Record of Experience

South Dakota's 31st Governor

Mike Rounds: 2003–2010


When Mike Rounds became governor of South Dakota, he used the occasion of his first inaugural address to talk about how we can make South Dakota even better. 

Former Governor Rounds said, “We live in the greatest state and the greatest nation in the world… and the only way that we'll ever know whether or not we have accomplished our task is when our kids, our children, and our grandchildren tell us that they are just as proud of this state and this country as you and I are today.”

He never forgot the responsibility government has to protect the rights and liberty of citizens.

“We protect those who cannot protect themselves – the very young, the very old. We protect society from those who would do us harm, and we provide quality education for our children,” the then-Governor told his inaugural audience.

He also never forgot about the importance of our servicemen and women fighting to defend our freedoms. The United States was fighting a war on terror during all of his years in office and Mike frequently paid tribute to members of the military.  He also organized the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials.

Former Governor Rounds’ goal from the beginning was to help South Dakota grow and prosper while keeping taxes low. As governor, he launched several initiatives to attract and expand businesses, develop our economy, create jobs, improve education, and enhance the quality of life in South Dakota.

Among the many successes in during his years in office were enhanced economic development and tourism, university and technical school scholarship programs, greatly increased research and technology at state universities, accelerated development of the ethanol and wind energy sectors, and beginning construction of a science and engineering laboratory in the Homestake Mine at Lead.

Economy

  • 28,000 more people with jobs in South Dakota at the end of 2010, compared to December 2002 despite the worst recession in our country since the Great Depression
  • South Dakota's unemployment rate during that time was among the lowest of all states, and it was half of the national average even during the recession (2009-2010)
  • Large increases in South Dakota’s Gross Domestic Product and visitor spending
  • Accelerated development of the ethanol and wind energy sectors
  • Saving Ellsworth Air Force Base from closure in 2005 by a federal commission
  • Beginning construction of the Sanford Underground Laboratory at Homestake and initialization of the first experiments at that 4,850-foot level of the mine

Education

Former Governor Rounds recognized that people, especially the young, are the state’s greatest asset. He placed special emphasis on ensuring access to a quality education and keeping more of our graduates in the state by fostering an atmosphere in which they could find good jobs and enjoy an excellent quality of life. Mike's vision resulted in:

  • Expanded university and technical school scholarship programs
  • Record-breaking enrollments at state universities and technical schools
  • Established 10 nationally competitive research centers at state-supported universities
  • Greatly increased PhD programs at the six state-supported universities
  • K-12 schools were receiving $109 million more annually in 2010 compared to 2003, or an average of $80 million more per year during that period

Government Efficiency

Former Governor Rounds demanded government efficiency and often reminded his cabinet of such. He was mindful that state government is taxpayer funded, and he wanted to collect no more in taxes than necessary to provide essential and important services for South Dakotans.

  • The state budget, although under extreme pressure from falling revenues and increasing Medicaid rolls during the national recession late in then-Governor Rounds’ second term, was balanced in each of his years in office – with only minimal tax changes
  • As 2010 drew to a close, the state had reserves of $107.5 million, slightly more than eight years earlier

Quality of Life

  • Expanded hunting and fishing opportunities across the state
  • Funding for many important projects providing clean water for South Dakota citizens
  • Proclaiming 2010 as the Year of Unity in South Dakota

Near the end of his second term, former Governor Rounds reflected on his eight-year tenure in the state’s highest office:

I've tried to make a great state even better. Being governor was the best experience of my life. I looked at it as an opportunity to make a difference. It was a gift by South Dakotans to elect me, and I have tried to repay it.