In a surprising move, South Dakota’s public lands commissioner will resign a year and a half before the end of his term.
Jarrod Johnson, 42, was elected in 2010 to a four-year term. But instead he’ll leave office in August to spend more time with his children, including his son Clayton, who is about to start high school, and a daughter, Anna, in grade school.
"I’m going home to my family," said Johnson, a Corson rancher. "It’s time. (Clayton will) be a freshman. I don’t want to miss his high school years, even one moment of them."
Johnson, first elected to be commissioner of the Office of School and Public Lands in 2006, was prohibited by term limits from running again.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard will appoint a replacement to fill out the remainder of Johnson’s term.
The governor is undecided about whether to appoint a placeholder or someone who will run for a full term in 2014 as an incumbent.
There’s already one declared candidate for lands commissioner in 2014, state Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton.
But Bolin is constitutionally ineligible, as a sitting legislator, to be appointed to the job until the end of his term.
Daugaard “knows there’s already one declared candidate on the Republican side, and a couple others that are widely rumored,” gubernatorial adviser Tony Venhuizen said. “It certainly appears that there will be a Republican contest for that nomination. Those will be factors as he decides how to move forward.”
Among the rumored candidates is Johnson’s deputy, Ryan Brunner, who would be eligible to be appointed to the position.
Bolin said he was “surprised” by the news but plans to stay in the race.
"It doesn’t really change my plans at all," Bolin said.
Johnson said the resignation wasn’t political, and that he didn’t know Bolin and other legislators were ineligible for the appointment.
"It’s just one of those things where it’s time for me to get my butt home," Johnson said. "There was no intention of any political gamesmanship in that move."
The commissioner of school and public lands manages more than 750,000 acres of state-owned land, the mineral rights for 5.2 million acres and a trust fund of more than $170 million. Revenue from those three areas gets directed to support education.