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New lieutenant governor will be full-timer again

PIERRE -- Come this spring, South Dakota will have a full-time lieutenant governor again.

Gov.-elect Dennis Daugaard said Monday that Yankton attorney Matt Michels will set aside his law practice and serve on a full-time basis as lieutenant governor.

Michels is chief legal counsel for Avera Health system.

"It wasn't an easy decision. It was a simple one," Michels said.

"There is no greater call than to serve others," he added. "When a call like this comes, you don't turn your back. You open your arms." Michels served in the state House of Representatives from 1999 through 2006, including four years as House speaker. Daugaard served in the state Senate during part of the same period. The men met as legislators on a special committee about child abuse.

Michels is one of six people Daugaard appointed to serve on his executive management team. Michels will preside over the Senate during the legislative session, as set out in the state constitution, and will be Daugaard's point man on health-care coverage, tribal affairs and veterans' affairs.

Daugaard said Michels' salary as a government employee isn't set yet but the pay cut will be substantial.

Michels said the salary will be enough to live on and, in the minds of many people, more than enough to live on in South Dakota.

Daugaard said he isn't requiring Michels or any of his appointees to move their households to Pierre. Daugaard has continued to live at his rural Garretson home with his wife, Linda, while he has been lieutenant governor.

Daugaard has served in a part-time basis as lieutenant governor for Gov. Mike Rounds the past eight years, and Carole Hillard also served part-time for Gov. Bill Janklow from 1995 through 2002.

The previous lieutenant governor to work full-time for state government was Walter Dale Miller under Gov. George S. Mickelson from 1987 until April 19, 1993, when Mickelson died in a plane crash. Miller served as governor the remaining 20 months of the term through 1994.

Daugaard currently receives $17,699 in salary as a part-time lieutenant governor.