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After closest of calls, SDRS might convert to electronic elections

PIERRE--Trustees for the South Dakota Retirement System might adopt a new system for the board's elections. Under consideration are rules changes that would allow a third party to conduct the elections and switch to an electronic format. The syst...

PIERRE-Trustees for the South Dakota Retirement System might adopt a new system for the board's elections.

Under consideration are rules changes that would allow a third party to conduct the elections and switch to an electronic format.

The system's administrative staff currently has responsibility for running the elections each year.

Paper ballots are mailed to the members who mark them and mail them back.

Participation frequently is low.

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The rate was 14 percent this spring for election of a trustee representing state government employees.

Eric Stroeder of Mobridge received 552 votes and Rachel Hearn of Pierre received 551 votes.

Stroeder, an engineering supervisor for the state Department of Transportation, had served 12 years as a trustee. Hearn, a certified public accountant, is audit director for the state Revenue Department.

"We did count them several times," Dawn Smith, an SDRS administrative aide who oversees the elections, said when the results were announced at the trustees' June meeting.

Trustees serve four-year terms. Elections are held annually on a rotating basis. Most have been uncontested in the past few years.

Stroeder said some of the problems in the past make a new system worth exploring.

"We need a system that is fair and hopefully gets more participation. The fairness of the process is critical especially in a close election," he said.

He added, "I can't imagine an election would ever come down to one vote."

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A public hearing on the rules changes is scheduled for the SDRS board meeting Wednesday, Sept. 7, at View 34 in Pierre. The hearing starts at 9 a.m. CT.

The trustees oversee the public pension program for some 81,000 members, including more than 25,000 recipients of benefits, some 39,000 active contributing members and some 16,000 inactive non-contributing members.

The members generally come from state government, state universities, public schools, participating city and county governments including public safety and various special districts.

The South Dakota Investment Council manages the system's portfolio that exceeded $10 billion in value at the end of the 2015 fiscal year.

More than $456 million in benefits were paid in fiscal 2015. Members paid more than $110 million and employers paid more than $109 million into the system in fiscal 2015.

The Legislature established the trustees system. Trustees in most cases represent specific employment and employer sectors.

The current trustees are:

Karl Alberts, Aberdeen city finance officer, trustee for municipal employees;

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Elmer Brinkman of Watertown, Codington County Commission member, trustee for county commissioners;

Penny Brunken, Sioux Falls public school teacher, trustee for teachers;

Steve Caron, Aberdeen public school teacher, trustee for teachers;

Jilena Faith of Brookings, South Dakota State University, trustee for classified employees;

Laurie Gill, mayor of Pierre, trustee for elected municipal officials;

Kathryn Greenway, Yankton school board member, trustee for school boards;

Laurie Gustafson of Pierre, state Department of Transportation employee, trustee for state employees;

James Hansen of Pierre, retired member, trustee for retirees;

James Johns, Rapid City police captain, trustee for public safety employees;

Louise Loban, South Dakota State University employee, trustee for Board of Regents employees;

Kathy "K.J." Peterson of Rapid City, Pennington County deputy auditor, trustee for county employees;

Eric Stroeder of Mobridge, state Department of Transportation employee, trustee for state employees; and

Steve Zinter of Pierre, state Supreme Court justice, trustee for judicial system members.

The board has two members appointed by the governor. They are Lt. Gov. Matt Michels of Yankton and Jason Dilges of Pierre. Dilges is state commissioner of finance and management.

Two others who serve at meetings are Matt Clark of Sioux Falls, who is state investment officer, and Rob Wylie, the SDRS administrator.

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