PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The head of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department confirmed Wednesday he chose to let Tony Leif go as Wildlife Division director.
GFP Secretary Kelly Hepler said December 8 was the last day for Leif. Hepler said he hopes to fill the vacancy by January 1.
The change edged into public view last week, when others in the department made presentations at the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission meeting in Madison that Leif usually had done.
“I made the decision that it was time for a change in the director position,” Hepler said Wednesday.
“I think it is healthy for an organization to allow advancement within the ranks and to bring new approaches to problem solving,” he continued.
Leif spent his career in the Wildlife Division. He began in 1987 as a conservation officer in Freeman and spent 16 years in Huron, where as lead upland-game biologist he specialized in pheasants. He moved to Pierre in 2004 and succeeded Doug Hansen as director in 2007.
“This move should not at all reflect on Tony’s accomplishments with GFP,” Hepler said. “Tony has had a stellar career and has put his heart and soul into this department and he has my sincere appreciation for his commitment to our state.”
Leif’s annual salary was $103,054.95 at the time of his departure, according to open.sd.gov.
Hepler, whose salary is $129,105.30, recently promoted Kevin Robling to deputy secretary. Robling now makes $98,400.
Scott Simpson, who was promoted this year to director for the department’s Parks and Recreation Division, is listed at $96,110.56.