Capital For A Day, a Philip success

Traffic, but no sidewalks, on School Hill ... Ralph Kemnitz (left) and Julie Kemnitz chat with Gov. Rounds about concerns in Philip. Rounds fielded many items with many Philip area people during the afternoon and evening of August 28.

"Put me through my paces with a question and answer session," said South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds. And that is what the citizens of the Philip area did.

The Q&A session ended the governor's speech, which ended the community banquet, which ended Philip being the South Dakota Capital For A Day on Thursday, August 28. The day officially began at 2:30, with cabinet members and top state department employees touring the town of Philip.

But, the day's activities had begun before that. The Philip High School held an assembly where head people from the SD Bureau of Personnel offered information and job-seeking tactics to the students. The SD Highway Patrol was already conducting Fatal Vision golf cart driving runs to simulate the visual and reaction impairment of driving drunk. State employees had unofficially begun the information booth expo that was in full swing at 4:30.

Governor Rounds got to the Philip High School via the airport and immediately began listening to people's compliments, complaints and ideas. Waiting in friendly ambush were the top six academic students from the four high school grades. The 24 students had been invited to discuss topics one-on-one with Gov. Rounds. Rounds promoted state internship programs, explained college scholarships and encouraged students to stay in South Dakota to make their careers.

Meanwhile, many of the cabinet and government departments were on a guided tour. For several weeks, the City of Philip had asked citizens to help spruce up yards, parks, streets and buildings for the tour. The town looked extra sharp. Officials saw and heard about the importance to the community of the school, Scotchman Industries, the Fire Hall, Lasting Legacy, the hospital, Kiddie Park and swimming pool, fish farm, golf course, Lake Waggoner and Philip's volunteerism in general.

At the Philip Ambulance building, state people from the Department of Public Safety were part of a roundtable discussion that mostly dealt with first responder concerns. Tom Drawland said, "The goal isn't really for us to come out here and tell you what we are doing, but to hear from you how things are going." Lola Roseth, emergency manager for Haakon County, said, "In surrounding areas, volunteers are burning out, and we are starting to feel it here." Don Weller, head of the Philip Ambulance Service, reported that Emergency Medical Technicians classes are being held in Philip, then said, "We are doing fairly well, but other areas are looking even toward tax-based services."

At the Philip Health Services, Inc., top members of the Department of Social Services were touring the facility. Deb Bowman, secretary of the department, said, "It is critical that we have home health. Another thing we are discussing is delegation of duties of nurses, which is a touchy subject. We've got to do something a whole lot better than we are doing now." Jerry Hofer, another secretary for the department, said, "The only time I've needed to be in a hospital was in Philip and that was a good experience."

Back at the school, Rounds resumed listening to individuals and giving replies. Subjects included concerns of truck traffic through the middle of town along a route which runs near the schools and where there are no sidewalks for pedestrians. Often, more details were needed and he referred people to the agency experts at the expo booths that filled the gymnasium.

While the dinner was going on, more students sat with state department representatives in order to continue discussions. After the meal, the program began. Rounds began his remarks. He said that the concept for Capital For A Day began during Gov. George Mickelson's term from 1987 to 1993. Rounds revived the idea in 2003 and it has since been held in 33 different South Dakota communities.

"Capital For A Day is meant to bring government back to the people and to give the government a chance to find out what people have to say," said Rounds. He complimented Philip's water system, stressing that good quality water must be available throughout South Dakota. Rounds complimented all the emergency first responders on their NIMS training compliance with emergencies. The eight year drought, the grass fires last year and the flooding this year have already tested the course's hierarchical training.

Rounds bragged about Philip's economic accomplishments. From 2003 to 2007, there were 10 business start-ups or expansions. One and a half million dollars have been used for capital improvements. Taxable sales have increased over four percent. He also noted that, with farmers and ranchers using better machinery, there is less need for manpower. The Haakon County workforce has diminished by 125 individuals.

"People of this area must find out what your resources are and tell us how we can help," said Rounds. "We will help, wherever we can, through grants, loans, information, whatever. We must continue to provide youngsters with the quality of life that often cannot be found except in South Dakota, particularly in western South Dakota."

After complimenting the proficiency of the students, the quality of life, and the quality of individuals in the Philip area, Rounds opened the room up for questions and answers. Then, he concluded by praising the commitment South Dakota has toward its military personnel. "Twenty-six of South Dakota's soldiers have given their all. To the people in this room, those numbers are not cold. What an impact it would be for a small town to lose one of its own. How do you take away sons from a community and deal with that kind of sorrow? But, like the town of Parkston, Philip has ties to two such soldiers, one the resident of Cory Brooks and two the family relation of Dan Bartels. As members of a community, they understood the sacrifice was not as a loss, but for the ability to decide one's life, such as choosing a profession, and for the opportunity to worship the good Lord as we see fit." Rounds asked for all veterans, all current military members and for families of soldiers to stand and be honored.