By Jim Zachary
CNHI Deputy National Editor
Editor, The Valdosta Daily Times

Open government is not a political platform.

It is a basic American right.

The political landscape is more polarized than ever and there seems to be little common ground for conservatives and progressives.

Transparency — keeping the light on the people’s business — ought to be something everyone can agree on.

Instead, conservatives want to reveal the secrets of liberals and liberals want to expose the actions of conservatives.

Openness in government is not a liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, independent, Libertarian or freedom caucus issue.

It often appears that whatever party is in the minority becomes the champion of transparency right up until the time it is in the majority.

Politicians stump on transparency and are all about open access, until they have something they want to keep secret.

The need for transparency in local, state and federal government transcends parties and political ideologies.

Checks and balances provide few checks and little balance when officials broker deals behind closed doors and conceal documents that contain important information that the public has the right, and often the need, to know.

Local government has the biggest impact in the lives of people on a day-to-day basis.

Whether it is in the form of property taxes, sales taxes, business taxes, state-shared dollars or federal grants, loans and funding, local government is 100 percent taxpayer-funded.

The public has the right to know how its money is being spent.

The decisions being made, the dollars being doled out and the records being kept by city hall, the county commission, the board of education or the utility district all belong to liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, independents, Libertarians and even politically disinterested individuals.

All stakeholders have a stake in open meetings and public records and should care about transparency issues.

The lack of and need for true government transparency should be about the most bipartisan cause that exists.

Any elected official who truly cares about public service in a real and meaningful way and fully understands what a representative form of government is all about, should not only champion openness in government, but should be the most effective watchdogs, looking out for the public trust.

Sadly, those kinds of elected officials are hard to find.

The press tries to keep an eye on government and expose clandestine actions and in response journalists are often ridiculed, belittled and even threatened for just doing their jobs, as they work to keep government honest by making use of access laws.

But, the public needs to understand that access to government documents and actions is not just a media right.

It is your right.


A South Dakota Quiz

Do you know where the largest fish has ever been caught in South Dakota? Or how about where you’d find the concrete donkey known as the Depression Nag? At South Dakota Magazine, we have spent 33 years traveling, studying and writing about our state. Along the way we’ve grown fond of testing our readers (and each other) with a bit of trivia. The following 14-question quiz is a little sampling. You can find more trivia on our Facebook page every Tuesday and in every edition of the magazine. Feel free to contact us if you think you have trivia that would stump our staff.

1. A sculpture known as “The Potato Man” stands in tribute to the thousands of Irish immigrants who settled in South Dakota in the late 1800s. Where can you find him?

2. What town is known as the birthplace of democracy west of the Mississippi River?

3. Established in 1867, what pow wow is the oldest continual event in South Dakota?

4. Ten murals by Oscar Howe decorate what arena?

5. How many steps does it take to reach the top of South Dakota State University’s Coughlin Campanile?

6. Fairways on what town’s golf course also serve as airport runways?

7. Geographically, which county is South Dakota’s largest?

8. Scotty Philip is known as the man who saved the buffalo, but from which South Dakota rancher did he buy his first animals?

9. What famous town founder is said to have discovered a cave filled with riches somewhere on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation?

10. At what bar is it a tradition to smash your empty beer bottle under the dock before ordering another?

11. During their journey up the Missouri River, Lewis and Clark explored what natural feature that Indians believed was guarded by “little devils?”

12. The exact center of the United States is found northwest of what city?

13. Mildred Fiksdal O’Neill’s collection of 10,000 pairs of shoes is housed in what museum?

14. Geographically, which is South Dakota’s largest Indian reservation?

Answers The largest fish ever caught in South Dakota was at White River and the Depression Nag is located in Tinkertown; 1. McKennan Park in Sioux Falls; 2. Elk Point; 3. Sisseton Wahpeton pow wow; 4. Scherr-Howe Arena in Mobridge; 5. 180; 6. Kadoka; 7. Meade County; 8. Fred Dupree; 9. Ed Lemmon; 10. The Ice House in Yankton; 11. Spirit Mound; 12. Belle Fourche; 13. Museum of Wildlife, Science and Industry in Webster; 14. Cheyenne River Indian Reservation (4,267 square miles).

