PIERRE — Fact underlines the feeling that western South Dakota has done well in regard to clout in the Legislature in modern times.
The current speaker of the House is Rep. Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City. He is one of six Rapid City representatives who have served as speaker since 1960.
Before Gosch came Republican Carl Burgess, 1961-62; Democrat Gene Lebrun, 1973-74; Republican Don Ham, 1985-86; Republican Rex Hagg, 1997-98; and Republican Scott Eccarius, 2001-02.
Pennington County had a seventh speaker during that span, Walter Dale Miller of New Underwood, in 1981-82. He went on to be elected twice as lieutenant governor and later served about 19 months as governor.
During that same post-1960 era, three speakers came from nearby Spearfish in Lawrence County. They were Republican James Jelbert, 1967-68; Republican Jim Hood, 1991-92; and Republican Harvey Krautschun, 1995-96.
By contrast, Sioux Falls has had two speakers since 1960. They were Republican Lowell Hansen, 1977-78, and Republican Debbie Anderson, 1987-88. Hansen went on to serve two terms at lieutenant governor, while Anderson next worked for the first Bush White House.
Two other communities in Minnehaha County have had speakers since then. They were Republican Roger Hunt of Brandon, 1999-2000, and Republican Tim Rave of Baltic, 2009-10.
Brown County has had three speakers since 1960, but none in the past 20 years. They were Republican Joe Barnett of Aberdeen, 1975-76; Republican Bud Wood of Warner, 1989-90; and Republican Steve Cutler of Claremont, 1993-94.
Altogether, 17 speakers have come from just four counties since 1960. The other nine speakers were from across the map.
All were Republicans: Paul Brown of Arlington; Charles Droz of Miller; Dexter Gunderson of Irene; Donald Osheim of Watertown; George S. Mickelson of Brookings; Jerry Lammers of Madison; Matt Michels of Yankton; Tom Deadrick of Platte; and Val Rausch of Big Stone City.
Mickelson later was elected governor twice. Michels, the first to serve two terms as speaker since the 1950s, is the current lieutenant governor.
The presidents pro tem of the Senate have been more geographically varied than the speaker post. They frequently came from smaller communities, and almost all came from somewhere other than Rapid City or Sioux Falls.
The current president pro tem, Republican Sen. Corey Brown of Gettysburg, is the latest in that general pattern.
The other pattern among presidents pro tem is a trend toward longevity in that post.
Unlike House speakers, who traditionally hold the gavel for a single two-year term (only a handful have ever held the post longer), most of the presidents pro tem since Mary McClure in 1979 have held their posts for more than one term. In the previous 50 years, they’ve included:
• Republican Hilbert Bogue of Beresford 1961-62; Republican James Ramey of Wanblee, 1963-64; Republican Jim Abdnor of Kennebec, 1965-66; Republican Lloyd Schrag of Marion, 1967-68; and Republican Robert Bartron of Watertown, 1969-70.
• Republican Louis Johnson of Milbank, 1971-72; Democrat Charles Donnelly Jr. of Rapid City, 1973-74; Democrat Mike O’Connor of Sioux Falls, 1975-76; Republican Clint Roberts of Presho, 1977-78; and Republican Mary McClure of Redfield, 1979-89.
• Republican Harold Halverson of Milbank, 1990-92; Democrat Lars Herseth of Houghton, 1993-94; and Republican Harold Halverson of Milbank, 1995-2000.
• Republican Arne Brown of Brookings, 2001-04; Republican Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown, 2005-06; and Republican Bob Gray of Pierre, 2007-12.