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Talk Isn’t Cheap: Noem Pays Utah Speaker $17,750 for New Conference

Seth Tupper gets the bills for Governor Kristi Noem’s first South Dakota Leads Conference, held December 9 in Sioux Falls. The state spent $40,480 to stage the event, or about $93 per attendee:

A free public motivational conference hosted recently by state government received 434 registrations and cost the state $40,480, according to a spokeswoman for Gov. Kristi Noem.

…The keynote address for each track was delivered by Clint Pulver, a motivational speaker from Utah. The state paid him $17,750.

Other conference expenses included the facility rental, music and entertainment, travel costs for guests, food and signage [Seth Tupper, “State Spends $41K on Free Conference, Attracts 434 Registrants,” Rapid City Journal, 2019.12.26].

Clint Pulver gets $17,750 from State of SD for one day's work.
Good work if you can get it!

$17,750, for three motivational speeches in one day? Wow—Clint Pulver has the right job. (Pay good wages, and people will fly here from Utah to work—there’s a lesson for you, Kristi….) If Pulver stayed for a three-day gig, he’d make over $50K, more than the average South Dakota teacher makes for making motivational speeches 180 days a year.

Pulver must have given us a break: $40,480 is lower than the $45K the Governor’s office first told Tupper this affair would cost. Tupper’s tally does not include the money area schools spent to bus kids to the event and hire subs to cover for missing teachers who were in Sioux Falls chaperoning and trying to figure out just what the heck the conference was about.


  1. Donald Pay 2019-12-26 10:04

    You know, Cory, you have speaking and leadership skills, interesting ideas, and a broad knowledge base. You have worked in education for much of your career. I wonder why you weren’t tapped for this. I bet you would have worked for less, too. Oh, wait, you ask students to think for themselves. That’s not a good thing where God, Trump and Noem all mean the same thing.

    I’ve never liked the whole concept of “motivational speakers” or “leadership training” that had such an obvious connection to a high government official. That treads deep into the Chinese Communist way of doing things. Teaching kids how to lead others into conformity is a rather dangerous undertaking in modern society. How is that different from “re-education camps” the right wing is always fulminating about?

    I’m generally self-motivated, so I don’t need a speaker to do that for me. If that doesn’t work to get me going, just give Noem and other so-called “leaders” enough time to do something stupid, and I get into “leadership mode” quite quickly.

    Then there’s this out-of-state speaker. Does someone have to be from outside of the state to qualify as a suitable motivational speaker? I guess it’s like the old adage about what makes one an “expert.” You go from someone with an opinion to “national expert” by crossing your state line into another state.

    Grudz must have an opinion, being that he’s an “expert” on out-of-state folks influencing South Dakotans.

  2. Porter Lansing 2019-12-26 11:40

    Here’s a South Dakota themed motivational speech, I’ll give. (*first one’s free)
    ~ You don’t want to look silly in front of other people? You’re afraid they’ll judge you? Guess what? Other people don’t think about you nearly as much as you think they do. Besides, you’re not a mind reader: You can’t know what is going on in other people’s minds. And if they are judging you for being silly and having a good time, then they’re people you don’t need to know anyway. To quote Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
    ~ Elect Legislators Focused On Making South Dakota A Fun Place To Live and Work (Because, it’s really hard to dance with that stick up your ass!)

  3. Debbo 2019-12-26 16:06

    Has anyone yet figured out what the thing was about?

    Klueless Kristi is an outstanding Spender of Taxes. Thus far, that’s been her greatest accomplishment.

  4. grudznick 2019-12-26 17:03

    Mr. Pay, I also value self motivated people. They should take all this money back from this out-of-state bossturd and bring in a new speaker who motivates with a boot in the butt to get people to work harder and get off the dole. Get an in-state motivator. Like Mr. Nelson or that Napoli fellow who tinkers about with old crappy cars. Fellows who talk the talk but can’t dance the steps.

  5. Donald Pay 2019-12-26 17:32

    Grudz, this conference was for students and teachers. apparently, not for drunks and panhandlers. Try to keep up. But I agree that out-of-state blowhard should refund you state taxpayers all the money he was gifted by Noem. I assume we’ll find his name on Noem’s campaign finance statement eventually. A little kickback never hurts in the motivational speaking racket.

    Speaking of kicking back, you seem to be fixated on the butt, recently. Got a someone’s goat up there?

  6. Sam2 2019-12-26 17:36

    Where is the official agenda? Seems strange that there would be no published agenda.

  7. grudznick 2019-12-26 17:48

    Never since Beth’s I have liked butts. My goats range far and wide. Not wide like you think. But wide.

  8. Ck 2019-12-26 21:37

    I would like to note that this conference meant for teachers and students was held on a day that was a regular contact teaching day in SD. Teachers were working.


