Former South Dakota Governor Marion Michael “Mike” Rounds was born in Huron, South Dakota on October 24, 1954. The eldest of 11 siblings, he has spent his entire life in South Dakota. Rounds’ career has been entirely in the private sector, building a successful insurance and real estate business with offices in Pierre, Rapid City, Watertown, Mitchell, and Sioux Falls.
Mike Rounds earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from South Dakota State University where he met his wife, Jean Vedvei. Together, they have four children: Christopher, Brian, Carrie, and John. They are also proud grandparents of six grandchildren.
From 1991 to 2000, then-Governor Rounds was elected to five terms in the South Dakota State Senate. In 1995, he was chosen by his peers to serve as Senate Majority Leader, a post he held for six years.
Mike was sworn in as South Dakota’s 31st governor on January 7, 2003, and re-elected in 2006. He was committed to growing South Dakota’s economy, improving the daily lives of South Dakota citizens, and providing opportunities for young people to stay in South Dakota while holding taxes to a minimum.
Governor Rounds launched several initiatives that were designed to attract and expand businesses, create jobs, better educate youth, and improve the quality of life in South Dakota.
Among successes during his time in office were enhanced economic development and tourism, university and technical school scholarship programs, greatly increased research, and beginning construction of a science and engineering laboratory in the Homestake Mine at Lead.
Former Governor Rounds recognized that people, especially South Dakota’s young people, are the state’s greatest assets. He therefore placed special emphasis on the young, making sure they had the opportunity for a quality education and providing incentives for them to stay in the state by fostering an atmosphere in which they could find good jobs and enjoy an excellent quality of life.
During his time in office, Rounds demanded government efficiency and often reminded his cabinet of that responsibility. He was mindful that a state government is taxpayer funded, and wanted to collect no more in taxes than necessary to provide essential and important services for South Dakotans.
Among the many major accomplishments and initiatives during former Governor Rounds’ eight years in office were:
- Beginning construction of the Sanford Underground Laboratory at Homestake and initialization of the first experiments at the 4,850-foot level of the mine; the mine is well on its way to becoming a world-class research facility
- Large increases in South Dakota’s Gross Domestic Product and visitor spending
- Over 25,000 more people with jobs in South Dakota at the end of 2010, compared to eight years earlier – despite the national recession
- Substantial advancement of the ethanol and wind energy sectors
- Establishing 10 nationally competitive research centers at state-supported universities
- Record state university and technical school enrollments
- Creation of university and technical institute scholarship programs, providing more than $15 million in scholarships
- Greatly increased PhD programs at the six state-supported universities
- K-12 schools received $109 million more annually in 2010 compared to 2003, when Rounds first took office as governor
- Saving Ellsworth Air Force Base from closure in 2005 by a federal commission
Under former Governor Rounds’ leadership, South Dakota ranked in the following areas:
- #1 in State Tax Business Climate Index (Tax Foundation)
- #1 Small Business Survival Index (Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council)
- #1 Business Tax Index: State Tax Systems for Entrepreneurship & Small Business (Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council)
- 2nd Lowest state tax rate per capita in the nation.
Mike Rounds served as chairman of the Western Governors Association, chairman of the Midwest Governors Association, vice-chair of the National Governors Association Economic Development and Commerce Committee and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Governors Association, and National President of the Council of State Governments. Former Governor Rounds was also appointed by President Barack Obama as a charter member of the Council of Governors.
Since completing his second term in office, Mike has returned to his insurance and real estate business. He is active in the Bipartisan Policy Council as a charter member of the Governors’ Council made up of former governors, and co-leader of the “Health Project” at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Additionally, he is the co-chairman of the Immigration Task Force, sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.