• Brookings businessman, school board member looking for seat on county commission
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of four profiles of candidates for Brookings County Commission. Tom Yseth is seeking the post for the first time as an Independent candidate. Also running for one of two open spots on the commission are Republicans Alan Gregg and Ryan Krogman and Independent Larry Jensen.
BROOKINGS – Tom Yseth tells people he came to Brookings by accident in 1971 but has stayed on purpose. While here, he has served the city in a variety of leadership roles. He’d like to take on another role this fall, that of Brookings County commissioner.
Yseth said no one concern has prompted him to run for the job.
“I just want to do a good job, listen to the people,” he said. “That’s my campaign, ‘Listen and Lead.’ Hear what people have to say and try to implement it and lead.”
Yseth, 64, is originally from Pipestone, Minn. He and his wife, Gwen, have three grown daughters, two of whom still live in Brookings.
Yseth lives in the City of Brookings. He also owns land in Bangor Township, just west of Volga, and keeps a dozen Angus heifers there that he’s raising as breeding stock.
But he’s not in the cattle business.
“I bought some land, I’ve got some cows, but I’m not an ag producer by any means,” he said. “But, it sure keeps me busy, and it’s taught me a lot.”
His background is hospitality services: He previously owned The Ram restaurant in downtown Brookings and, until a few years ago, owned part of Arlington’s 1481 Grille. Now he is an adjunct lecturer of hospitality management at South Dakota State University, teaching his eighth unique class this semester.
Yseth is currently a member of the Brookings School Board, where his second term expires in December; he did not run for re-election. He said education is very important to him, but a person loses his freshness and drive if he remains on any one board for too long. He wants to be highly motivated while he’s serving.
“I’ve always been fascinated with politics, since I could read a newspaper, actually,” he said. “And I’m pretty familiar with government and I’m pretty familiar with how it works, and I think a lot of good can be done. I did the school board first because I thought I could do more good there immediately. I really put education way up there.”
Yseth is not “a retail politician,” he said. The goal of his campaign is to let people know who he is, then let them vote as they think best.
“Low budget, low key,” Yseth said of the campaign. “It doesn’t reflect my desire to do the job. I’ve just been around here a long time. And the people that know me, they either think I can do the job for them or I can’t.“
For those who don’t know him, Yseth has created a flier listing his experience: He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and accounting from St. John’s University, and is a former U.S. Army officer and a small business owner since 1971.
He has served or is now serving on the Governor’s Business Recruitment Council, Governor’s GOLD Community Selection Committee, Brookings Industrial Development Committee (precursor to the Brookings Economic Development Corporation), S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Commission, Brookings Parks Board, NWGF Mutual Insurance Board of Directors, Brookings Chamber of Commerce and Brookings Foundation.
Yseth is running as an independent candidate for the commission. He said this was not meant to insult the Democratic Party, of which he’s a longtime member, but he doesn’t see how political party enters into county decisions.
“I can never remember a county officer – whether it be sheriff or register of deeds, or the county commission – doing anything based on political party. And I just didn’t want to get involved in that,” he said.
As his campaign slogan says, he is spending his time before the election listening to people who have contacted him with concerns. A few times already he’s sat down with groups to hear about issues that are important to them and about how they’d like him to respond if he is elected to the commission.
“So, I don’t have a burning issue but boy have I been made aware of some since I announced,” he said. “And I will say, probably the biggest one is probably county’s relationship with townships and economic development, and road agreements and tax fairness.
“They’re all balled into the same thing: You’ve got the wind tower tax, you’ve got road agreements that have to do with livestock or dairy places, you’ve got sand pits, you have the opt out, some of them, for taxes, the county’s relationship with them,” he said.
“The whole thing, they all kind of weave together. So, I see that as a big issue. Am I running for that? No, I’ve been made aware of it and I think it’s something that will need to be solved or worked on. But, one side or the other, I’m listening; trying to educate myself.”
Contact Charis Prunty at firstname.lastname@example.org.