WOSTER: Basking in reflections: ‘Famous’ South DakotansFor several years now, my brothers and I have done a poorly rehearsed job of emceeing a South Dakota Hall of Fame luncheon at which the newest class of inductees is introduced.
For several years now, my brothers and I have done a poorly rehearsed job of emceeing a South Dakota Hall of Fame luncheon at which the newest class of inductees is introduced.
At an evening banquet each year, each inductee is formally introduced and has an opportunity to speak. The mid-day deal is less formal, simply a way to introduce each honored dignitary and provide a fact or two about his or her life. The inductees don’t respond, which is probably just as well, because the introductions tend to be, as I said, informal, even loose. What would you expect when you turn the job over to two or three farm boys from Lyman County?
I rather enjoy the event. It gives me a chance each year to say hello to people who have made a difference for South Dakota and its citizens. I’ve enjoyed it more and more in recent years, because more and more of the inductees seem to be people I’ve known, worked around or at least reported on as a newspaper guy over the last 40 years.
Maybe I try to bask in the reflected light of their bright stars or something. Whatever it is, each time the brothers (and when I say that, I mean Jim and me. Kevin has missed the last two years, first by breaking both his elbows in a fall while running to get ahead of a parade — don’t ask — and this year by feigning illness at the last minute) have the opportunity to introduce a class of Hall of Fame honorees, I feel fortunate to have been able to have spent so much of my life watching the history of my home state unfold.
In a column last Saturday, I mentioned Gene Lebrun, former speaker of the South Dakota House, a 2012 inductee. In future musings, I may touch on one or another of the other members of this year’s class. For now, I want to write briefly about one of the best package deals South Dakota ever got.
I’m talking about Mary Lynn and Steve Myers. I was a young wire service reporter in 1972 when these kids moved from Chicago to South Dakota to take jobs with state government. The chance to be the first South Dakota Investment Officer attracted Steve, a Pierre native, back home. The opportunity to serve as the first director of the South Dakota Division of Human Rights pulled Mary Lynn, a Sioux Falls native, to her home state.
The wire service did a news story about the couple and their new jobs, and we ran a wire photo of them. I recall fastening that black-and-white photo to the drum of the wire photo transmitter and sending it to AP Photos in Chicago to be re-transmitted across the wires. The tech in Chicago, after he’d come back on the line to tell me he’d received the transmission just fine, said, “Good grief, they’re young.’’
Well, yeah, they were young. They were also stepping into some uncharted territory.
It’s hard to imagine today, given the $7 billion or $8 billion fund the State Investment Office manages, but there was a time when a lot of people weren’t sure that was a good way to go. Legislators fought over the notion of giving the state’s funds to an individual or group to invest and manage.
Groups whose money was being invested had concerns. Steve put together an office and a staff that convinced most legislators and most citizens. (Full disclosure: After 40-plus years as a newspaper guy, I just vested with the state retirement system).
When I congratulated Steve on Saturday for his induction into the Hall of Fame, he said, as he often does, “It was a team, not a person.’’
The times they were a-changing when Mary Lynn came to the Human Rights Division.
The 1970s were a crazy period, and not everyone embraced the rapid change. Mary Lynn, it always seemed to me, recognized that people were being asked to rethink old attitudes and beliefs. She was respectful of those who struggled to accept change, and she was gentle and caring with those she tried to help.
By nearly any measure, these two have been a bargain.