Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) announced yesterday that he wants to replace Jarrod Johnson as our Commissioner of School and Public Lands. Read that job title carefully: he wouldn't get to commission schools; rather, he'd be in charge of school lands and other public lands.
I don't mind Bolin's leaving the Legislature to run for a different office. His departure may improve Ann Tornberg's chances of winning a District 16 seat, if she's willing to run for a third-time charm. The Displaced Plainsman and Joel Rosenthal both vouch for Bolin's thoughtfulness and commitment to doing right by education. Bolin has won my respect with constitutional good sense and rhetorical passion ("Nullification? No! Never! We will not have nullification!").
But burying that sense and passion in the School and Public Lands office a terrible waste. I'd love to see Bolin use a statewide campaign to lead a public conversation about educational issues, like the Common Core standards he so staunchly opposes. I'd enjoy watching Bolin get fired up in a debate about weighty Constitutional issues. Bolin backs some bad policies (guns in schools, gold and silver currency, Keystone XL), but it would at least be fun to listen to him hash them out in a debate.
Alas, as a candidate for the School and Public Lands office, Bolin wouldn't get to discuss any of those issues. He'd be talking about whether the state should sell some old dams. If elected, he'd oversee some land deals and distribute funds as dictated by the Legislature. I welcome correction from the comment section, but Commissioner of School and Public Lands strikes me as one of the dullest jobs on the ballot.
It's too bad we don't have an elected Commissioner of Schools as Montana, Wyoming, and eleven other states have and as Louisiana is considering. Bolin could make a race for that position exciting and, if elected, stop the state Board of Education from doing really bad things (like dropping the speech graduation requirement that helps make South Dakota students exceptionally good speakers, a change that is quietly in the works in Pierre, thanks to Common Core). Absent that opportunity, Bolin's commitment to constitutional propriety and listening to all sides could make him a good pick to oust Jason Gant from the Secretary of State's office or even to run for the House seat that Rep. Kristi Noem may vacate to climb her next celebrity rung to the U.S. Senate.
But School and Public Lands? Come on, Jim! I know we need good people for every job, but you can have a lot more fun running a different campaign.