Brunner announces bid for public lands commissioner

South Dakota’s deputy public lands commissioner will run for the office’s top job next year.

Ryan Brunner, 29, announced Monday that he would run for Commissioner of School and Public Lands.

"I bring a lot of different things to my office through my background in agriculture and economic development," said Brunner, who grew up on a Nisland ranch.

The current commissioner, Vern Larson, only started last week. He was appointed to replace Jarrod Johnson, who resigned this month. Johnson would have been barred from running again due to term limits.

Brunner was appointed deputy commissioner in 2012. Prior to joining the office, he worked for three years at the Brookings Economic Development Corporation.

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. It leases its lands for ranching, oil and gas exploration and other uses. 

If elected, Brunner said he wants to find “new ways to generate money for schools.” Among his ideas are to shrink the size of oil leases South Dakota offers to match standard practice in North Dakota.

Brunner is the second Republican to enter the race. State Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, previously announced his candidacy.

"I anticipated all along it would be a competitive race," Bolin said. "It doesn’t change my plans or my efforts at all."

Bolin entered the race in March. Before his announcement today, Brunner had been quietly building support among party insiders for months. He said he decided to run after receiving encouragement from fellow Republicans.

Brunner and Bolin won’t be competing for votes from the public at first. Instead, they’ll be courting Republican Party activists who will choose their party’s nominee for Commissioner of School and Public Lands at a June 2014 convention.