PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Nine months after he officially returned, Mark Barnett has stepped down as chief deputy to South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Barnett had served three terms as attorney general, winning the 1990, 1994 and 1998 elections. He finished second in the race for the Republican nomination for governor in 2002, losing to Mike Rounds. The better-financed Barnett then put his fundraising network to work for the more-popular Rounds, who easily won the November general election.

Governor Rounds later appointed Barnett as a circuit judge in 2007. Barnett retired as judge in 2019, and in 2021 won a seat on the South Dakota Retirement System board representing retirees.

But he wasn’t done. Barnett returned to active politics in 2022 and helped Jackley win the attorney general nomination at the Republican statewide convention in Watertown that June. When Jackley took office in January, he appointed Barnett as chief deputy, and Barnett said he’d step down from the SDRS board after a replacement was named.

Barnett’s most recent annual salary as chief deputy was $160,434.20, nearly $27,000 more than Jackley’s $133,750, which is set by state law.

Barnett recently sent an email to others in the office, and Jackley confirmed on Sunday that the 69-year-old Barnett was retiring one more time.

“The Judge was a large part of our transition team, and he has played a significant role in making our transition,” Jackley told KELOLAND News. “Friday night we did hold a thank you retirement party, but he is going to continue to be a part of our office including covering events that my or others’ schedules don’t permit.”

Here’s the full text of Barnett’s career-closing email:

My valued friends and coworkers:

Within a few months of starting here 43 years ago, I knew I had found my home.  It has been a terrific career; far better than I had any right to expect. Twelve years as Attorney General; twelve years as Circuit Judge; two tours of duty as Chief Deputy….but best of all, a million great memories with friends I have kept through the years. The stories we can tell!  

It is now September. My job here was always going to be to assist in the transition. That job is done. That being the case, I will re-retire in a couple days, so that I can  finish a book I have been writing on the Reay murder case, here in Pierre. I will devote full time efforts to hiking the streets of Pierre and 18 holes of Hillsview Golf Course; exploring the Rocky Mountains with my truck top tent…..and finishing this book.      

I was honored with a retirement party when I was done as AG, another one when I was done as Chief Deputy Round One, and a third when I left from the bench. Three parties is enough. This time I skip out on the shortest notice possible…..no re-re-re-re-retirement parties for this lad!

I am deeply grateful to General Jackley for trusting me with the keys to this wonderful organization. It has been a great ride, working with the finest bunch of dedicated public servants any person could ever hope to have. What we do here, matters.  

Honk your horn and wave, when you see me out walking!  God bless.  

Mark Barnett

Chief Deputy Attorney General

NO MAS: Republican state Senator Bryan Breitling confirmed that he won’t be seeking re-election next year.

“I look forward to finishing out my term in the 2024 session. There are a lot of pressing issues for District 23 and South Dakota that I am excited to work on, especially as the vice-chair of the Appropriations committee,” Breitling said.

Steve Roseland of Faulkton recently declared his candidacy for the seat. In his announcement, Roseland said, “Thank you to Bryan Breitling for his years of service representing District 23, and I wish him well as he takes a step back from public service.” Roseland added, “Following in the footsteps of Bryan, John Lake and Corey Brown, I’ve got big shoes to fill, but I am energized by the opportunity to give back to the state and communities that I love.”

Breitling was administrator at Avera Hand County Memorial Hospital in Miller when he filed his paperwork on February 17, 2022, for election to a second term as senator. He bought a house in the Dell Rapids area that May. He won a Republican primary that June against then-Representative Spencer Gosch of Glenham Gosch 3,019-2,552. Later that same month, Avera offered him a new job in the Sioux Falls area. He accepted the position and rented a house in Miller, where he continued to keep his voter registration.

CONCRETE CENTENNIAL: This year marks the 100th anniversary of South Dakota’s first concrete road project by the state Department of Transportation. A historical marker denotes the initial stretch between Sioux Falls and Dells Rapids.

The American Concrete Paving Association plans to mark the centennial on September 27. That coincides with the state Transportation Commission meeting in Sioux Falls. Jordan Reaves, executive vice president of the South Dakota chapter, invited the commission to the event.

COMING CHANGE: Kari Shanard-Koenders told the state Board of Pharmacy during its meeting Thursday she plans to retire as executive director at some point after the 2024 legislative session. “Deep regrets,” board president Tom Nelson of Spearfish told her. 

Have a news item or tip about South Dakota state government? Contact KELOLAND Capitol Bureau reporter Bob Mercer in Pierre at 605-280-7580 or bmercer@keloland.com.