Katie Hunhoff is the co-publisher and editor of South Dakota Magazine, a bi-monthly print publication featuring the people and places of our great state. For more information visit or email Katie at

Revival of Pheasant Numbers Wanted in South Dakota

A state Game, Fish and Parks Department official delivered a slide presentation Friday on the past, present and future of pheasants in South Dakota.

The discussion came as South Dakota prepares for its centennial season of pheasant hunting in 2019. Governor candidates recently announced plans to spur a ringneck revival.

“We need to get everybody involved. Everybody in South Dakota should realize how important this resource is to us,” Barry Jensen of White River said in an article written by Bob Mercer.

“It’s important to the state economically,” the chairman told the other commissioners. “It may be an area we can get out there a little better.”

Kirschenmann, chief of terrestrial habitat for the state wildlife division, stresses habitat is essential for survival and production.

One slide showed the ups and downs of federal soil bank and conversion reserve program acres in South Dakota and the accompanying rises and declines in annual pheasant per mile estimates.

A new effort has some wildlife division staff analyzing game production areas. Their recommendations will be brought to the game commission later this year.

Encouraging landowners to grow short trees, shrubs and bushes that act as thermal barriers help pheasants get through bad weather.

Insects are the main food young pheasants eat the first eight weeks and the top source of hens after they’ve hatched their clutches of eggs.

“We know winter wheat can provide very valuable nesting habitat, “ Kirschenmann said.

Another chart showed locations for 19 habitat advisors from various organizations and governments throughout South Dakota.

Sioux Falls hosted Pheasant Fest last month which Kirschenmann said was “great timing.”

U.S. Senator John Thune wants the federal government to increase CRP acres to 30 million in the next farm bill. The current level is 24 million. 
While South Dakota pheasant numbers have dropped in the past decade, they’re still better than anywhere else.

More people from outside of South Dakota bought pheasant licenses year after year in recent times than hunters who live in South Dakota.

“Our tradition of pheasant hunting is none like anybody else has,” said Kirschenmann.

Brooke Swier Schloss Named As One Of Prairie Business Magazine’s “Top 25 Women In Business”

Brooke Swier Schloss of Swier Law Firm has been named as one of Prairie Business magazine’s “Top 25 Women in Business” for 2018.

Now in its fifth year, the award honors successful businesswomen in North Dakota, South Dakota, and western Minnesota. The award emphasizes professional achievement, community contributions, and work-life balance.

Nearly 60 people from throughout the Dakotas and western Minnesota were nominated, but Brooke’s credentials and achievements stood out.

“I am so honored that Prairie Business magazine recognizes the accomplishments of professional women in our region,” said Brooke. “As the mother of two small daughters, I am thrilled to tell them ‘Look at the opportunities you have to chase your dreams.’ I am humbled to be part of such a successful group of businesswomen.”

“We are very proud of Brooke’s achievement in being named one of the ‘Top 25 Women in Business’ for 2018,” said Scott Swier. “She is the epitome of a dedicated professional and selfless volunteer.”

A reception will be held on Thursday, May 17, in the Dakota Ballroom at the Avalon Events Center in Fargo, to celebrate the 2018 “Top 25 Women in Business.”

Stars and Stripes Forever-Our Great Flag

By Zoe Harris

As President’s Day has just passed, most of us have thought about the flag in the past few weeks. The iconic symbol has long stood as a beacon of hope and freedom for many. Those seeking freedom from war ravaged countries, political refugees, as well as those who want to start a new life.

