During my tenure as mayor of Rapid City, state legislator, president of city council, business owner and real estate appraiser, I learned early on to spot when an office or program was in trouble. What I have seen and known for years is that the South Dakota Evaluator Certification Program has broken down.
And a few weeks before the 2018 election, I said that directly to then-MP Kristi Noem before she became our governor. I went on to tell him that my strong recommendation, in his early days as governor, would be to address the issues with the appraiser certification program that were creating difficulties for SD citizens to complete home buying. My first and most important recommendation was for new leadership for the assessor certification program. The executive director for the past 30 years has been Sherry Bren, and from my experience as mayor, I couldn’t see how a 30-year-old bureaucrat would be willing or able to implement the kind of changes needed.
What prompted me to make this unsolicited recommendation to the current Governor Noem? It was my personal experience facing the state’s broken assessor certification program and watching the governor’s daughter go through the same issues as I did. This program had become a major barrier for qualified South Dakotas to enter a career as a professional appraiser, a career with an average salary almost double the median individual income in South Dakota.
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During the process of upgrading my assessor license from a state license to a higher level state certified residential assessor, I was contacted by the Executive Director of the Assessor Certification Program and Told me that one of my assessments being reviewed for my upgrade was flawed. . Insisting on an explanation of the shortcomings, as they had been reviewed without issue by industry reviewers, I was quite surprised when Sherry Bren, Executive Director of the South Dakota Assessor Certification Program, told me. said she could not answer as the shortcomings were due to the fact that she was not an appraiser.
This response from a government regulator will likely come as no surprise to any South Dakota who works in a specialized field such as the trades, as all too often the government career bureaucrats who are put in place to create and enforce rules. , too often have little or no experience in the field themselves.
Additionally, a government regulator that has never practiced in the profession it regulates, such as the South Dakota Appraiser Certification Program, can only see the system through the eyes of others. ‘a regulator that looks’ from above’. In my opinion, they do not have the prospect of seeing the sweeping reforms needed nor the desire to implement the necessary changes in the system.
As the legislature’s Government Operations and Audit (GOA) committee continues to investigate the current flaws in South Dakota’s appraiser certification program, I hope the first recommendation is that any regulator that oversees any state government program that regulates and has the power to grant a Professional Certificate, that the regulator itself has at least training in a related field or in the area of assessment, and preferably a certificate professional in the process of which he is the guardian.
As the GOA committee continues its work of overseeing operations and budgets, let’s hope they remain focused on the purpose and authority of the committee. Codified Law SD 2-6-2 states that the authority and purpose of GOA is “the investigation and review of any phase of the operations and fiscal affairs of any department, institution, council or agency of the state. “. Hopefully the GOA stays on track and remains focused on reforming the assessor certification program.
Unfortunately, while attending the last GOA meeting, I saw a circus start to unfold around Kassidy Peters, the governor’s daughter, and I couldn’t help but wonder why some members committee were working so hard to make it political and were clearly overstepping the committee’s purpose and authority, as the codified law SD 2-6-2 clearly states that
“It is not a legislative objective to subpoena a person or documents to collect information that can be used in criminal proceedings or to legally determine guilt or impose a sentence on an identifiable person.” The issue regarding the governor’s daughter is already being considered by the appropriate committee, the Government Accountability Board, a non-partisan board of retired judges who review all allegations of ethics and other types of violations.
So hopefully the Government Operations and Audit Committee will be able to find solutions to the problem facing the Evaluator Certification Program. As for the committee members and the media who keep trying to put the blame on someone for the replacement of the program general manager, you don’t have to look far, just look at this article author. . I was the one who pushed the governor to change, and I was the one who kept saying that we cannot fix the program without new leadership.
To Governor Noem’s credit, she is ready to take action and make the necessary changes to the process that will be welcomed by the assessors and beneficial to the citizens of SD who are frustrated with the delays in closing their new homes due to the lack of evaluators in SD.
Alan Hanks lives in Rapid City and is a past president of Rapid City Council, two terms as District 32 state legislator, two terms as mayor of Rapid City and real estate appraiser. He currently owns and operates the Heartland RV Park & Cabins south of Rapid City in Hermosa.