Fiegen named to PUC vacancyPIERRE — It didn’t take long for Gov. Dennis Daugaard to decide he wanted to appoint Kristie Fiegen of Sioux Falls to a vacant seat on the state Public Utilities Commission. It didn’t take long for Fiegen, a former legislator from Sioux Falls, to make up her mind to accept his offer.
By: Bob Mercer, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — It didn’t take long for Gov. Dennis Daugaard to decide he wanted to appoint Kristie Fiegen of Sioux Falls to a vacant seat on the state Public Utilities Commission. It didn’t take long for Fiegen, a former legislator from Sioux Falls, to make up her mind to accept his offer.
Daugaard made the announcement Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Fiegen told her board of directors she will be stepping down this summer as president for Junior Achievement of South Dakota.
Her appointment gives Republicans all three of the commission’s seats. She will serve the remaining 17 to 18 months left in the term of Democrat Steve Kolbeck, who resigned last week from the office he had won in the 2006 election.
Fiegen said she’ll make a formal announcement later this summer about her plans to run for a full six-year term in the 2012 election.
“I had no idea my name was on the list. I would love to know from the governor someday who submitted my name,” she said in an e-mail interview Tuesday after the two announcements.
“I know the governor had many qualified candidates and he had a long list to select from. The governor called me Friday night when I was watching my son’s baseball game in Brandon. I got back to him at 8:01 a.m. on Monday morning with the decision to accept his appointment.”
Fiegen said she visited with members of the governor’s staff several times and interviewed on Friday morning for the position. She said she did her research Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to secure insight on the PUC.
Fiegen, who turns 49 on Sept. 17, served eight years in the state House of Representatives from a Sioux Falls-area district. In four straight general elections, from 1992 through 1998, she was the top vote-winner.
She and Mitch Richter were unopposed for the district’s two House seats in her last election run in 1998. When Fiegen didn’t run in 2000, a four-way Republican donnybrook followed between current and former legislators.
Richter, a Republican, described her Tuesday as a “very solid” legislator.
“I found her to be very principled in her approach to issues,” he said. “She is very conservative in both fiscal and social issues. She was diligent and studious in studying issues, would gather information from both sides and, once her mind was made up, she wasn’t likely to change her position.”
Fiegen’s popularity at the ballot box was typified by her performance in the 1996 general election. In a five-way contest where voters could choose two candidates, she topped the field with 6,334 votes. That was nearly 1,600 more than second-place winner Richter — and 37 more votes than Republican Sen. Dick Hainje received in his contest, as he won a head-to-head Senate race.
She is married to Tim Fiegen, an associate professor of education at Dakota State University in Madison. They have two children. She is the only legislator in the history of South Dakota who spells her first name Kristie.
Fiegen said she wants to wrap up some work at Junior Achievement before formally starting her commission duties.
Tony Venhuizen, the governor’s director of communications and policy, said Fiegen will start in August.
Commissioners receive $91,390 as their current annual salaries.
Junior Achievement currently reaches more than 40,000 students in South Dakota at the middle-school and high-school levels. The organization emphasizes the traits of integrity, respect and excellence and attempts to inspire and prepare students to succeed in a global economy.
The chairman of the organization’s board of directors this year former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby and the vice chairwoman is state Supreme Court Justice Judith Meierhenry.
Fiegen has been its president for 18 years. In 2008, she was honored as the top Junior Achievement president in the nation.
Fiegen grew up on her family’s farm near Chancellor and graduated from Parker High school. She received a bachelor’s degree from South Dakota State University in 1984 in commercial economics and agricultural business, and earned a master’s degree in business administration in 1996 from the University of South Dakota.
Before she was hired by Junior Achievement in 1994, Fiegen worked eight years as South Dakota area director for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Daugaard has known her for many years. They served together two terms as legislators when Daugaard was a senator.
While in the Legislature, Fiegen chaired the House Health and Human Services Committee for four years.