Woster: Where's the best place to retire in South Dakota?

Just the other day I received an unsolicited email that listed the top 10 retirement towns in South Dakota. Pierre claimed the last spot on the chart.


When I finally quit full-time work for good back in 2014, I did so in the 10th best place to retire in South Dakota.

I learned that this week. I lived in Pierre in 2014. I retired from the Department of Public Safety after something like five and one-half years on the job. I was a couple of months short of my 71st birthday, so I figure I put in my time out there pulling the wagon. It was my time to climb in and give the reins to a younger member of the workforce.

That was my second retirement, actually. I took early retirement from the Sioux Falls paper when I was not quite 65. They offered and I accepted. I figured I’d been moved from the asset column to the liability page on the company books, so I might as well try something new. And after 40 years of covering state government as a news reporter, working as a state employee was, indeed, something new.

The thing was, I loved the newspaper business dearly, but at the time of the early retirement offer, I hadn’t really put aside enough money to be comfortable without a paycheck. That state job gave me almost six more years of steady income and moved me that much closer to – putting it delicately – a time when I would no longer need an income.

When I quit the state job in 2014, we still had the big house in Pierre. I never gave a thought to how suited the community was for a retired fellow. Just the other day I received an unsolicited email that listed the top 10 retirement towns in South Dakota. Pierre claimed the last spot on the chart. Spearfish ranked first, followed by two other Black Hills communities, Belle Fourche and Sturgis. Others, in order, were Aberdeen, Huron, Rapid City, Watertown, Mitchell and Yankton, just ahead of Pierre.


An outfit called SmartAsset ranked the cities. They measured tax friendliness, availability of medical care and social opportunities. Well, I always thought Pierre had a pretty reasonable tax burden, considering the services available in the community. I liked the medical care, too, and it got better and better through the years we lived in the capital city. I’m not much for social opportunities, but I know they existed, in spite of the fact that when we moved from Sioux Falls to Pierre in 1969, a friend said, “It’s a nice place if you like to bowl or drink.’’ I discovered it was a pretty good place if you liked to boat, fish or hunt, too. And I practically lived in the library.

I didn’t know about the top 10 list in 2015 when we left Pierre to move across the river to Fort Pierre. I wasn’t aware of it two years ago when we moved to Chamberlain, either. It wouldn’t have made a difference if I’d known. We moved to Fort Pierre for the canals connected to the river, and we moved to Chamberlain for family, a perfect location on the river bank and a general feeling of being home, just down the block and around the corner from where I grew up.

I can’t quarrel with Spearfish as the top town on the retirement list, although I imagine somewhere I could find 10 other lists with 10 other groups of communities. Spearfish is a lovely place, at the edge of the northern Hills, with a college to spice things up and a downtown that’s fun to roam. If I were making the list, I think I’d put laid-back Custer on top, especially since it began hosting a Tesla electric car rally. I might move Mitchell a few notches up the list, too. I’ve always liked that community. It was the region’s big city when I grew up on the farm.

If I were compiling my own list of retirement friendly towns, I’d make a case for Chamberlain. The fishing is great, rush-hour drive time lasts about a minute, and a guy can walk just about anywhere. Besides, it’s where I live. I don’t have any more moves left in me, no matter what a retirement list might say.

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