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Dougherty name lives on at SD Capitol

Catie Dougherty, a senior at Sioux Falls O'Gorman High School, is one of the Senate pages at the 2014 legislative session. Her grandfather Bill Dougherty, a Democrat, was a two-term lieutenant governor 40 years ago who became a lobbyist. (Bob Mercer/Capitol correspondent)

PIERRE -- A third generation of the Dougherty family is at the state Capitol this winter working at the legislative session.

The latest is Catie Dougherty, 17. The senior from O'Gorman High School in Sioux Falls is spending two weeks as a Senate page.

"It's really fascinating to see how it works," she said.

She couldn't hide the thrill when she was allowed to strike the Senate president's gavel during one of her first days.

It was the same spot where her grandfather Bill Dougherty stood 40 years ago as the Senate president, when he was South Dakota's lieutenant governor.

On her left wrist now is the gold bracelet that he wore daily.

"It just runs in our blood," she said.

Bill's sons, Pat and Tim, are attorneys who have a law office together in Sioux Falls.

Pat, who is Catie's father, is a specialist in bankruptcy court matters whose work doesn't take him to the Capitol. Tim is a public-affairs lobbyist who spends each winter at the legislative session.

Her uncle's advice to her about serving as a page was to work diligently. Her sponsor is Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls. Another mentor is Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls.

Catie said her mother, Trish, likewise supported the idea of her being a page. Catie said the legislative process is an opportunity to also learn more about her politically famous grandfather.

Bill Dougherty died July 3, 2010, at age 78, as time finally overcame his colorful spirit. He retired from lobbying after the 2009 session and was selected that year for the South Dakota Hall of Fame.

"He would tell me stories, but I was younger, so I didn't really understand a lot of it," she said.

He was a cattle trader and a Democrat whose love for politics led him to top roles in the presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy in South Dakota and the senatorial and national presidential campaigns of George McGovern.

The current lieutenant governor, Matt Michels, of Yankton, understood the feeling Catie and other legislative pages have when they pose for photos with the gavel.

"A number of us were pages and that's how we got started," he said.

Bill Dougherty holds the distinction as South Dakota's final lieutenant governor to be independently elected, winning elections in 1970 and 1972 to two-year terms in the post. He served with South Dakota's most recently elected Democratic governor, Dick Kneip.