  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-12-26 21:43

    Sam2, the agendae for each stream of Kristi’s speedy confab are on the SDLeads website (see my first link in the original post). The conference Basically recycled all of the speakers through all three sessions, with the exception of not having Melanie Weiss speak to the teachers and having the Governor only speak to the women’s group at the end of their session.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-12-26 21:45

    Donald, you mention leadership training with apparent distain. What do you think of the so-called leadership institutes hosted by nearly every Chamber of Commerce and at the statewide level by Rick Melmer and Billy Sutton?

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-12-26 21:50

    Good point, Ck. And when she could have taken a working school day to talk about the priorities she has claimed to have on high on her agenda, like civics education or addiction prevention or straight-up academic achievement to raise those troublesome test scores, she instead slaps together this entirely new wild-hair about leadership, as Tight by some random Mormon drummer, some Microsoft sales people, Sioux Falls businesswoman, and an Omaha group concerned about human trafficking.

  12. Ck 2019-12-26 22:55

    I’m just going to say it, and if I’m completely wrong, feel free to correct me. I’ve got a thick skin and years of observation.

    Has anyone considered that maybe our students’ lack of civics education lays more with the fact that many social studies teachers may not be the most teachers? One principal recently commented to me that “social studies teachers are a dime a dozen,” and “are more worried about coaching than teaching.”

  13. Debbo 2019-12-26 23:56

    Ck, as a former social studies teacher and coach, I want to say that is sometimes the case, but not always. Sometimes it’s the administration not wanting to rock the boat. If nothing is changed, nothing attempted, nothing innovated … complaints are reduced, at least in SouDakota.

    I had to struggle with a rigid admin to do anything new or more in depth.

  14. Debbo 2019-12-27 00:31

    Here’s the speaker I want for the next conference. I’ll be sure to be there because this guy is fairly smart and insightful. I’m talking about Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman.

    I just read an interview on Vox that Ezra Klein did. It’s quite wide ranging and very interesting and completely worth your time. You can also listen to it.

    Krugman summarized the overall issue:

    “The problem of rising inequality in America is a problem of power. It’s because we crushed our labor movement and allowed firms to gain monopoly power. It’s because we set the rules of the game in a way that have really disempowered ordinary workers. That’s not an appealing vision for a lot of people who are themselves successful. They like the story that it’s about technology — that it’s all about these fancy new machines. It’s something less confrontational than saying this is all about power.”

  15. Dana P 2019-12-27 07:46

    Guv Kristi is getting ‘lumped’ up a bit for this (as she should). And like the “Meth, we’re on it” campaign, some out-of-stater came in and took a nice South Dakota taxpayer paycheck. What, Kristi, no motivational speakers could be found in South Dakota?

    Sigh……Cue the “the liberal media is picking on me” fundraising email in 3,2,1 ……

  16. Donald Pay 2019-12-27 08:26

    Cory, You asked what I thought about Chambers of Commerce leadership training, and similar efforts. So, are these really leadership efforts or just orientation to the power elite? I never went through one of the C of C efforts in Pierre or Rapid City, but from what I saw of their programming, it was mostly just local civics education devoid of purpose, and designed to get people to rub elbows with the power elite.

    My ideas about leadership come from a place rooted in community organizing and citizen activism. I’m more interested in leadership training that teaches people how to throw elbows, not rub them. You learn leadership by doing it, mostly, but there are ways to do it more effectively that can be taught.

    Dakota Rural Action used to have people from WORC come through SD to teach this sort of leadership.

  17. Dana P 2019-12-27 08:42

    (btw Cory. That photo? Priceless. Great work!)

  18. jimmy james 2019-12-27 09:27

    Has anyone in the SD legislature introduced legislation to prevent denial of health coverage for pre-existing conditions? I see that about ten states have passed this already.

  19. bearcreekbat 2019-12-27 11:13

    To follow up on Dana P’s observation, has anyone noticed how the meaning of the phrase “the liberal media is picking on me” has evolved? It used to mean things like calling names, bullying, or spreading falsehoods. Now it seems to mean “the liberal media is reporting my conduct” or to paraphrase Trump, “the liberal media is a bunch of rats, I tell you rats!”

  20. Debbo 2019-12-28 14:45

    The speaker at Klueless Kristi’s little give away is probably aiming for this bunch:

    “The world’s 500 wealthiest people tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index added $1.2 trillion [in 2019], boosting their collective net worth 25% to $5.9 trillion,” Bloomberg reports.

    Why it matters: “Such gains are sure to add fuel to the already heated debate about widening wealth and income inequality.
    “In the U.S., the richest 0.1% control a bigger share of the pie than at any time since 1929, prompting some politicians to call for a radical restructuring of the economy.”
    Mike Allen, Axios

  21. Helen Gentile 2019-12-28 16:11

    Funny how spending taxpayer dollars mean nothing to the elected Crooks…….

  22. Carol Hayse 2019-12-31 09:29

    Motivational speakers offer a quick shot of adrenaline with NO substance. Five minutes after, you wonder what you got all excited about. Why waste SD taxpayer money on bromides and pablum?

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