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2017-06-15 / Voices

Honesty and Opportunity

BY BILLIE SUTTON
SOUTH DAKOTA SENATOR

South Dakota is amazing. Kelsea and I feel blessed that our roots are here, and that we have the opportunity to raise our little boy, Liam, around good people with good values.

Seven years in the State Senate have made me even more appreciative of South Dakota. Our diversity does not divide us. From ranching and farming, the Black Hills and the Badlands, and our nine reservations to the lakes country of the northeast and the metro areas of Lincoln and Minnehaha counties: like the strands of a rope, it makes us stronger.

The 105 legislators in Pierre are a diverse bunch, and we all come from different backgrounds and places. Still, I soon learned that we all often want the same things — a South Dakota governed with honesty and determined to create better opportunities for all. Our best days in Pierre came when we stayed true to that goal and put people above politics.

We rank near the bottom in too many national rankings – wages, education and rural poverty. It’s not a coincidence that we also seem to rank high in corruption. Unfortunately, the status quo is good enough for some of our establishment politicians. Instead of focusing on real people and real problems, they spend far too much time defending the stale, business as usual approach to politics.

State government has become the Achilles heel in South Dakota life. It holds us back and divides us. That has to change, and that’s why I announced my candidacy for governor of South Dakota.

Leaders must show a better way by example and by deed: shoot for the highest of goals for our beautiful state, roll up our sleeves then make those goals happen.

My goals for South Dakota include world-class schools with an emphasis on entrepreneurism and opportunity from downtown Sioux Falls to the farm towns of the east and the ranches and mountain towns in the west. I will never be satisfied when the best workers in America are earning some of the lowest paychecks; when meth and other drugs hurt our youth, our families and our workforce; when young families fear they must leave South Dakota for better opportunities elsewhere.

As I announced for governor, I promised that when we come together around our South Dakota values we can do anything. That’ll be my style of leadership as your next governor; I’ll identify problems and opportunities, and then I’ll invite everyone to the table to help us make changes that work for all South Dakotans.

I want to begin this new approach for South Dakota with conversations across the state. Please participate when we come to your town. Bring your ideas. Together let’s shake the dust off state government and move forward at last.

Our little Liam is a sixth-generation South Dakotan. He’s just a year old. I’m hoping that, before he is old enough to read and write, we have established a new culture in Pierre. Our state government will be built on a new model based on how most South Dakotans already live their lives: with honesty and hope and all the other home-grown values that we already cherish in our families and our communities.

Vi Waln is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and is nationally published journalist.

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