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Seeing opportunity, Noem brings campaign to Mitchell

Kristi Noem would like to be South Dakota's next chief executive. And the Republican congresswoman made her case on Thursday afternoon during a visit at the Mitchell Rotary Club, using her experience in Washington to provide some clarity on South...

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U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., speaks to the Mitchell Rotary Club Thursday at the Ramada Inn and Suites. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Kristi Noem would like to be South Dakota's next chief executive.

And the Republican congresswoman made her case on Thursday afternoon during a visit at the Mitchell Rotary Club, using her experience in Washington to provide some clarity on South Dakota's needs.

Noem made the reference to wanting to be the state's next CEO in front of about 50 people at the club's weekly meeting at the Ramada Inn and Suites. She said she's excited about the chance to lead the state's government, with the belief that she can make a bigger impact on South Dakota, rather than dealing with national gridlock.

"I'm just a big believer that what people have said about South Dakota for many, many years - talking about us being small, not having very many people, (that) we're in the middle of nowhere - and that it's a detriment to us," Noem said. "I see that as a big opportunity."

Noem, 46, said that she believes the national problems will be hard to fix, but would like South Dakota to be a leading state that can be an example to others.

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"I've been in D.C. for eight years. I'm pretty convinced that the big things we have to do in this country, is going to be very difficult to get done out there," she said. "I think it's going to take a couple of really strong governors to go after reforms to our programs and to give people opportunities and then hold that up as a testimony to the nation as to what's possible."

Noem noted she's in a tough race, running against state Sen. Billie Sutton, a Democrat from Burke, and Libertarian Party candidate Kurt Evans, of Wessington Springs. Sutton and Noem have increased the frequency of barbs traded back and forth, as Election Day is now less than three weeks out.

With a number of local business leaders in the room, a good amount of Noem's gubernatorial pitch focused on ways to improve the workforce concerns in the state. She said she would like to allow more rural students to interact with technical careers in middle school, giving them a chance to try those before high school, and make more apprenticeships available.

"I am convinced that there are school districts in our state that need more money but we need to also make sure we're getting better results for our kids," Noem said. "Because that's what education is about, and giving them that opportunity to move on to higher education is very important."

She also said she wanted to be the next governor to bring a big industry to South Dakota, much like former Gov. Bill Janklow did with the financial services industry. She specifically cited cybersecurity, technology and biotech companies as fields where South Dakota is in a position to succeed.

"That's what we need to do again to diversify our economy," Noem said. "We're the best place to be and nobody really knows it yet. Your governor should be your salesperson-in-chief and that's really what I want to pursue."

Noem also said she's tired of the "recycling" of the people in the state's jails and prison system, seeing the same people over and over who aren't getting the help they need with addiction.

"We're not giving them any kind of counseling or treatment and we're not giving them any workforce training," she said. "And we could be giving them that, and we could be helping them out of that situation and into the workforce."

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On her congressional record, Noem touted the recent tax reform that she was involved with as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. She said that the tax savings was benefitting a number of segments of the population, from working women to families and to small businesses.

Along a similar line, Noem also outlined her interactions with President Donald Trump. She said in a meeting with Trump, she went out of her way to show the president the differences between farming and real estate.

"I said 'Mr. President, agriculture is just very unique. It's a highly leveraged industry,' " she said, noting the need for local banks to lend farmers money. "We can farm for 20 years and make a pretty good living, but you can have one bad year and lose everything. ... In real estate, you see people file for bankruptcy and they can start over. If you lose a family farm, you've lost a business that really was an institution for our state."

But she acknowledged that the current trade standoff is tough on South Dakota's farmers and their communities' Main Streets. She said she's hopeful that there's an agreement with China soon and has her thoughts for Trump on that, too.

"I've just told him to hurry up and get it over with," Noem said. "Because we have to sell some soybeans."

In meetings with the president, Noem said that Trump frequently will have his decision made before the meeting is over, even while asking for input from everyone in the room. She compared that to former President Barack Obama, who she said didn't always make it clear which way he'd decide when a meeting was over.

"Honestly, it's refreshing," Noem said of Trump's approach. "Because you spend a lot of time nibbling around the edges and he's there to do the big stuff."

Related Topics: KRISTI NOEMELECTION 2018
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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