After five years of big changes, Brand Board director is leavingLarry Stearns says he is ready for new things.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Larry Stearns plans to step down next year as director for the state Brand Board.
He has been at the helm throughout a major and often contentious change for the board, which in 2008 took full responsibility for livestock ownership inspections and theft prevention.
The duties previously had been under private management by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association on a contract basis since 1943.
That was the year when the ownership inspection laws were first passed by the Legislature at the request of Stockgrowers leaders.
In the past decade, however, a deepening dispute saw the board and then-Gov. Mike Rounds gradually break from the relationship with the Stockgrowers.
The programs now are operated as an arm of the state Department of Agriculture. The board is advertising for a successor to Stearns, who replaced Julie Kongslien in 2007.
Officially, Stearns is retiring from the $55,730 job as director, although that doesn’t seem to mean he will stop working at something else.
“I have a couple things on the back burner I want to try before I get too old,” he said.
His plan is to step down in the spring.
“I will be assisting in a transition to make it as smooth as possible,” he said. “I think that I will be part of the selection, although it is a board decision as to who is hired.”
The board hired Wray Shouldis, of White River, in 2008 to be the new chief inspector after the Stockgrowers contract wasn’t renewed.
In recent months, Shouldis has been working more often in the Pierre office. This year, the board also formalized brand inspection policies and a salary schedule for inspectors.
In another recent change, the board’s two brand investigators now work under supervision of the state Division of Criminal Investigation. Board members have praised the increased effectiveness.