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Westra Leaving GOED Amidst Noem’s Continued Bushwah over Delayed Housing Grants

Another player in Governor Kristi Noem’s feud with the Legislature over $200 million in housing funds is leaving state government. This time, the departure is from her side:

Today, Governor Kristi Noem announced that Steve Westra, Commissioner of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), will be stepping down from that position, effective May 22.

…Westra has served as GOED Commissioner since 2019. He previously served as the chief operating officer of Hegg Companies in Sioux Falls. He was a member of the State House of Representatives from 2013-2016 and also served on the State Tourism Advisory Board.

…Travis Dovre will serve as interim commissioner of GOED [Office of the Governor, press release, 2023.04.26].

Noem has been fighting for Westra’s GOED to control the $200 million housing development program that the Legislature approved last year and more logically put in the hands of the apparently less-favored Housing Development Authority. Noem has been stalling the deployment of those dollars. In March she retire/fired the head of the Housing Development Authority, Lorraine Polak.

Noem is blaming the delay in putting that housing money to good use on the Legislature and Uncle Sam:

“Those legislators wrote the bill that said it was going to Housing, which now we’re tied up in the bureaucracy of Housing,” Noem said. “Remember, this was the first time they gave an unprecedented amount of state dollars to a housing authority that’s governed by the federal government, not the state.”

…Noem said if she had her way in 2022, houses would be built and families living in them.

“Because it would be out a year and a half ago,” Noem said. “I wanted grants to go to communities so they could get right to work and build houses. Because they, instead, turned it over to the Housing Authority, now it’s run like every housing federal program and it’s just taking a long time to get it done” [Lee Strubinger, “Noem Blames Stifled Rollout of Infrastructure Funds on Lawmakers,” SDPB Radio, 2023.04.26].

Noem’s claim is sheer Newspeak: the bureaucracy holding up the $200M is entirely hers, as her own administration drags its feet in an unusual rule-making process. And last year, Noem used her own erroneous interpretation of state law to say the Housing Development Authority couldn’t do what the Legislature authorized it to do. The delay is hers, not the Legislature’s and not any offshoot of federal bureaucracy.

Maybe that flim-flam is too much for even the well-paid Westra to take. Bob Mercer points out that Westra is pulling down the biggest paycheck of any cabinet member, $189,952, $11K more than Noem’s Florida-import chief of staff and transgender-terrorist watchdog Mark Miller.

8 Comments

  1. John 2023-04-27

    Maybe John Ellis is correct in his contention that Noem is just like her father, blame others for ones troubles and accomplish less.

  2. Retired 2023-04-27

    This is news to me, “governed by the federal government, not the state.” I used to work at the Housing Authority.
    They have a Board of Commissioners and Executive Director, appointed by the governor.
    The Bonding, Building and Housing Authority issue debt, something the state is not allowed to do. Check out their annual reports and see what an impact they have in South Dakota.

  3. P. Aitch 2023-04-27

    The Housing Authority is the highest position of government in South Dakota. Rules set in accordance with the majority of American citizens ideas of equity and empathy and administered with the decorum of what’s right with this country. Some would call those Housing Authority employees the “shadow government” and for the sake of all that’s quality it was these employees, and those hundreds of thousands like them that weathered Trump and the pandemic like the true heroes they are.

  4. jakc 2023-04-27

    My favorite part is from the not quoted part. According to Westra

    “We had more business development in the last four years than in the previous ten combined. ”

    Just to be clear, in the previous ten years he means the Rounds-Daugaard administrations and the years that he was in the Legislature. Darn Republicans. Didn’t they care about business development back then?

  5. grudznick 2023-04-27

    Mr. jakc, I wonder if that fellow, Mr. Abbott was his name…no wait, it was something similar. Anyway, I wonder if that fellow would agree with Mr. Westra. I suppose not.

  6. grudznick 2023-04-27

    Mr. Jerry Springer died, they say. He shared much in common with the South Dakota Blogospheremasters. I bit older of course, but not really when you consider the average age of the fellows on this here blogging place.

  7. Mark Anderson 2023-04-27

    Grudz I sat in front of Jerry at Burns court. That’s an art movie theater in Sarasota. He liked the movie. He actually had class. He was a libbie you know.

  8. grudznick 2023-04-27

    Oh yes, it was obvious just at a glance that Mr. Springer was a libbie. Huge libbie.
    There are libbies, you know, like Mr. Springer and Mr. Dennert, who ooze class.

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