PIERRE - Come Monday morning, Nathan Sanderson starts work as executive director for the South Dakota Retailers Association.
He's departing as Gov. Dennis Daugaard's director of policy and operations.
Sanderson said Wednesday that people in state government were "outstanding" and working for Daugaard was "phenomenal."
"This is a good opportunity to do something else," Sanderson said during an interview in his office on the Capitol's second floor, the leafed trees not quite hiding the retailers building visible from the west-facing window.
"It's been a lot of fun, and Pierre is great," he said.
His desk and table were clear, other than double computer screens, and an ancient lamp whose vintage dated back decades to the state planning bureau.
"Most of the things that have been in here have migrated across the street," Sanderson said.
Many businesses throughout South Dakota took a leading role the past two years after the Legislature approved a giant change in tax law in 2016.
With the force of state government behind the case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in June state and local sales taxes could be charged on goods and services sold to South Dakota customers from businesses that don't have a physical presence within the state.
The taxes officially take effect Nov. 1 after the Legislature met Sept. 12 in special session. The association supported the state laws and the legal fight.
"It's a very interesting time for them, for sure," Sanderson said.
He, spouse Tiffany and their son moved from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Pierre after then-state Agriculture Secretary Bill Even hired Sanderson in December 2008 as deputy policy director for the department.
Sanderson also worked on agriculture policy issues, in an unpaid role, for Daugaard's 2010 campaign for governor. After the election, Daugaard named Sanderson as a policy adviser. In fall 2014, he received broader responsibilities and the broader title.
His focus often has been on rural issues, from improving railroad service on state-owned lines to bringing together the compromise on non-meandered waters the Legislature approved in a 2017 special session.
He graduated from Lake Preston High School. He and Tiffany Anderson, whose parents ranched in the Lemmon area, were South Dakota FFA officers when they met while at South Dakota State University.
He later wrote a doctoral dissertation on cattleman Ed Lemmon titled "Controlled Recklessness" that was published as a book in 2015.
Tiffany Sanderson meanwhile spent more than eight years at the state Department of Education, rising to director of career and technical education.
She chose to work from the couple's Pierre home in fall of 2017 for a Lincoln, Nebraska, rural-education company Vivayic.
The couple moved from Brookings after graduation to the Indianapolis area, where Tiffany worked for the National FFA organization while Nathan received a master degree in American history from Indiana University.
They moved to Lincoln in the mid-2000s, where Nathan earned a doctorate degree in American history while Tiffany worked for Vivayic.
At the retailers, Sanderson succeeds Shawn Lyons, who stepped down in June for health reasons. Lyons began as assistant executive director under Jerry Wheeler in 2005 and followed Wheeler in the top job in 2006.
Gary Cammack, a Union Center businessman and state senator, served a second year as retailers president while the association's members waited for Lyons' possible recovery. Sanderson's hiring was announced Sept. 17.
"He's a great fit for our team and will be a tremendous asset to our organization," Cammack said.
Sanderson said he sees the executive director's roles as advocacy, member services and providing information and education.
Asked about his qualities, he said: "My values align with the Retailers Association's values." He acknowledged his contacts throughout South Dakota were helpful. He said his reputation for fair dealing, straight talk and building consensus seemed to matter.
Sanderson said he likes being back. In Indianapolis and Lincoln, he realized he missed the little waves motorists give to each other on South Dakota's highways.
"It's been fun to work on a lot of the projects and initiatives. But it's the small things that never get noticed that I'm most proud of," he said.
He mentioned examples: The red-tape reductions that Daugaard sought year after year. The maintenance and repairs Daugaard put back into state properties. The AAA finance ratings and South Dakota Retirement System changes the governor achieved.
"A lot of times, it's the little things most people don't see," Sanderson said.