Our flag has stood as a symbol of prosperity and has given countless numbers the ability to dream, to believe that they can be more. But do we really know where we got our flag? In Elementary school everyone has probably learned about how Betsy Ross sewed the first flag. But there is more to the story than that.

The first documented use of the flag was in 1792, sixteen years after the 13 colonies severed their political connections to Great Britain. America sought their independence, and once gained, became The United States of America. The Declaration of Independence was written on July 4, 1776 and signed by 56 delegates. George Washington was elected as the first president on February 4, 1789. In 1792, George Washington was elected once again on the same day, 3 years later.

As the story goes, in June 1776, a small committee, including George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross, visited Betsy, an accomplished seamstress, and discussed the need for a new American flag. Betsy agreed to sew them one. She altered the committees design and replaced the original six pointed stars with five pointed stars. George Ross is said to have been the uncle of Betsy’s deceased husband, which may have been a reason Betsy agreed to sew the flag for them. Betsy Ross has been promoted as a patriotic role model for young girls and a symbol of women’s contributions to America’s history. The first original flag had thirteen white stars arranged in a circle on a field of blue, seven red stripes and six white stripes. Each of the colors used stand for something. The six white stripes stand for purity and innocence. The seven red stripes signify hardiness and valour, and the blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice. Blue is also recognized as the color of a Chief.

Our flag has inspired songs. Perhaps the most famous of all is our national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner”. Written by John Stafford Smith, a 35 year old lawyer, and Francis Scott Mckey, an amateur poet. The idea for the poem came after witnessing bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British ships during the war of 1812. It began as a poem with four stanzas entitled: “The Defence of Fort M’Henry.” Key was inspired by the large flag flying through the battle. The poem was set to the tune of a popular song called “To Anacreon In Heaven”. It became popular as it had a range of 19 semitones and was considered hard to sing. The Star Spangled Banner was recognized for official use in 1889 by the United States Navy as well as by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. It was made the national anthem by congressional resolution on March 3, 1931 by President Herbert Hoover. Many of us think that our national anthem has been around for a long time. But in all reality, it’s only been about 87 years since it officially became our national anthem. Now for the younger ones among us, it may seem like a long time. The Star Spangled Banner has been around for roughly a third of the time that the United States Of America has been a free nation. The flag has been known by many names, including: Old Glory, The Star Spangled Banner, Stars and Stripes and Red, White and Blue.

There currently are 325,960,361 people residing in our great nation, about 80 million persons have been born in places other than the US, and then have come as immigrants. The very first immigrants were the pilgrims, seeking freedom of religion. Somewhere in almost all of our families, there has been an immigrant. Whether from Europe, China, France, Mexico, the Middle East, or anywhere else, America has been accepting immigrants since before the beginning of our nation. Immigration has contributed profoundly to our population. But, regardless of our individual background, we all live in America. It is our duty to respect our flag and country, to defend it and if the need arises, give our lives for it.

On President’s Day, we honor the leaders of our great nation who have given part of their lives to insure that our country will be lead properly and uphold the laws so that we can remain the land of the free and the home of the brave.


By Zoe Harris. February 23, 2018

Attorney General Marty Jackley announced that SB 65, a bill to enhance penalties for persons who distribute and manufacture controlled substances when a person dies as direct result of using that substance in South Dakota has passed the full Senate on a vote of 32 to 3. The Senate Judiciary passed the bill on Feb. 8.

“Law enforcement is actively investigating and prosecuting 4 overdose deaths in South Dakota, 3 resulting from fentanyl and 1 resulting from heroin. As we continue to deal with these increasing numbers of drug overdoses, those who knowingly provide these deadly drugs need to be held accountable,” said Jackley.

Senate Bill 65
• Enhance penalties for persons who distribute and manufacture controlled substances when a person dies as direct result of using that substance
• Any person who for consideration intentionally and unlawfully distributes or manufactures a controlled substance and another person dies as a direct result of using that substance would have their sentence of the principal felony enhanced by two levels.

