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Gertsema Hopes Others Learn From His Arrest

October 10, 2012, 5:55 PM by Perry Groten

Gertsema Hopes Others Learn From His Arrest
Joe Gertsema


The superintendent of the Yankton School District hopes his arrest over the weekend can be a teaching moment for others about the risks of drinking and driving.

Troopers arrested Joe Gertsema during a sobriety checkpoint east of Vermillion early Sunday morning. On Wednesday, he shared his anguish over what he calls 'a bad decision.'

Gertsema says this has never happened before and insists it will never happen again.  He says he did not feel impaired when he got behind the wheel this weekend, but an encounter with the South Dakota Highway Patrol proved otherwise.

Gertsema was heading home to Yankton, intending to get a bite to eat at a truck stop, when he drove up to a sobriety checkpoint.

"And I was pulled over like everyone else and they gave me a sobriety test and I failed it and that's the problem," Gertsema said.

Gertsema ended up in jail. But says the most painful part about the arrest was apologizing to his family afterward.
"It's brutal. It's tough," Gertsema said.

Gertsema says he hopes his arrest does not send a mixed message to Yankton students about the dangers of drinking and driving.  Instead, by going public about his arrest, he hopes it will teach them about taking responsibility for their actions.

"I think we teach people, and people in life in general, if you trip, you get yourself up, you brush yourself off and you move forward and I think those things are lessons," Gertsema said.

Gertsema was back on the job Monday, a day after his arrest.  And while he says he's still seething with anger against himself, he hopes others will realize that anyone, even a school superintendent, can make a mistake.

"But I know that I'm not ever going to get behind the wheel again if I'm drinking. It's not worth it," Gertsema said.

Gertsema says highway patrol troopers treated him fairly throughout the process.
He's been Yankton's superintendent for 23 years and says he's spoken with all the school board members about his arrest. 

The school board President says they'll wait until Gertsema's case goes through the courts before making any decisions about his job status.

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