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Noem Picks Corporate Rail Secret-Keeper Jones for Chief of Staff

In a signal of bad-old-boy opacity, Governor-Elect Kristi Noem yesterday named railroad exec and longtime South Dakota Republican Party establishment figure Herb Jones to be her chief of staff.

Herb Jones dodges reporter Brad Hicks's questions, Milwaukee, WI, October 2015. Screen cap from Fox 6 TV video, 2015.10.29.
Herb Jones dodges reporter Brad Hicks’s questions, Milwaukee, WI, October 2015. Screen cap from Fox 6 TV video, 2015.10.29.

As director of state and local government affairs for Canadian Pacific Railroad, Jones was called to address concerns in Milwaukee that arose in 2015 from the increasing number of oil tankers CP was running through Wisconsin from the Bakken oil fields. In April of that year, he assured city councilors that “It simply would not serve our purposes in this day and age to behave in a unsafe way. It is in our interest to be safe.” But when a downtown Milwaukee rail bridge was found to be rusting through, Jones made specious arguments for keeping CP’s bridge inspection documents secret:

“What is the reluctance for the CP and other railroads for wanting those inspection reports to be made more public?” [council president Michael] Murphy said.

“These are technical reports written by engineering professionals. They aren’t written as public documents any more than I would say if your doctor conducts a physical he’s putting together a report for those purposes, not for public consumption,” Herb Jones with Canadian Pacific said [Brad Hicks, “Railroad Secrets: FRA Implores Transparency from Canadian Pacific on Bridge, But Is That Happening?” Fox 6 TV Milwauakee, 2015.10.29].

Alderman Nik Kovac literally laughed at that corporate hogwash:

“I think that was quite an answer. The reason medical records are kept private is not because we’re worried the public doesn’t have a medical degree. It’s because of the privacy of the patient. Saying the public may not understand what an engineer wrote — of course the public may not understand what an engineer wrote — but that’s not a reason to not let the public read the document. It’s not even close to a reason. Some members of the public are engineers and they are smart enough to figure this out. I was just floored by that answer,” Alderman Nik Kovac said [Hicks, 2015.10.29].

CP eventually provided its inspection reports in a closed meeting with the city engineer’s office, but CP’s rusty bridge and Jones’s wobbly non-responses prompted Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin to put stronger rail safety and transparency rules in the transportation bill that President Barack Obama signed in December 2015. However, a year later, railroad companies were still keeping safety info secret and expecting us to trust them.

We’ll see how much if at all Jones adjusts his preference for patronizing secrecy to transparency and public service now that he’s back on the public payroll.


  1. Dave 2018-11-27 07:00

    Wow. Kristi has already proven that she’s the queen of BS, from the lies she told about Stephanie Herseth to get elected to Congress and the fairy tale she spun about her farm and death taxes (while raking in millions of government subsidy dollars) to the lies she told about Sutton to get elected governor. I thought the spigot was wide open. Looks like Jones as chief of staff means we can expect a constant gusher of bovine excrement from Kristi’s Pierre office soon.

  2. TAG 2018-11-27 09:35

    But this can’t be. I mean, in her one non-attack ad during the gubernatorial campaign she said her administration will be “open and transparent”.

    I assume she said that to counter Billie’s “actual plan” to make government accountable, but there’s no way she was lying in that commercial, right? Right? She boldly broke the 4th wall and stared directly into the camera. What kind of person can look you right in the eye and lie?

    I guess it’s not a lie when you never committed to a plan of action in the first place. Just generalities….

  3. Rorschach 2018-11-27 10:15

    He’s only filling in till Booker graduates HS. She wants the best and the brightest, since she ain’t it.

  4. Curt 2018-11-27 12:23

    Not sure what to make of this, but our Congresswoman closed down her Rapid City Field Office last week – before the Thanksgiving holiday. Congress has not adjourned and she is still on the federal payroll (and probably her staff) but I guess they’re done doing the people’s business.

  5. Rorschach 2018-11-27 12:54

    She closed her office to save funds in her annual budget for staff golden parachutes.

  6. Debbo 2018-11-27 16:10

    Business as usual for the SDGOP. Good citizens of SD, prepare to have your tax dollars, and those of the blue states directed to you, to end up in the pockets of various Pootiepublicans.

    I’m thinking of the old adage, “You made your bed. Now you must lie in it.” Sadly, all your neighbors who knew better are also stuck with this hyper corrupt government that swore allegiance to the SDGOP first, not you, nor the state’s constitution.

  7. marvin kammerer 2018-11-27 16:18


  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-27 20:11

    You’re right, Debbo. We have no one to blame but ourselves. At the polls, we chose corruption and incompetence over honest public service. We don’t want government to work. We want government to make us feel good.

    John, I’m fine with her announcing her intended nominee so that person can come to Pierre on January 8 and be waiting in the lobby for when the actual vacancy arises so Noem can appoint that person and the House can seat that replacement.

  9. Dana P 2018-11-28 07:42

    If only Billie Sutton had warned us that Kristi Noem would be more of the same……

    Oh wait, he did!!

  10. Debbo 2018-11-28 15:56

    I wonder how close this will get to SDGOP criminals? NBC reports that the SDGOP’s favorite Russian, Buttina, is in negotiations with Mueller’s team. What songs will she sing? How nervous are her NRA pals?

  11. Debbo 2018-11-29 23:09


    The plot thickens.

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