Daugaard chooses Nelson, secretary of state will join Public Utilities CommissionPIERRE -- In selecting Secretary of State Chris Nelson to replace Dusty Johnson on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, Gov.-elect Dennis Daugaard chose a twice-elected public official with proven management and decision skills.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capital Bureau
PIERRE -- In selecting Secretary of State Chris Nelson to replace Dusty Johnson on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, Gov.-elect Dennis Daugaard chose a twice-elected public official with proven management and decision skills.
Daugaard made the announcement Tuesday morning.
Nelson was unable to seek a third term as secretary of state in this year's elections because of the state constitution's limit of two consecutive terms. Instead he competed for the Republican nomination for U.S. House of Representatives won by state Rep. Kristi Noem.
The loss in the June primary election left Nelson available to help Daugaard solve an unusual situation.
Johnson, the PUC's current chairman, won election Nov. 2 to a second six-year term. Johnson has been serving on Daugaard's gubernatorial transition team the past few weeks, and he accepted Daugaard's post-election offer to be chief of staff on his executive management team.
Johnson will serve the remaining six weeks in his current PUC term, then resign after Daugaard takes the oath of office on Jan. 8 so that Daugaard can officially appoint Nelson as Johnson's successor.
Nelson would serve as an appointee on the three-member PUC until the 2012 general election. He would need to run for election to the four years then remaining on Johnson's PUC term.
Daugaard, Johnson and Nelson all are Republicans.
There would be two PUC election contests on the 2012 ballot. Democratic member Steve Kolbeck's term expires in 2012.
In an e-mail to friends, supporters and reporters Monday evening Johnson said he didn't seek the chief of staff position and he'll begin officially serving in that role on Jan. 8.
"Sometimes life throws you a curve ball," he wrote.
Nelson worked in the secretary of state office for 13 years as election supervisor. He also was the office's commercial code supervisor for two years. He was elected as secretary of state in 2002. He was unopposed for re-election in 2006, the first time that happened in the history of the South Dakota office.
Nelson is a graduate of White Lake high school and received his bachelor degree in animal science from South Dakota State University in 1987. He continues to work part-time in a cattle operation. He and his wife, Penny, have one daughter.
Johnson defeated Democrat Doyle Karpen for re-election to the PUC seat with the highest vote total in any contested race in South Dakota on the Nov. 2 ballot. Johnson received 217,346 votes to Karpen's 79,543.
Republican state Sen. Jason Gant of Sioux Falls was elected as the next secretary of state, defeating Democratic state Sen. Ben Nesselhuf of Vermillion.