to kids, she said BHSU provided her excellent role models to achieve her goals.

“Each instructor I’ve had is able to communicate something different to me, providing a very well-rounded experience,” she said. “They taught me to stay inspired and continue creating art.”

Engel had a piece from his collection “Transcendence: The Journey of Autism,” selected for the VSA Emerging Young Artists Program. Engel traveled to Washington, D.C., where the artwork was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute. The Matthews Opera House also held an exhibit for Engel’s “Transcendence” collection, something Wilson said is very prestigious for a college art student.

Engel’s artwork tells the story of his struggle with Asperger’s. His artwork is created on a cotton canvas, which resembles the color of skin. Engel writes words on the canvas from a personal diary. The words are written in reverse to represent the communication struggles he often faces.

French’s artwork was featured in a South Dakota statewide college art exhibition at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, while other students in the show have had their artwork displayed in Rapid City and in other exhibits throughout the Black Hills. o ignored

Wilson said the students in the art show have had much local and national recognition, showcasing their abilities, the University and the community as a whole.

“Spearfish is a community that supports creativity and the arts,” Wilson said. “Help us honor our  students and their outstanding accomplishments

Colome Play is April 10-11

Colome High School will present the play “Miss Nelson is Missing” April 10 and 11 at the Vet’s Hall. The April 10 performance is at 7 p.m. and the April 11 performance is 5 p.m.

The cast includes: Rachel Tate, Sarah Shippy, Morgan Hofeldt, Alex Hofeldt, Evan Cole, Megan Seegers, Kylie Debus, Halley Shippy, Korrina Williams, Shayna Gustafson, Trenton Seegers, Emily Duly, Kaylee Bolton and Jordyn Seegers.

The play is directed by Abby Smikle.