Tim L. Waltner, former publisher of the Freeman Courier, and Kelli Bultena, publisher of the Lennox Independent, stand with South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard following Daugaard's acceptance of the Eagle Award Friday afternoon, May 4. The award was presented as part of the 136th annual South Dakota Newspaper Association (SDNA) Convention in Sioux Falls May 3-5 in recognition of the governor's efforts to strengthen open meeting laws and increase transparency in state government.
In his introductory comments, Waltner — who chairs the SDNA First Amendment Committee which makes the selection — noted Daugaard’s efforts toward better openness in South Dakota:
The governor has improved public access to various state government functions and entities, including the creation of a website for searching meeting agendas, minutes and other documents for state boards and commissions.
The governor and Attorney General Marty Jackley appointed a task force in 2012 to make legislative recommendations for open government issues. Five of the eight recommendations made by the task force ultimately became law.
After he took office during his first term, the governor made public the names of people invited to the annual governor’s pheasant hunt in Pierre and the buffalo round-up at Custer State Park. Public access to those lists had earlier been a contentious issue with the news media.
Gov. Daugaard also has been a consistent and vocal supporter of the publication of public notices in local newspapers as an effective means for taxpayers to know what local government is doing …
All of us – journalists and citizens alike – are fortunate to have had Gov. Daugaard as an ally in protecting and strengthening the ideal that a well-informed citizenry is at the heart of our democracy.
The Eagle Award is given by the newspaper association to an individual or group that has demonstrated outstanding efforts to protect and enhance open government and the public’s right to know. Among the past recipients of the SDNA Eagle Award have been state Senator Corey Brown (2016), Sioux Falls resident Gordon Heber (2010), Attorney General Larry Long (2004) and the justices of the state Supreme Court in 2002 — the first year the award was given.