Dennis Daugaard is South Dakota's 32nd Governor.
Daugaard grew up on his family's dairy farm between Garretson and Dell Rapids. Daugaard's grandparents had come from Denmark and purchased the farm in 1911. Both of his parents were born deaf, making sign language the principle means of communication for his family. Daugaard has been certified as an interpreter for the deaf in American Sign Language.
Daugaard attended a one-room country school near his home until the seventh grade, when the school was consolidated into the Dell Rapids School District. Following graduation from Dell Rapids High School in 1971, Daugaard attended the University of South Dakota. He worked his way through school with jobs of washing dishes, waiting tables, welding on the Load King assembly line, and sandblasting and painting water towers for Maguire Iron. Daugaard graduated from USD in 1975 with a B.S. in Government and minors in mathematics and psychology.
Following graduation, Daugaard attended law school at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. During law school, he held jobs as a bus driver, law clerk and security guard. After earning his law degree in 1978, Daugaard passed the Illinois bar exam and worked in the Chicago area for three years.
Daugaard moved back to South Dakota in 1981 to marry his high school girlfriend, Linda Schmidt. Two years later, they purchased the Daugaard family farmsite where, over the next year, they built their own home. Their children Laura, Sara and Chris are the fourth generation of Daugaards to live on the family farm.
From 1981 to 1990, Daugaard worked for what is now US Bank in Sioux Falls. Daugaard was ultimately promoted to Vice President, and was responsible for trust administration and new business development in eastern South Dakota.
In 1990, Daugaard left the bank to become the Development Director of the Children's Home Foundation, the fundraising arm of Children's Home Society of South Dakota. Daugaard worked for 12 years in that position. In 2002, he became Executive Director of Children's Home Society of South Dakota. Daugaard left Children's Home Society on October 31, 2009 to focus full-time on his campaign for governor.
Daugaard became involved in politics in 1996 when he was elected to the state Legislature. He was re-elected by wide margins in 1998 and 2000. His legislative record was particularly focused on protecting children, helping the disabled, and getting tough on crime.
In June 2002, Mike Rounds selected Daugaard to be his running mate as the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. The Rounds/Daugaard team was elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006. As lieutenant governor, Daugaard served as President of the Senate, was instrumental in the creation of the SD Ellsworth Development Authority, and was a leader of the SD Honor Flight program.
Daugaard successfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in June 2010, winning 50 percent in a five-person field. He and his running mate, former house speaker Matt Michels of Yankton, were elected in November 2010 with 62 percent of the vote - the highest for a new governor in over sixty years. He was sworn in as Governor on January 8, 2011. During his first year in office, Daugaard worked with the legislature to eliminate a $127 million structural deficit, without raising taxes. Last summer, he led successful state emergency response efforts to protect Pierre, Ft. Pierre, Dakota Dunes, and other river communities from massive flooding. This year, Daugaard proposed and signed legislation to focus new state dollars for education on student achievement through teacher bonuses. Daugaard has committed most of his time to creating jobs through expansion of South Dakota businesses and recruitment of new businesses.