The tears came easy for many as Deb Tieszen spoke before a room full of legislators and newspaper people in Pierre. Tears along with applause.
Deb was there along with Journal Managing Editor Chris Huber to present the first Craig Tieszen Award for Civility in Lawmaking in honor of Deb’s late husband and Rapid City legislator who died tragically last November.
The Journal initiated the award as a way to preserve Tieszen’s legacy and encourage legislators to emulate his civil conduct. The award was presented to Rep. Julie Bartling of Gregory during our annual Newspaper Day at the Legislature luncheon.
As a lobbyist for South Dakota Newspaper Association, I came to know Craig during his tenure in Pierre. Like everyone else, I came to admire and respect him in so many ways.
I think about Craig often these days when I am in the capitol. I miss seeing him at his desk in the House chamber. I miss being able to stop by his desk just to say hi or to chat for a minute. Craig was always accessible. If he wasn’t in a committee hearing or some other meeting, chances were good that you could find Craig at his desk.
I miss lobbying him on our issues. I was probably successful in persuading Craig on our issues and bills no more than half the time. Regardless of how he voted on a bill we were interested in, he held my respect always.
He held my respect because I knew he would give me a fair hearing when I lobbied him. He would be generous with his time. I can still recall how he would fold his hands and prop his chin on his index fingers while he listened to my arguments. Usually, my pitch was followed by his tough but fair questions.
Craig held my respect because I knew that even when he disagreed with me or voted against our position on a bill, I could readily approach him again on another bill and the slate would be clean. He would be ready to hear me out again, without prejudice or favor. Ready to make well-informed, deliberative decisions he believed best for his constituents, his community and his state.
It was indeed a special, emotional moment when Deb Tieszen and Chris Huber presented the award to Rep. Bartling. Everyone in the room stood and applauded. Suddenly, it felt as if the respect, regard and love that everyone had for Craig filled this large banquet room.
I don’t know, but I suspect that most everyone in the halls of the capitol during this legislative session thinks about Craig from time to time. I suspect they may pause momentarily to remind themselves of the civility, the service and the kindness that Craig Tieszen exemplified every day.
And that is a tribute worth remembering.