SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Steve Westra, the commissioner of the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) will leave his role effective May 22, Gov. Kristi Noem announced today.
Westra has served as GOED Commissioner since 2019. He previously served as the chief operating officer of Hegg Companies in Sioux Falls. He was a member of the State House of Representatives from 2013-2016 and also served on the State Tourism Advisory Board.
Travis Dovre will serve as interim commissioner of GOED, a news release from the Governor’s office said.
The GOED works with businesses and others on financial programs and government loans as well as other projects.
Recently, Westra and the GOED have been involved in discussions about the $200 million the state has planned for affordable housing projects.
The $200 million has been a sticky topic between Noem and some Republican lawmakers for more than a year.
This is the second cabinet-level leader who has announced a departure in roughly a month.
Executive director Lorraine Polak submitted her resignation from the South Dakota Housing Development Authority. Her final day was March 31, the same week she confirmed her departure with KELOLAND News. The authority had to submit its proposed rules for infrastructure funding for Westra’s sign-off before setting a hearing on them. That hearing is yet to be held.
In the news release, Noem praised Westra for his role in the state’s strong economy.
“When I took on this role, I never expected that it would be defined by a global pandemic. Gov. Noem trusted the people of South Dakota and our business community to make the right decisions, and we have emerged with record-breaking business investment,” said Steve Westra said in the news release. “We had more business development in the last four years than in the previous ten combined. I am grateful to the Governor for her trust in me and her leadership of our state, and it has been an honor to serve on her team. There are more opportunities for our future than ever before!”
The Noem administration has seen turnover in other cabinet-level posts in the past two years: Kellie Wasko was hired as corrections secretary; Melissa Magstadt was appointed health secretary, replacing Joan Adam, who retired nine months after Kim Malsam-Rysdon left for the private sector; Tiffany Sanderson stepped down as secretary of education to become president at Lake Area Technical College; Lori Gill retired as social services secretary; and Liza Clark temporarily retired as state finance and management commissioner to spend more time with her family.
The news of Westra’s departure came one day after the annual GOED conference concluded Tuesday. The conference included a presentation from Westra in which he highlighted the office’s successes during the past year.
Westra’s current annual salary is $189,952.00. That is the highest for any member of Noem’s cabinet and more than the $178,461.60 salary for the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Miller.
Capitol Bureau reporter Bob Mercer contributed to this story.