Former South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow's leadership shined bright during one of South Dakota darkest moments. The Spencer tornado disaster ripped the town off its foundation. Janklow was the man who put the pieces back together
Lieutenant Colonel Reid Christopherson was a large part of the medical assistance provided after the tornado wiped the town off the map. He says working with Janklow was an experience he will never forget.
“Governor Janklow was the right man at the time. In fact, in so many ways, he was really a man ahead of his time in a situation such as that,” Lt. Col. Christopherson said.
After the tornado hit, Christopherson says it was a conglomeration of agencies that responded. State, local, federal, and religious groups all needed to be in constant contact.
“Bill was willing to step in there and pull those things together and made it very clear that he was the man in charge. But in doing that provided some very desperately needed structure to that effort,” Lt. Col. Christopherson said.
He says Janklow laid the ground work for our present incident command systems. And not only on a state level, but also a federal level, he created response capabilities, common titles and expectations.
“Bill was the guy that gave a skeleton to that need. He was the person that saw to it that we got new radios; we got command suites, mobile command structures so that when we responded this year to a situation such as the Missouri River flooding, it was an entire different scenario,” Lt. Col. Christopherson said.
Not only did Janklow see what needed to be done, but Christopherson said he made sure, very sure, that it happened.
“He was a man that got things done; a man that made sure that the people of South Dakota came first,” Lt. Col. Christopherson said.
And even though the Spencer tornado was a decade and a half ago, Christopherson still has soft spot in his heart for the man he admired so much.
“He’ll be missed by a lot of folks, obviously can’t imagine what his family is going through today. Bill had many, many close friends and they were like brothers and sisters to him. He’ll be missed immensely,” Lt. Col. Christopherson said.
Christopherson says that Janklow also ensured emergency lighting was there when anyone needed it.