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Regents Easing Pierre Requirement for Exec—Why Not Let Entire Regental Office Work Remotely?

The Board of Regents thinks that allowing an executive to live somewhere other than Pierre for most of the year is worth up to $58,250.

Bob Mercer reports that the Regents are easing the requirements for their next executive director as they search for a replacement for departing exec Paul Beran:

The next executive director that the South Dakota Board of Regents decides to hire will have to live in the Pierre area only during the three months the Legislature is in session and will need only a master degree.

…Beran’s salary for the current year was $338,250. The range shown for the new hire is $280,000 to $320,000.

Janelle Toman, the regents director of communications, said Friday the central office and staff will remain in Pierre going forward [Bob Mercer, “As They Search for Another Executive Director, S.D. Regents Make Job Description less Rigid,” KELO-TV, 2020.05.24].

If the next Regental exec is lucky, even the requirement to spend Session in Pierre could become obsolete. The Legislature already takes lots of testimony by phone, and amidst coronavirus, the Legislature held its entire final day online via Microsoft Teams. Besides, who thought that placing the management of our six public campuses three hours away from the nearest public campus was a good idea? The central office in Pierre costs over $64 million to operate; why not eliminate that cost by shutting down that purely administrative outpost, letting the 62.3 FTE divide themselves into six teams of 10 or 11 to go work from Spearfish, Rapid City, Vermillion, Brookings, Madison, and Aberdeen, and conducting administrative meetings online? The new exec and her/his lieutenants could do a lot more managing by walking around on each of the campuses… and their significant others would enjoy notably broader employment opportunities than they do stuck in Pierre.

And if the Regents saved even a fraction of that $64 million in Pierre non-campus operating costs, it could use that money to keep pay for its exec and other administrators right where they are to remain competitive in the search for top talent.


  1. Scott 2020-05-26 10:10

    It is going to be interesting to see how the county changes after this pandemic. I foresee a lot more people working remotely after the pandemic. Business and governments both are seeing savings by people working from home.

    Working from home is not for everyone, but for some it is better. A buddy says it is great as the office drama has basically gone away. He is given flexibility to work when he is most productive and overall his teams productivity is up. He and his team plan to work long term from home.

    I foresee the commercial real estate market and motel industry seeing a long term impact as less office space will be utilized and there will be more videoconferencing verses people traveling and staying in motels.

  2. Heckifino 2020-05-26 10:25

    This is a good move. In fact, all state agencies should look at the feasibility of allowing executives to live outside of Pierre. IMO one of the reasons state government has some struggles is because the only people that get promoted in state gov are those willing to move to Pierre. State gov doesn’t get the best people to run the respective agencies but gets those willing to move. I understand requiring the secretaries, directors and administrators to be in Pierre M-F during legislative session. However, outside of that time technology should be utilized and sufficient to run an organization or department. Private corporations do it all the time.

  3. Donald Pay 2020-05-26 10:39

    Not a great plan. That position requires coordinating the work of Regents, campuses and programs across the state and interfacing with state government. Pierre is centrally located, and the seat of government.

    I found Pierre to be a great place to live. The people you absolutely don’t want in government are people who think they are too good to move to Pierre to do their duties. You lose nothing by discouraging those people to live where they think their s**t doesn’t stink, and stay out of government.

    Is the position actually needed, or could the work be done by simply rearranging duties with current Pierre staff?

  4. Debbo 2020-05-26 18:51

    I don’t know if it’s better to have the BOR exec live in Pierre or not. I do think it’s a good thing whenever state government can save $ on overhead without sacrificing efficiency or productivity.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-05-28 05:53

    I lean toward heck’s point and away from Donald’s about the merits of having state employees in Pierre. The more state workers we can liberate from Pierre, the more state workers we can insulate from the company-town pressures of knowing their jobs and their spouses’ jobs depend on keeping their heads down and toeing the party line.

    My neighbor, NSU professor Art Marmorstein, would likely support the notion that the Regents exec is entirely unnecessary. Would it work to have the Board of Regents give its orders directly to the university presidents to carry out? Or might that have the streamlining backwards: might we be better off with a system chancellor and six lower-level campus managers?

  6. Donald Pay 2020-05-28 09:34

    Yes, there is a company town atmosphere in Pierre, and some “Pierre pressure” to conform. That’s more a feature of one-party rule, though. When we moved to Pierre it was three years removed from the Kneip administration. There was a mix of Republicans/Democrats/Independents filling civil service jobs in state government, and a female Democratic mayor. It wasn’t difficult to navigate the company town since we had strong civil service protections. Of course, my job involved lab work, not policy. It might have been different in a policy position. My wife and I established the Technical Information Project during our time as state government employees, and got involved in various issues on the opposite side, usually, of other state agencies and Governors. As long as we kept our state employment work separate from our research and advocacy work, we had little difficulty.

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