Inauguration kicks off legislative season in Pierre

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Jan. 8—PIERRE, S.D. — Legislators and statewide officeholders, including Gov. Kristi Noem, recited their oaths of office during the 2023 South Dakota Inaugural on Saturday, Jan. 7.

The public events of the day finished with a short speech from Noem, who, entering her second term, offered a David Letterman-inspired rundown of the ten things that most surprised her about being governor.

"I talked about the fact that we would no doubt face challenges and hardships, but that I believe that our best days were ahead," Noem said of her inauguration speech four years prior. "I thought I was really prepared to be governor, that I had done my homework. I had asked for a lot of advice, and I had taken it and I was ready to go. Now standing here today, it is very clear that there were a few surprises along the way.

The format of the address, which lasted about 18 minutes, allowed Noem to take more of an overview approach to her first term and plans for her second. The specifics required for governance will wait until the State of the State address, which will kick off the legislative session on Jan. 10. at 1 p.m.

For example, Noem's eighth-highest point of wonder was the "diversity of high school mascot names throughout history" across South Dakota, an observation the governor gained from her husband's frequent visits to small towns around the state.

"[Bryon] hears about their challenges and also what problems they need might need the state to help them solve," Noem said. "Most of the time when he comes home the very first thing that I hear him say to me is how fantastic the people were and how exciting things were that were going on in those communities. But I can guarantee you the one thing that always gets mentioned is, 'Do you know what their high school mascot used to be?'"

Among the mascots that stuck in her mind were the Newell Irrigators, the Monroe Wouldn't Shoot Canaries, the Claremont Honkers and the Vale Beetdiggers.

The rest of the list included a rundown of the strange items sent to the governor's office, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek observation that people care about her location, a moment of appreciation for state employees and a story of an adrenaline-filled experience tubing in a lake.

Finally, Noem said she was surprised at how much she enjoyed the previous four years as governor.

"I love the challenge of serving in this role," Noem said. "The opportunity to get up every single day with a purpose every day is different. I have the best boss: the people of South Dakota. They are the best people in the greatest state in the greatest country on Earth."

Jason Harward is a

Report for America

corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at