Circle the Virtual Wagons

The month of March marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching South Dakota. We extend our sympathies to everyone who has been impacted. Thanks to the pandemic we have been attending more virtual meetings, providing a convenient forum to commiserate and to share ideas with our fellow public sector officials/employees. These virtual meetings have shown that we share common challenges across our state and across our country. We need to circle our wagons, but we must do it virtually this time.

Along that trail, the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance (SDPAA) is hosting a series of virtual Member roundtables throughout this calendar year. We miss seeing you in person! We will leverage our use of video conferencing technology to stay connected with each other. We want to hear about your latest challenges and opportunities, then identify the ways that we can serve you even better in the future. So the actual topics for these roundtables will be chosen by the participating Members at each session. Each roundtable session will be held with other similarly-situated public entities who share common interests and concerns. Only about two dozen public entities will be invited to participate at each session, so people should not need to talk over each other. We are always available to talk individually also.

An SDPAA Board member will attend each session to learn first-hand about your issues, concerns, or suggestions. The SDPAA Board is comprised of your fellow Member officials/employees who have centuries of collective public service experience in South Dakota. Several internal SDPAA team members will also attend to answer your questions. We have walked in your shoes so you will have our empathetic and sympathetic ears listening to your concerns or suggestions.

Members will be receiving general information then a follow-up meeting invitation with the link in advance of their scheduled session. The first series of roundtables will be completed by the time this goes to print. “See” you sometime this year!

National webinars have now been focusing on COVID-19 vaccinations. Two webinars that I attended had local governments in over 30 states represented. One of those webinars was hosted by the National League of Cities who had a physician present to us in the afternoon after he had attended a session that morning as part of the CDC’s expert panel on this issue—now that’s timely and first-hand information! Everyone is analyzing the best ways to ensure their team members are safe and healthy. The questions are many, the answers still few: do local governments have the ability to require some or all of their employees get vaccinated? Should a local government provide incentives for its team members to get vaccinated rather than mandate it? What are the legal implications of any course of action or inaction? The information on these issues changes on a daily basis, or even an hourly basis. Anything written here could be obsolete by the time this article goes to print.

Vaccination guidance can rapidly evolve and change so you will need to consult sources that are updated daily. One good source for background information and general guidance to employers is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website at:

Every public entity should consult with its attorney to determine the answers to these questions which are best tailored to their unique circumstances. The 434 Members of the SDPAA have additional resources that other public entities do not. SDPAA Members will be receiving guidance on this particular issue tailored to local governments. Members can also contact the SDPAA Employment Practices Hotline to receive up to one hour of free legal advice on this or any other employment topic from expert employment lawyers. The SDPAA is honored to have Attorneys Lisa Marso of the Boyce Law Firm and Sara Frankenstein of the Gunderson Palmer Law Firm field these calls for our Members. Lisa handles East River; Sara handles West River. Each of them has decades of experience helping local governments wrestle with their employment law issues. Thank you to both of them for being such a great resource for our Members! If you are an SDPAA Member and need their legal expertise on any employment-related topic, please contact the SDPAA Employment Practices Hotline at 888-313-0839. Over 100 SDPAA Members per year avail themselves of this service which is included with their SDPAA membership.

Your entire team at the SDPAA is ready to assist you in your public service mission. We are your fellow public employees who share your passion for servant leadership. If you have any questions or would like your public entity to explore becoming a Member of the SDPAA, please contact the SDPAA at 800-658-3633 option 2 or by email at

David Pfeifle, Executive Director