PIERRE | Governors galore.
That's how Gov. Dennis Daugaard described it Friday afternoon when he walked into the reception room in his office in the South Dakota Capitol to find all four living former governors being interviewed by reporters.
That's a lot of former chief executives.
"They're a dime a dozen," said former Gov. Harvey Wollman, 78, of Hitchcock, one of three former governors whose bronze statues were unveiled during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.
Statues of former Govs. Frank Farrar and Bill Janklow also were unveiled. Like Wollman's, they will be placed in a Trail of Governors display that will eventually depict each South Dakota governor at various locations between the Missouri River and the state Capitol.
Wollman was joined by Farrar, 84, and Janklow's son, Russell, representing his four-term-governor father, who died of cancer in January 2012.
Former Govs. Mike Rounds and Walter Dale Miller also were at the ceremony, which drew about 400 people to the Rotunda next to the governor's office on the second floor of the Capitol.
In addressing the gathering, Daugaard called it "a great day to celebrate these three governors," and concluded that "we're a better state and we're a better people because of them."
Farrar served one two-year term as governor, from 1969 to 1971, before the constitution was amended to make the terms four years each. He was 39 when he took office, then the youngest in state history, and his salary was $18,000.
He said it might bring a chuckle today, but "everybody thought I was overpaid" back then.
Farrar, who also served three terms as state attorney general, spoke in emotional tones about his wife, Pat, who suffers from dementia and couldn't attend the unveiling.
"If it wasn't for her, I could not have done these things," he said.
Wollman, a teacher and farmer known for his sharp wit, was the last Democrat to serve as South Dakota governor. He was lieutenant governor in the summer of 1978 when Gov. Richard Kneip was appointed ambassador to Singapore with half a year left in his last term.
Wollman had already been defeated in the June Democratic primary when he stepped in to serve less than six months as governor. But he began initiatives that others picked up and left a mark that included previous leadership roles in the state Legislature.
He, too, choked up in giving credit to his wife, Anne, who sat in the front row near Wollman's brother, Roger, a Republican former chief justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court and current federal appeals court judge.
Russell Janklow brought up both Wollmans when he spoke, noting that Harvey was sworn in by his own brother in 1978.
"Only in South Dakota could a chief justice be a Republican swearing in a brother who was a Democrat," Janklow said.
The less-formal gathering before the ceremony gave the governors a chance to share stories and reflections about past experiences in a fairly exclusive club.
"We always enjoy it when we are able to get together like this," Rounds said. "I think once you've been through the same work and things we've been through you develop a bond that's very special."