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Koth eager to learn as potential legislator

District 20 House of Representative candidate Lance Koth speaks during a forum in October at Mitchell Technical Institute's amphitheater. (Matt Gade / Republic)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of four candidate profiles regarding the District 20 State House of Representatives race. Two more profiles will run in Friday's print edition of The Daily Republic.

Lance Koth describes himself as someone who went full throttle in his professional career as a banker.

When he retired in January, though, he figured that he "still had some throttle left," and embarked on a plan to run for the South Dakota House of Representatives. Koth, a Republican, is one of four candidates in the race for two seats representing District 20 in Pierre. The district includes all of Aurora, Davison and Jerauld counties, and Paul Miskimins, Ione Klinger and Jim Schorzmann are also in the race.

Koth, 67, who grew up near Wessington Springs and has lived in Mitchell for 40 years, retired from his President role at First Dakota National Bank after 19 years there. After a discussion with his wife, Patty, he knew this would be a chance to give back to the community.

"I really thought about what I was going to do," he said. "I knew I couldn't go from full throttle to no throttle. I began talking to myself and asking what is it that fills my bucket each day, and I said I missed working with customers and people every day."

Koth said he considers himself a fiscal and moral conservative, based on how he was raised and growing up on the farm.

"Government should not be intrusive," he said. "And I'm a strong believer that we have to protect those who can't protect themselves."

He said three different issues have become points of emphasis for his campaign, which he says come from his study of the state's budget. He said he would like to see business growth drive tax revenue increases, primarily in the biotech industry to help create good-paying jobs in the state. On a health care front, he said he would like to address some of the pitfalls of Medicaid with the federal government and allowing more of the state's Medicaid dollars to go toward treating people locally and efficiently.

He also said he wants to address the state's drug and alcohol addiction issues. Koth said he had a chance to attend a seminar from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation on addiction.

"Addiction is real and to see the changes to the brain and how we react to it, it was very informative," he said. "It takes time to heal and we, as a state, have to find a way to help them get the help they need."

Koth said those issues have been reaffirmed as priorities based on his door-to-door visits with voters in the district. He also said he visited the Legislature during the special session earlier this summer to get an idea of what to expect if he gets elected.

"There's a lot I don't know, but I went up there because I wanted to view it firsthand and get my mind around who is the leadership and I felt I needed to get a jump-start on their thought process," he said. "It's best that I got in with a foundation of respect and understanding."

Koth, who has four adult children and five grandchildren and graduated from Mitchell Technical Institute with a degree in accounting, said he carried a petition for Initiated Measure 25 to help get it on the ballot. If approved, it would increase the state's tobacco tax by at least $1 per pack of cigarettes.

"I'm going to support it but I do wish there was another way to fund technical education," he said, admitting that he wasn't comfortable with the tax on smokers.

He said he understands some voters have problems with Pierre and state government, but said he doesn't believe corruption is part of the case.

"State folks, as far as state employees, they do lapse in judgment from time to time," he said. "But I don't believe there's an environment of corruption, not like what we see in other states."

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