The son and son-in-law of Gov.-elect Dennis Daugaard have landed state jobs.
Tony Venhuizen, married to Daugaard's daughter Sara, was named one of Daugaard's top advisors. Venhuizen will be Daugaard's director of policy and communications and will supervise the Secretary of Education, the Board of Regents and the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications. He will be one of six officials on Daugaard's executive committee of top managers.
Chris Daugaard, the governor-elect's son, has been hired as an initiative and utility analyst at the state Public Utilities Commission. He will be paid $55,000 a year for the entry-level position.
Before his new position was announced Monday, Venhuizen served on Daugaard's transition committee and was the manager of Daugaard's election campaign.
Announcing Venhuizen's hiring, Daugaard said he had considered that it might prompt accusations of nepotism but decided he was the right man for the job, anyway.
People are also reading…
"We talked about the possibility that he not join the governor's office because of that," Daugaard said. "You don't want to consider or exclude from consideration someone because of something that is not related to qualifications for the job."
The South Dakota Democratic Party criticized Venhuizen's hiring.
"Cronyism and no-bid contracts for buddies of the governor were status quo with the Rounds administration," Democratic Party executive director Erin McCarrick said in a prepared statement. "It looks like we're getting four more years of the same with Daugaard with the addition of nepotism."
Daugaard defended Venhuizen's hiring.
"He's more than capable. He's an outstanding candidate," Daugaard said.
Before managing Daugaard's campaign, Venhuizen was a law clerk for the South Dakota First Judicial Circuit and worked for the South Dakota Board of Regents.
Daugaard said Venhuizen's salary has not been determined. Senior advisors to the governor and department heads currently earn between $90,000 and $150,000 per year, though Daugaard said he wants to spend at least 10 percent less on executive salaries than Gov. Mike Rounds.
Chris Daugaard started work at the PUC on Nov. 15. The position requires a bachelor's degree with a preference for a background in business, accounting, engineering or a similar field, PUC executive director Patricia Van Gerpen said.
Van Gerpen said she made the decision to hire Daugaard without influence from the governor's office or from the Public Utilities commissioners -- one of whom, Dusty Johnson, just accepted a position as Daugaard's chief of staff.
Jeff Erickson, the chairman of Daugaard's transition team, said Daugaard's team didn't exert any pressure to hire Chris Daugaard -- and didn't need to.
"It's hard to find the quality and the talent of both the grey matter and the ability to speak that Chris Daugaard has," Erickson said, adding that suggestions of nepotism were unfair. "To me, it's kind of a cheap shot. I'd get that if Chris Daugaard was getting a top-level job with a junior college degree. In fact, he has a degree with South Dakota State University with the highest honors and has been a top performer since his freshman year."
At SDSU, Chris Daugaard served as president of the Students' Association before graduating in May 2009 with a degree in business economics and political science. He received the university's largest merit scholarship, the Stephen F. Briggs Scholarship.
After graduation, Chris Daugaard worked for his father's election campaign.
Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or firstname.lastname@example.org