Governor-elect Kristi Noem wants to make Hot Springs a vacation destination for veterans from across the United States, she said during a post-election rally Monday at the Holiday Inn Rapid City-Rushmore Plaza.
Noem’s visit to Rapid City fell on the day after Veterans Day. She spoke briefly to a crowd of about 200 supporters and also took questions.
One attendee asked Noem about Hot Springs and its U.S. Veterans Affairs health-care campus, which Noem helped protect from closure while serving as a congresswoman.
“My vision is that Hot Springs will be America’s veterans town,” Noem said.
Noem said she has already spoken to the mayor and city council members in Hot Springs about the idea, and she said it will require cooperation from the state’s tourism and economic development officials to put the city on the map as a vacation spot geared toward veterans.
Another priority Noem mentioned Monday is her plan to install some caseworkers in the governor’s office to work on behalf of constituents who encounter problems with state offices, similar to the way congressional offices use field staffers to work on behalf of constituents who encounter problems with federal agencies.
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Noem, a Republican, defeated Democratic nominee Billie Sutton 51-48 percent in the Nov. 6 general election for governor. Her Monday visit to Rapid City was billed as an “All in for South Dakota Rally.” She use it as an opportunity to thank campaign workers, volunteers and supporters.
Noem said she is heading to Pierre for the rest of the week to work on the transition that will usher her into office in January.
As she begins forming her administration, Noem said she is thinking of her late father, a farmer and rancher who would often start the day early by telling his children, “We’re burning daylight.”
Noem and her siblings farmed and ranched together for nearly 25 years after her father’s death in a 1994 farming accident, she said, and she hopes to foster similar opportunities for South Dakota children to stay and work in the state rather than leave for jobs elsewhere.
“We should be actively every morning getting up focused on making sure we’re bringing industries to our state, and that we’re growing businesses in small towns,” Noem said, “so that they can stay right here.”