Organizers raise $162K from big donors for Noem inaugural
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- Organizers of Gov.-elect Kristi Noem's inaugural celebration have raised at least $162,500 from roughly 30 large donors -- including major health systems, big energy companies and state industry groups -- for the ceremonies and festivities.
Top-tier donations to the city of Pierre's inaugural committee include $12,500 from Avera Health, $10,000 from biofuels producer POET and $10,000 from Keystone XL oil pipeline developer TransCanada, according to a list of sponsors provided by the city. The incoming Republican governor will be sworn in to office Saturday, followed by events that include a ball in the Capitol rotunda and another at a Pierre event center.
The celebration's estimated budget is $150,000 and is funded by the donations and ticket sales, city spokeswoman Brooke Bohnenkamp said in an email. More than 1,200 tickets have been sold so far. Inaugural Chair Matt Judson said the group doesn't consult with the governor-elect or any elected officials about donors to ask for support.
Noem spokeswoman Kristin Wileman said in a statement that the inaugural committee finished most of the fundraising before voters chose Noem as governor in November.
After taking her oath of office, Noem will give an inaugural address. She's set to discuss her plan to tackle the challenges ahead for South Dakota's next generation, Wileman said. The ceremony and a receiving line afterward are free and open to the public.
"The time with my family over the holidays was rejuvenating. It was also a good time to reflect on life's blessings and the responsibilities that are ahead of me," Noem said in the statement. "I'm ready to get to work for the people of South Dakota."
State legislators and other officials will also be sworn in Saturday.
Among the dozen sponsors that gave $5,000 are pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Dakotas-based Sanford Health, Xcel Energy and clean energy company Avangrid Renewables. The seven companies that gave at least $10,000 include T. Denny Sanford's First Premier Bank, Florida-based NextEra Energy, gas and electric utility Black Hills Energy, and BNSF Railway.
BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said donating to the inauguration helps give support to an event many people attend, and the company looks forward to working with Noem. The railroad has about 900 miles of track and roughly 600 employees in South Dakota.
"We support officeholders who recognize the importance of a strong rail network," said McBeth, noting that the company provides similar support in other states.
For Dennis Daugaard's inauguration in 2015, organizers received $80,000 in sponsorships, while ticket sales covered the remainder of the roughly $102,000 celebration, Bohnenkamp said. Most of the 17 corporate sponsors from 2015 also contributed to this year's inauguration.
Judson, who helped lead planning for the 2015 inauguration, said preparations for the upcoming celebration have been in the works for roughly a year.
"For the city of Pierre, it's a chance to welcome citizens from all across our great state," he said.
A four-term congresswoman, Noem is trading Washington for Pierre once she's sworn in. Noem will be South Dakota's first female governor, a milestone she called a "unique honor" but one that she didn't emphasize during her campaign.
"I was raised in a family that didn't have boy chores or girl chores. There was just work to get done, and we'd be measured by the results," Noem said. "That's always been my approach to every job I've had."