Prioritizing the cascading crises

The many crises arising this past year created a new opportunity in the public sector: the need to prioritize the cascading crises confronting local governments. Prioritization is a daunting task while facing the worst pandemic in a century; the most civil unrest in half a century; the most severe and frequent natural disasters in decades, including severe wind & hail storms in the Midwest; and the most turbulent political climate in our lifetime.

In these challenging times, a public entity needs far more than mere indemnification that can be provided by a private insurer. Local governments need uniquely-tailored assistance including model policies, loss control surveys, and expert legal advice from a team of local government legal experts. Sometimes we simply need to commiserate about our common problems. Only a public entity pool can provide these tools as well as the necessary coverages at affordable, stable rates. As you know from reading our past columns or from your public entity already being a Member, the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance (SDPAA) proactively provides these tools for our Members.

In the coming months, the SDPAA will virtually host a series of Member roundtables to ascertain any current or looming issues. We seek your feedback–it will be a great platform for commiserating too! Due to the pandemic, we have not been able to conduct all the in-person Member visits we normally conduct each year. Your input will help us to hone our exceptional programs and to add new services to meet your growing needs.

These challenging times also require solid and enlightened leadership. The SDPAA Board of Directors governs all SDPAA operations and is elected from among their fellow SDPAA Members. The SDPAA Board is a robust group with centuries of collective local government leadership who will deftly guide the SDPAA through these crises.

This past year the Board witnessed the retirement of two of its members: Mike Hall and Tracy Turbak. Each of them served the public for almost four decades–an astounding testament to their commitment to public service. Mike served as an ambulance driver, a firefighter, a risk manager, and a Sioux Falls city department director. Tracy served as a legislative auditor at the state level for five years, then served over three decades as a finance officer, first in Montana and then in Watertown and Sioux Falls. We will miss their wisdom and their wit as we move forward.

Any retirements of SDPAA Board members are filled by other highly qualified public servants who will continue the Board’s legacy of conscientiously serving their fellow SDPAA Members. The SDPAA is pleased to announce the addition of two newly-elected Board members, Bill O’Toole and Justin Weiland. Bill is the Director of Human Resources for Sioux Falls. Justin is the City Administrator for Dell Rapids. Each of them brings a passion for public service fueled by decades of experience that will effectively serve the SDPAA Board and all 434 Members for years to come.

No private insurer could provide your public entity with the services offered by the SDPAA. No private insurer would be governed by a board of directors comprised of your fellow public servants who can truly appreciate the coverages and tools your public entity may require. Only the SDPAA provides the coverages and the tools for your public entity to effectively prioritize and address the cascading crises facing local governments in SD.

If your public entity is not a Member of the SDPAA, please contact the SDPAA at 800-658-3633 option 2 or by email at to inquire about all the services available to SDPAA Members.

David Pfeifle, SDPAA Executive Director