Noem raises salaries of some of her cabinet, with Westra paid much more than rest — and her

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Some department heads and bureau commissioners who work in state government for South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem recently received pay raises.

The four- and five-figure increases came out of cycle and months ahead of July 1, when state government employees typically receive small bumps for inflation.

Commissioner Steve Westra, who runs the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, got the largest amount. His salary rose to $175,000 from $146,893. He is the highest-paid of Noem’s cabinet.

However, Westra makes less than at least 90 others who work for state government. Many are top officials at South Dakota’s public universities or in the state investment office.

Aaron Scheibe will get an annual salary of $149,000 when he starts May 1 as the governor’s chief of staff, according to Noem’s communications director, Ian Fury. Tony Venhuizen, whose last day as chief of staff was Friday, was paid $142,800.

Maggie Seidel, who stepped down a few weeks ago as the governor’s senior advisor and policy director, was paid $143,182.50. It is unclear whether Noem will put a different person in the role that Seidel held.

As governor, Noem currently receives $118,728.04. The Legislature this year passed a law that will increase the governor’s pay to $130,000 on July 1, 2023.

During Mike Rounds’ last year as governor in 2010, he received $115,331. In 2011, because state government faced financial difficulty, Dennis Daugaard reduced his pay as governor to $98,031 and also cut pay for his cabinet and senior staff.

The new law is intended to counter that somewhat. It also would increase salaries for five other statewide elected constitutional officers.

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The attorney general, who currently receives $118,603.03, will get $125,000. The secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer, and commissioner of school and public lands, who currently get $94,906.79 apiece, will rise to $113,000 apiece.

Others in Noem’s cabinet who received raises in recent weeks were:

  • Commissioner Scott Bollinger, Bureau of Administration, to $119,216.89 from $109,388.40.
  • Commissioner Liza Clark, Bureau of Finance and Management, to $149,000 from $143,182.50.
  • Commissioner Darin Seeley, Bureau of Human Resources, to $131,687.41 from $129,540.
  • Secretary Shawnie Rechtenbaugh, Dept. of Human Services, to $131,687.41 from $126,622.51.
  • Secretary Marcia Hultman, Dept. of Labor and Regulation, to $131,687.41 from $126,622.51.
  • Secretary Craig Price, Dept. of Public Safety, to $131,687.41 from $128,596.50.
  • Secretary Jim Terwilliger, Dept. of Revenue, to $131,687.41 from $126,622.51.
  • Secretary Jim Hagen, Dept. of Tourism, to $126,622.51 from $119,216.89.

The Legislature approved a 2.4% increase for state government employees that takes effect July 1.

The governor’s cabinet members who didn’t receive special raises recently include:

  • Information and Telecommunications Commissioner Jeff Clines $153,000;
  • Social Services Secretary Laurie Gill $142,800;
  • Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon $136,063.40;
  • Corrections Secretary Mike Leidholt $131,733;
  • Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson $131,687.41;
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources Secretary Hunter Roberts $131,687.41;
  • Transportation Secretary Joel Jundt $131,687.41;
  • Military Secretary Jeff Marlette $126,622.51;
  • Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kevin Robling $120,000;
  • Tribal Relations Secretary Dave Flute $115,005; and
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary Greg Whitlock $108,732.

KELOLAND News has asked for further explanation of the governor’s various decisions on the raises.

Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden is paid $104,000. The governor sets the lieutenant governor’s pay.

Rhoden originally received $55,000 when he started as lieutenant governor in 2019. When he agreed to serve as Noem’s interim secretary of agriculture, his pay rose to $128,596.50.

After the governor went ahead with the merger of two departments, Rhoden’s pay dropped to $104,000 as he took on a role speaking to farm and ranch groups as her agriculture ambassador, in addition to his duties each winter as Senate president.

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