When incoming Secretary of State Shantel Krebs announced she was hiring Brown County GOP chairman Jason Williams to serve as her public information officer, I wondered if she was expanding government to make room for what looked like a little partisan patronage.

Secretary Krebs tells this blog there's no government expansion going on under her watch. Secretary Krebs says that, while she is still bound by law to operate under her predecessor Jason Gant's budget until the end of the fiscal year on June 30, she's already making the office run leaner. Gant's budget included 15.6 full-time equivalents (FTEs). Right now, Secretary Krebs is holding down the fort with 13.5 FTEs. That's not just a temporary lag in bringing new people on board; Secretary Krebs says that's plenty. The Secretary's office has not prepared a budget proposal yet (they have petition reform legislation to write up for tomorrow's pre-filing deadline—stay tuned for a post on that topic over the weekend!), but Secretary Krebs says that instead of continuing the 15.6 FTE allocation found in Governor Daugaard's FY 2016 proposal, she may knock another half FTE off her current staff and budget 13.0 FTE.

Multiple Krebs staff members are thus picking up duties that were spread among others in the Gant office. Secretary Krebs says PIO Williams is no exception. In addition to getting the word out about SOS activities to the public, Williams will handle special projects, like Secretary Krebs's initiative to increase voter turnout. Secretary Krebs says Williams is already studying turnout data, breaking it down by age group, and thinking about which voters to target and how. Expect PIO Williams to be getting out to schools, talking with voters, and looking for answers to our dwindling turnout.

In addition, Williams will track legislation for the Secretary of State's office. He'll be following the progress of the reforms proposed by the Board of Elections. He'll also keep an eye out for new bills from legislators and researching their impact on the office. He'll report on those bills to the boss, the Secretary herself, who will then speak to legislators in committee and in the lobby, as necessary, to protect the interests of fair elections and other functions of the Secretary of State.

Secretary Krebs says Williams and the rest of her staff are putting in overtime and delivering "exceptional" customer service. The Secretary herself seems to be setting the pace. Consider that, in response to a media inquiry from this blog, the Secretary herself texted me at 6:25 a.m. today. She had meetings all day, but she arranged to visit with me on the phone at 6:30 p.m. She said she had 10 minutes; she gave me 19.

I did not keep track of the multiple times I left messages for Secretary Gant and never heard back from him. But so far, Secretary Krebs is batting 1.000 on fielding media requests from the Madville Times. Perhaps the state's chief election officer has bigger fish to fry than speaking to some blogger, but I find my first interaction with the new election chief... satisfactory.


Shantel Krebs opens 2015 with a splendid example of Republicans promoting big government and regulatory capture.

Our new Secretary of State, who takes her oath tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., a week and a day before any other new constitutional officer, announces that she is hiring young but veteran GOP campaigner Jason Williams as her Public Information Officer. Darn—and I was hoping Jason would step away from politics and make his fortune building straw bale houses.

But hold on: a public information officer for the Secretary of State? Does that position exist? I could be wrong, but I don't recall Secretary Gant having a designated spokesman or spinmeister. It's hard to check, because the currently grossly ego-centric Secretary of State website lists no one's name but the Secretary's. The contact page lists the various services but doesn't tell us with whom we'll be speaking. The contact page lists no PIO or media contact person. Secretary Gant's press releases seemed to come out under his own name, listing him and not a PIO as the contact person. Is this one more sign that Republican Krebs is really a big government liberal?

Whether Krebs is really expanding the SOS budget or will cover her press man's pay by cutting some other vital service, Krebs is letting a fox into the henhouse. Williams is a veteran campaigner, having worked for Mike Rounds, Kristi Noem, Steve Barnett, and the state GOP. The Secretary of State's office exists to regulate political campaign organizations. In hiring Williams, Krebs appears to be giving in to the partisan pressures that are pulling Secretaries of State across the country away from their duty to act as fair, non-partisan umpires of elections.

And hey, we were all looking forward to seeing Shantel's smiling face and hearing her dulcet tones on the airwaves! Now we're stuck listening to some PIO? Booo!


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