December 29, is officially Clayton Tucholke Day! Governor Dennis Daugaard issued an executive proclamation presented to Tucholke this morning during a meeting of the Grant County commissioners. It was Tucholke’s last meeting and marks the end of his 28 year tenure as District 2 County Commissioner.
“It’s my time,” Tucholke said. “I had a bucket list of things I wanted to get done and I’m pretty much at the end. Issues develop over time, but I have been most passionate about our roads and bridges. I accomplished all I set out to do and am honored the people put their trust in me so long.”
For 28 years, Tucholke had a front row seat at Grant County’s evolution. He remembered during his first term, the primary concern was winter road maintenance. “That has gotten way better,” he said. Now, he believes the board’s focus is wind farms. “There are always issues, but I think the next big one will be the wind farm towers. We can see it coming and people are not happy about it.”
Another issue Tucholke remains concerned about is road maintenance. “People run overweight loads all the time. A lot of farmers are also operating semis now; many don’t think the rules apply to them. We are hauling more commodities to market than we did 30 years ago. If we don’t pave the roads, they won’t be able to take it. Anytime you ruin a road, you pay for it with taxes.”
The most controversial issue to confront the board during his tenure, he said, was CAFOs. “But you have to be fair to everyone. You can’t govern with emotion. You might want to sometimes, but you can’t. You have to keep emotion out of it.”
Clayton added that there will always be a difference of opinions among citizens of the county as well as among the five commissioners serving on the board. But his main philosophy in dealing with those divides is simply to work together for the good of everyone. “You can’t let issues divide you. You don’t have to agree, but at the end of the day you have to work together and follow the rules that are set out before you.”
“Clayton will be missed,” stated Grant County Auditor Karen Layher. “He always had a great sense of fairness and strong common sense. He appreciated all the department heads and trusted them to manage. He listened to everyone and got things done.”
“He is a wealth of knowledge,” stated board chair Doug Stengel. “He has a phenomenal memory that we relied on to explain why and when things were done. Clayton listens to reason and sticks to decisions made.”
Tucholke, a lifelong farmer, said he always had an interest in politics, but initially ran for office because a vacated seat needed to be filled and nobody wanted to run. He also spent 21 years on the Whetstone Valley Electric Cooperative Board of Directors – 10 of those as president. “I enjoy the political process. I’ve spent half of my life on elected boards.”
Tucholke leaves some big shoes to fill, but his advice to his successor is simple. “Be honest with people. If you don’t know the answer, find it. Trust your people and don’t do more than you can do. Take time to listen to everyone and treat them fair. Above all, deal with issues right away and head on. Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Clayton Tucholke with his wife Denise, his daughter Sarah, her husband Mark, and their children Oliver and James.