Bolin announces candidacy for School & Public Lands commissioner

A state legislator on Monday declared his candidacy to be the state’s next commissioner of School and Public Lands.

Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, announced his decision to a meeting of fellow Republican lawmakers gathered in Pierre for the final day of the 2013 legislative session.

Bolin is the first candidate to announce for the statewide office, which current commissioner Jarrod Johnson is vacating due to term limits.

Other candidates are expected to emerge over the coming weeks.

Bolin, a former teacher who has also served as the mayor of Canton, will finish out his current term in the Legislature, his third, but won’t seek his fourth and final term in the House next year. 

He said his background in education, along with his time working on the state’s budgets as a member of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, makes him a good fit for the job.

"I believe my experience and my working in schools will help me be an effective (commissioner)," said Bolin.

The office of School and Public Lands manages state-owned lands across South Dakota, directing revenue from those lands to K-12 school districts and the state university system. It controls just over 700,000 acres and a $170 million trust fund, and typically sends around $10 million per year to education.

Political parties nominate candidates for commissioner of School and Public Lands through their statewide conventions, not primary elections. Republican delegates from around the state will decide between Bolin and any other rivals in June 2014.

If elected, Bolin said one of his priorities will be to spark a new conversation about many of the 80-year-old dams the office owns — dams that either need maintenance or destruction, he said.

He also said his status living near the Sioux Falls population center would make him a strong candidate in the general election.