Good things happen in Pierre!

The New Year provides a time to reminisce and to appreciate all the wonderful people who have influenced you along life’s journey. This December former Lawrence County Deputy Sheriff and later County Commissioner George Opitz passed away at the age of 91. George was respected in his community as a dedicated public servant. He was also the first County representative to the original SDPAA Board of Directors, serving from 1987 to 2000. See SDPAA History article from the October 2020 issue. Even after his retirement, George continued to be concerned about his community and would frequently inquire about the welfare of the SDPAA and its Members. On behalf of the SDPAA’s 434 Members, thank you George for your decades of service to your community and our state! We are still enriched by your legacy of leading the SDPAA in its early days.

Speaking of public service, the upcoming South Dakota Legislative Session will be one of the most interesting sessions in years as their plates will be full with many challenging issues. During these moments people tend to become overwhelmed by the legislative process. It becomes easier to concentrate on the negatives, rather than remind yourself about all the positives.

The session will be about one-half completed as you read this article, when the process may already be testing your patience. Please remember that the legislative session brings so many concerned people together to try to solve the problems facing our State. Thirty years ago I began working for the SD Legislature as an intern for then-House Majority Leader Jerry Lammers. Jerry trusted me to tag along for every meeting he had with each of our state’s leaders. It was a great education thanks to Jerry as I learned about every nuance on every bill. Thanks again, Jerry! I will never forget my surprise when then-Governor George S. Mickelson first asked me at one of those early meetings what I thought about the issue of the day. My answer was not that eloquent but Governor Mickelson was genuinely interested in my opinion. His genuine interest in all people generated so much admiration and respect for him across the state, including with me. It was almost universal that session that the legislators and executive branch officials were dedicated public servants who treated us interns more as colleagues than employees.

Among the many great people whom I met that session were two people who would later become integral parts of my life: one now runs my work life; the other runs my home life. One fellow intern is now one of my bosses, Yvonne Taylor—Executive Director of the SDML. She is one of the most insightful, witty, and dedicated public servants that I have ever met. (Please don’t tell her that I said that!). Another fellow intern is now my wife, Lynda. She is wonderful in every way and always right. (Please don’t tell her that I admitted that!) She is from West River; I am from East River so we literally “met in the middle” at Pierre. Our family’s “legislative legacy” continued as our son Mark worked as a page for Representative Doug Barthel and the SD House this past session. Thanks again, Doug! Mark worked with many great people while enduring some teasing about whether he met his future bride during session. We are hoping our daughter Kate can be a page in 2022. From this experience I can personally attest that yes, “good things do happen in Pierre!”

Good people abound at every level of public service. Your entire team at the SDPAA is honored 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

SDPAA Executive Director