Almond chosen as executive director of SDRS

Capitol News Bureau

FORT PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Trustees want Travis Almond to be the next executive director for the South Dakota Retirement System.

The board’s vote Thursday afternoon was unanimous. Almond currently is member-services and communications manager for the system.

Trustees interviewed two finalists separately Wednesday afternoon.

Chairman James Johns of Rapid City said both currently work for SDRS but didn’t identify the second person.

“I just want to stress there were two incredible candidates,” Johns told KELOLAND shortly after the vote.

Almond starts in mid-October and will spend about six weeks working with Rob Wylie, who said he is retiring in late November.

Almond’s present annual salary is $96,988.97. The board directed Johns to negotiate with him on his new salary. Wylie’s salary is $165,113.81.

The trustees had previously adopted a 2019-2020 pay range of $136,000 to $204,000.

Trustees met with Almond for about one hour Wednesday. “That’s a group of people you respect tremendously,” he told KELOLAND News.

He nodded toward Wylie a few steps away: “Big shoes to fill.”

Asked their shoe sizes, Almond said 13 and Wylie 11.

“He’s got big feet,” Wylie said.

Wylie replaced Al Asher in 2003. They have been the system’s only executive directors since its creation in 1975.

State government, public universities, counties, municipalities, school districts and other local-government units participate.

There are more than 88,000 members, a number that’s more than 10 percent of South Dakota’s population of 800,000-plus.

Before the vote, Wylie spoke to the full board for the final time. He said South Dakota’s system is the most sustainable in the nation: “It is now the standard.”

He told the trustees they can hold their heads high wherever they go because the $12.46 billion system is in “exceedingly good condition” and asked them to carry forward the responsibility to continue as best.

Wylie, who’s put in nearly four decades at SDRS, suggested to the trustees they should make communications even more of a priority, add “a little bit of staff” and lease the space next door to the SDRS offices in the Sahr Building in Pierre that the State Bar of South Dakota is leaving.

“It’s been a great run,” Wylie said. “It’s hard to imagine things have gone that well for so long.”

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