Noem appoints former news anchor to South Dakota legislature

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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is tapping former Rapid City news anchor and news director Helene Duhamel to fill a vacant South Dakota Senate seat.

This is one of Noem’s seven vacancies she has been tasked with filling in her first year alone.

Duhamel is currently the public information officer for the Pennington County Sherrif’s Office.

She is the recipient of the South Dakota Broadcasters’ Tom Brokaw Award and was inducted into the Upper Midwest Regional Emmys Silver Circle.

Duhamel is replacing Sen. Alan Solano, who resigned.

“The responsibility to appoint a legislator when a vacancy arises is not something I take lightly,” Noem said in a statement. “Helene is a pillar of her community and a trusted voice for Rapid City. Helene’s experience as a journalist and more recently in the Pennington County Sheriff’s office will position her well to succeed in the State Legislature. I am confident she will serve as an effective Senator for her district.”

Duhamel’s appointment is effective immediately.

As KELOLAND Capitol News Bureau reporter Bob Mercer noted in a recent report, “it’s an unusual arrangement, in that it blurs an otherwise clear separation of powers and geography between the governor, whose office is on the Capitol’s second floor, and the 70 House members and the 35 senators, who operate in the two legislative chambers on the third floor, and hold most of their hearings on the fourth.”

There is talk to limit the governor’s power on legislative vacancies. Her press secretary talked to Mercer last month,

“Governor Noem would want to see the detailed language on any possible change to the constitution, but on the whole, she believes the current process for filling legislative vacancies works well,” Kristin Wileman said.

Since Mercer’s report on the possible changes, a seventh vacancy opened up with the resignation of Sen. Lyndi DiSanto.

As for Duhamel, she will represent District 32.