PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A change at the top comes August 5 in the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

That’s when Hunter Roberts will succeed Steve Pirner as secretary in charge of the agency’s nearly 180 employees.

Governor Kristi Noem announced the choice Tuesday.

Pirner announced his retirement earlier this month in a letter to the governor and an email to his staff. He has been secretary since 2000 and worked in the department for two decades before that.

Roberts is wrapping up work at the state Department of Labor and Regulation, where he has been a division director. He previously was a policy aide for then-Governor Dennis Daugaard.

Noem said she was “grateful” for Pirner’s dedication. Pirner in turn said it was “an honor” to serve her.

Said Roberts, “This is a special opportunity for me to join Governor Noem’s team.”

Roberts is the son of rancher Clay Roberts and a long-time state government Cabinet-level employee, Pam Roberts.

Pam Roberts retired in 2013 after a career in a variety of senior leadership roles in state government. They included labor secretary, personnel commissioner and chief of operations in the administrations of governors Janklow, Mickelson, Miller, Rounds and Daugaard. 

She later served two years as South Dakota Republican Party chair and currently is on several state government panels, including since 2016 the Board of Regents that governs South Dakota’s public universities and special K-12 schools.

Hunter is also a grandson of former U.S. Rep. Clint Roberts, who served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Clint Roberts was a state legislator who ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 1978 and 1986. He also was state secretary of agriculture and director of state energy policy.

“Congratulations to Hunter Roberts, who was chosen to lead the SD Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources,” Rounds wrote on Twitter. “Hunter has years of experience in state govt & is a great choice to take over the dept after Steve Pirner’s retirement. Wishing both of them all the best!”

Roberts replied, “Thank you Senator Rounds! I look forward to working with you in this new role to make South Dakota even better!”

Offered Pam Roberts: “Proud mama here!”