Reflecting Forward: 2023 in Review

As I sat down to prepare this first, of hopefully many, year in review articles, I was taken aback by just how quickly the year had passed. Why is it that every day we have virtually the same amount of time, yet each year it FEELS like that time goes by so much faster than the year before? How is time slipping away from us? Are we too busy to stop and enjoy the little things? I cheated a little and asked my favorite search engine what the overreaching theme was for 2023, because frankly, for me, that may look a lot different than it does for you.  The first thing that popped up in the search results was the Pantone color of the year for 2023, which is a shade of Magenta.  Interesting… so I took the bait and clicked the link.  Viva Magenta… from the red family… denotes a new signal of strength, per the Pantone Website. (Pantone) A new signal of strength. As we take a look back over 2023, I think that statement fits well with what has been happening with the SDPAA. Maybe not a new signal, but certainly an ongoing signal of just how strongly the Pool takes its commitment and obligations to the Members that it serves.

The mission of the SDPAA is to provide exceptional coverage and service to our Members, ensuring stable rates and risk reduction for South Dakota’s future. We are continuously reviewing our coverage document to ensure that we are affording the broadest coverage possible to the Members of the risk pool. Alongside side that, to fulfill the risk reduction goals of our Mission we must stay in near constant contact with our Members and our partners across the nation to figure out what is coming and what is the best way to arm our Members with resources to avoid or reduce trending risk related exposures.

The SDPAA continues to partner with various entities across the State to ensure that Members have access to resources that otherwise may be unattainable. We continue to sponsor Connections EAP for those first responders who are Members of either the SDPAA or SDML Workers Compensation Fund.  We sponsored numerous speakers at a variety of localized conventions and conferences over this past year, because we believe that the more education and training that we can offer, the better equipped you and your employees will be when facing trials and tribulations that often time go with public service. Through our agreement with Safety Benefits, more Members than ever had access to live training on a variety of topics such as civility and jail-specific training.

The SDPAA Staff and Board of Directors take advantage of educational opportunities both in State at our local conferences and conventions, as well as attending regional and national events which help to educate and prepare for risks that may not yet be recognized locally. The SDPAA Underwriting Team attended the regional PRIMA Conference this past fall, while Member Services attended the NLC Risc Staff Conference. Each of these conferences offers staff the opportunity to network and exchange knowledge and strategy with similarly situated people. Beyond the specific educational topics offered at these conferences, this off-the-cuff sharing of information is just as valuable as the slated agenda. The SDPAA Board of Directors also regularly attends conferences and conventions, geared toward enhancing their engagement with the Pool and Pool Members.

With all things, change is inevitable. Not all change is bad, but all change offers you the opportunity to gain experience, and therefore, become stronger.  At the beginning of the year, our Board of Directors welcomed a new Member, Bruce Outka of Lawrence County. Bruce brings to the Board a new perspective being a Deputy States Attorney and the Commissioner’s Assistant. His perspective and input have been a valuable addition to the already well-rounded experience of the Board. At the end of the first quarter, our internal leadership changed with the announcement that Dave Pfeifle was returning to serve as the City Attorney for the City of Sioux Falls. As part of our succession plan, I was hopeful that someday I’d be able to lead our team, but I hadn’t expected to come quite so soon. I am thrilled to continue to be a part of this team, and our mantra is, and always will be… a healthy and stable Pool ready to serve public entities across South Dakota by offering the best coverage and service at stable rates.

Our membership also saw a change. The Pool is thrilled to have the opportunity to serve new Members. Of course, you will see the official final numbers reviewed in the 2023 Annual Report which will be prepared and posted in the third quarter after all our audits are completed, but as of the preparation of this article, the SDPAA had grown from a starting number of 451 to 460. By the time this article is published, we will have presented quotes to several other opportunities as well! We believe in local governments, and we pledge to serve you at the highest level!

Within the first couple weeks of my tenure as the Executive Director, I was met with the message “this is the hardest property market we’ve seen since the 1980s”. For those who don’t know, the late 1980s hit public entities across the Nation hard. Commercial carriers were unwilling or unable to offer sufficient or affordable coverage. During this time, your local pooling opportunities were born. Was I prepared to be a part of history that would be considered a major obstacle to be overcome? I learned that as with all things, creating solid relationships is crucial in meeting your goals. We collaborated with our Broker to communicate how the SDPAA is responding to exposures such as convective storms, and through these communications, our renewal process went smoothly, despite facing a hard property market. This enabled our Staff to put together a budget through which some Members may see a flat to an only slight increase in their rates from last year.

As we look back on the year, we see the signs of inflation getting back to earlier levels, stock markets becoming more reasonable, and cyber liability… still taking advantage of humanity, especially that human error element. Claims arising out of the cyber world at a local level continue to hinge on the human factor that we talked about last month. The SDPAA recognizes the importance of training and will continue to explore ways to broaden the scope of training opportunities available to the SDPAA Members!

Overall, it’s been a successful year. We are prepared to offer stable rates for the upcoming renewals beginning January 1, 2024. We look forward to supplying more opportunities for training on a variety of topics – speaking of… if you see a training need, please do let us know, and we look forward to growing the Membership of the SDPAA. The SDPAA continues to offer the best resources available to public entities for all your coverage and risk management needs. We look forward to a safe and successful 2024 for all, but especially for those who work in public service, and for the opportunity to work beside you in your service.


Lynn Bren, AIC SCLA
SDPAA Executive Director

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