South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Helper says he’s retiring next month after more than 5 years on the job and over 40 years in the fish and wildlife resource management field.
A native of Deadwood and graduate of Spearfish High School, Helper became a fisheries biologist for the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game shortly after receiving his degree in fish and wildlife management from Montana State University in 1978.
He returned home to South Dakota when then-Gov Dennis Dugaard named him secretary in 2015 and he stayed on for Kristi Noem’s first 2 years as governor.
Noem calls Helper “an accomplished leader and a fierce advocate in the fish and wildlife resource management field…a dedicated public servant navigating countless challenges to protect our state’s natural resources.
Helper says he’s been extremely blessed to combine his love and passion for the outdoors with what he does for a living,” and calls serving as secretary in his home state the highlight of his career.
He says it’s been his honor to work with the department to provide sustainable outdoor recreational opportunities while cultivating stewardship and connecting people with South Dakota’s world-class outdoors.
Helper is the third department secretary to retire this year. Secretary of Agriculture Kim Vanneman announced her retirement in May and Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist is retiring today.