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Noem fills final vacancy in state legislature

Brent Duerre

The South Dakota Legislature is once again fully staffed.

Gov. Kristi Noem filled the last vacancy Monday by appointing Mike Walsh to District 35’s open Senate seat.

 According to governor’s office, Walsh has years of experience in both law enforcement and the U.S. Marine Corps.

“Throughout my professional life, I have been inspired by a belief that government exists solely to benefit the lives of citizens,” said Walsh, who is a Republican. “I bring to this role a well-rounded background in public service, including years of experience in both law enforcement and the United States Marine Corps, my chairmanship of a regional nonprofit, and relationships with local government.”

Walsh spent decades in the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Offices, serving in various roles that included captain and polygraph examiner before moving to the Black Hills following his retirement. Since then, Walsh has served as South Dakota Fraternal Order of Police president and owns a polygraph examiners business based in Rapid City.

District 35 includes eastern Rapid City and Box Elder. Its Senate seat has been open since last August when former Sen. Jessica Castleberry resigned after accepting state COVID relief funds for her child care business. Noem waited to fill the seat until the state Supreme Court weighed in on lawmaker conflict of interest concerns, which it did last week.

Walsh's appointment is effective immediately. He said he plans to be in Pierre by Wednesday.

Noem filled another Black Hills-area legislative vacancy shortly after the Supreme Court's advisory opinion by appointing Kristin Conzet to represent District 32 in the House of Representatives.

The appointments mean all districts seats are filled as the 2024 legislative session hits the midway point.