Trial Moved to Fort Pierre

The trial for a man accused of killing a Gregory County mother of seven has been moved out of county due to potential bias of jurors.

The trial for Chance Harruff, scheduled for May, will be held in Fort Pierre after a pre-trial survey of potential jurors showed significant bias among jurors who believe Harruff is guilty of murder.

The trial stems from June 2017 when court documents say that Harruff and Kristi Olson got into an argument and Harruff allegedly struck Olson with a “mule strength punch” to her chest, knocking her to the floor. Harruff whose residence is listed as Hamill then allegedly left the scene not knowing if Olson needed medical assistance.
When officers arrived they found Olson with possible bruising on her neck. She was transported to a hospital in Gregory where she was pronounced dead.

The couple lived together but Harruff recently moved out of the Olson residence.

A questionnaire mailed to more than 200 Gregory County residents showed nearly half had already formed an opinion that Harruff is guilty of murder.

Additionally, prosecution and defense attorneys believe “a significant number” of potential jurors have personal relationships with witnesses, law enforcement and Olson’s family which would lead to their dismissal from the jury.

“The evidence presented establishes a reasonable apprehension that the accused will not be able to receive a fair and impartial trial in Gregory County,” Judge Bobbi Rank wrote in a letter to the attorneys. “It would be a waste of resources to dedicate multiple days and arduous jury selection in Gregory County only to determine that the venue must be changed.”

Harruff was charged with second degree murder, domestic abuse second degree murder, first degree murder and first degree manslaughter.


Wolf Country Even Today?

By Katie Hunhoff

Was a gray wolf roaming the lakes country of Marshall County this winter? A coyote hunter from Britton thinks he may have shot one by mistake in January. Wildlife officials are investigating his report.

Several years ago, a gray wolf was shot near Custer. John Kanta of the state Game Fish and Parks Department thought it wandered from the Great Lakes region.

Another gray was hit and killed by a car on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 2012. He weighed 130 pounds. The remains were preserved by Pete’s Taxidermy of Gregory, and are now on exhibit at the Pine Ridge Visitors Center near Kyle. He was wearing a radio transmitter, so officials quickly surmised that he came from Yellowstone National Park.

Gray wolves are bigger and stronger than timber wolves. Grays were lording over the river breaks of western South Dakota when farmers and ranchers first settled there. The wolves preyed on livestock, so they were eventually hunted to extinction in South Dakota.

One of the last was a wolf named Three Toes. He achieved great notoriety in the hills and plains of northwest South Dakota. Archie Gilfillan, a sheepherder and writer, was intrigued by the local ranchers’ mixture of respect and hate for the wild and wily creature. In his book Sheep, Gilfillan noted that Three Toes “for 13 years laughed at poison, traps and guns, lived in and off enemy country with the hand of every man against him, a cunning, bloodthirsty killer, a super wolf among wolves and the most destructive single animal of which there is any record anywhere.”

So named because he had lost a paw in a trap early in his life, Three Toes gained a reputation as a bloodthirsty killer by 1912. He left his unmistakable paw print at ranches throughout Harding County. Infuriated ranchers tracked his whereabouts and devastating destruction. They estimated that his lifetime of kills exceeded $50,000 in cattle and sheep.

Three Toes lived to an old age, and reached the peak of his destruction in the 1920s. Gilfillan wrote, “For first, last, and all the time, Three Toes was a killer. Other wolves might kill one cow or sheep and eat off that and be satisfied. But Three Toes killed for the sheer love of killing. He would kill on a full stomach as well as when hungry. On one occasion he visited three different ranches in one night, killed many sheep and lambs at each one, but ate only the liver of one lamb.”

