The South Dakotan
run for governor, her daughter suggested Prentice for the role as
“As a small town accountant, I’m used to doing everything
myself. That part of allowing someone else to be in charge
of a campaign was hard,” Wismer said. “But I trusted my
Prentice said she was genuinely surprised at the time to be
asked to be Wismer’s campaign manager. But Wismer reassured
the 2010 graduate that her reputation was highly regarded
among state legislators who knew Prentice’s skills and work ethic
through previous campaigns.
“It helps that our personalities are similar,” Wismer said.
“We don’t sweat the small stuff. We trust each other to do our
As of June, the biggest hurdle for Prentice in her role as
campaign manager was the Democratic primary. Wismer faced
Joe Lowe, former director of the state Wildland Fire Suppression
Division, and won the election with 44 counties and more than
55 percent of the vote.
Prentice was not anticipating divisions within South
Dakota’s Democratic party after the primary, but she said it was
a challenge after Wismer’s win to encourage Lowe supporters to
value party unity.
“As a party, we need to serve and support the candidate that
won. And this became more difficult than I thought it would,”
Prentice said. “We were calling Joe’s supporters for days to
remind them that Susan still needs their support to win.”
Prentice’s connection to the University of South Dakota
remains strong. She keeps in contact with fellow political science
graduates and said they support each other through continually
changing career paths.
“I don’t know if I considered myself the best student when
I was at USD,” she said. “But the information I learned and the
connections I made through the political science department
stayed with me when I left Vermillion, which is huge.”
Even though she is no longer her student, Prentice said she
still reaches out to Bierle on occasion for campaign advice.
“She’s one of the people my whole time there, when I had
problems, I would go to her,” Prentice said. “I think it speaks a
lot to the quality of professors in the department that they are
able and willing to give advice once you leave campus.”
From keeping schedule to
Webb, a Belle Fourche, S.D., native, thought
she would go to law school when she started
at USD, but soon realized she harbored
a passion for politics and took up leadership roles in student
organizations that included the Political Science League and
College Republicans. She also interned with a lobbying firm
in Washington, D.C., and worked as a legislative intern for
Republican State Sen. Dave Knudson, who was majority leader
at the time.
It was during her time in Pierre that Webb met Dusty
Johnson, a mentor and fellow USD graduate who would help
guide her to become the governor’s campaign manager. Webb
joined Johnson’s campaign for the Public Utilities Commission
(PUC) after graduation in 2010. Johnson said Webb came to his
campaign as a “driven, thoughtful and organized” individual,
and said she worked 18 hours a day for nearly 150 days. Webb
said she learned from Johnson how to run an effective and
efficient campaign, especially in a race where not many people
are familiar with the office.
“It wasn’t a high profile race, but it taught me the value of
hard work because we had to work to inform voters about why
PUC mattered,” she said.
Webb became director of constituent services for the
governor’s office in November 2010. But for almost three years,
Webb has held an even more significant role for the governor
as his scheduler. She had to know where the governor was and
needed to be throughout the day and that he had what he needed
to be prepared for each event.
“I got to know the governor and first lady very well because
that was part of my job,” she said. “When I was approached to be
campaign manager, that was one of the main reasons they said
they wanted me for the position.”
Webb had to take a leave of absence from the governor’s
office to run his campaign. She had offices in Pierre, Sioux Falls
and Rapid City, and typically spent four days of the week on the
road, three days in Pierre. The constant juggling required hard
work on Webb’s part but that is one of the reasons Daugaard said
he wanted her to run his campaign.
“She is bright, enthusiastic and organized, and I trusted her
to manage my campaign for re-election because she shares my
values,” he said. “Linda and I are so appreciative she agreed
The 2010 graduate said USD taught her how to manage
a busy lifestyle. Webb said her political science professors
and classes showed her the value of working hard, being an
efficient communicator and how to be a professional and
Johnson said Webb has left a remarkable impression in each
position she has held in the past four years.
“I am buying as much Kelsey Webb stock as I can get my
hands on. If she wants to be successful in business, she will be.
If she wants to be successful in politics, she will be. If she wants
to be president of a university, President Abbott better watch
out,” Johnson said.