Officials bumped the bounty for Three Toes to $500, but no hunter could catch the cunning old wolf. In July of 1925, federal wolf hunter Clyde F. Briggs settled on a ranch near the center of Three Toes’ hunting range. For weeks Briggs set his traps and Three Toes carefully eluded them. But he was tricked on July 23 by a hidden trap. The earth around him was scratched and plowed by his frantic efforts to escape from the trap’s grasp by the time Briggs arrived. The trapper muzzled and hog-tied the big wolf and put him in the backseat of his car, intending to deliver him to Rapid City alive. But soon a passenger cried, “I think he’s dying.”

“Briggs stopped the car, and looking around, found the wolf’s eyes fixed on him. But the eyes did not see him, for the wolf was dead,” wrote Gilfillan. “Call it a broken heart, or what you will — something of this sort is what killed the old wolf. He was resting easily when found, his wounds were superficial … but there was something in his grand old spirit that could not brook capture, and Nature, more merciful than he had ever been, granted him his release.”

Katie Hunhoff is the editor of South Dakota Magazine, a bi-monthly print publication featuring the people and places of our great state. For more information visit

Stock Growers Call for Enactment of Prime Act

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association is calling on South Dakota’s Congressional delegation to pass the Prime Act, or similar policies. In a letter to Senators Thune, and Rounds, and Representative Noem, the Stockgrowers asked for their support of The Prime Act, or similar legislation to allow sales of meat products at the retail level, using a state health and safety inspection, versus having to wait for federal inspection on those products.

“The current federal law already states that all state meat inspections, must be at least equal to federal requirements, so demanding a federal inspection in order to market our products seems redundant, and ridiculous,” says Stockgrowers Trade Committee Chairman, Ty Littau of Carter, SD.

The Stockgrowers have long been supportive of being able to differentiate their products, and feel the consumers, especially South Dakotans, would prefer their products, over those of unknown origins. They also feel The Prime Act will help the consumers identify, a locally raised product, generating more demand for their members products. SD Stockgrowers Association believes The Prime Act will lead to more options, and give producers more opportunities to market their cattle and beef.

The Stockgrowers also feel it can lead to ways local ranchers can help their communities. “Many times we have members who wish to donate beef to local schools or places in need, but due to the lack of finding federally inspected locker plants they run into a road block, and are unable to do so. The Prime Act will not only benefit producers, but will also benefit their local communities,” says SDSGA President Gary Deering.

The Prime Act is not a new idea. It has been tossed around on the Hill many times, but unfortunately has never gained much traction by the industry, or by those in Congress. With the increasing demand by consumers for knowing where food comes from, and as people seek less government control, the Stockgrowers believe that the Prime Act should be revisited and passed. They feel that this is common sense legislation that will provide support for livestock producers, will give the consumers a chance to buy locally, and helps local locker plants, all of which will lead to an economic boost throughout many small communities .

“The Prime Act is a win for many throughout our country, helping so many, hurting none. But, as important, it will not cost anything, and in fact, would even save our government money. That is the type of conservative legislation that should be passed by Congress,” adds Littau.

The Stockgrowers urges ranchers, consumers, locker plants, and communities across the nation to get behind The Prime Act, and get their congressional delegation to support the Prime Act.

Deering stresses, “It is not that often with legislation that we have an opportunity to do so much, to benefit so many people, and the Prime Act is an opportunity to do just that. Get in touch with the Stockgrowers office for more information on what can be done to help with this.”

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association can be reached at 605-342-0429 or by emailing

South Dakota State Parks Remain Popular Getaways

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) officials say state parks saw high numbers of visitors in 2017. The state park campgrounds hosted more than 342,000 nights of camping last year, up 3.8 percent and continuing an upward trend that has been steadily growing for over a decade.

But the real highlight of 2017 according to Katie Ceroll, South Dakota State Parks director, is the opportunities created by several new and expanded services in the parks.

“Camping is widely popular in the state parks,” she said. “But we offer so much more. Whether you’re staying overnight or stopping in for the day, parks feature visitor centers, special events and other recreational opportunities to enhance your visit.”