Hello! Bryon Noem here. Earlier this year, I became South Dakota’s first First Gentleman when my wife, Kristi, became the 33rd governor of our state. I’ve had the privilege to stand beside her as she’s tackled some big issues and worked to make South Dakota stronger for the next generation… I’m pretty proud of her!
When Kristi was elected, people wanted to know what I would be called since there had only been First Ladies before, and… well… I’m not a lady. For anyone who knows me, you know that I’m not a very formal person. “First Husband” seemed odd. We threw around the idea of “First Dude…” which got vetoed pretty quick. We finally landed on “First Gentleman,” which still feels pretty rigid, but I’m rolling with it. But, please, if you see me around… just call me Bryon!
In mid-October, I announced my First Gentleman’s initiative. It’s quite simple: I want to celebrate South Dakota and all the things that make it special. I want to remind people of the hidden gems in our small towns – the places off the beaten path. These hometowns are the heartbeat of our state, and I want to highlight them. I want to remind people that these are some of the best places to raise a family or to start a business.
This is something that’s pretty close to home for me. I grew up on a farm outside of Bryant, South Dakota, a community of 456 people. I’m proud of my rural roots. It’s where I learned the values of hard work and self-reliance, where Kristi and I chose to raise our kids, where we started an insurance business and hunting lodge, and where my family has farmed and ranched for a century.
But many small towns like ours are struggling today. Class sizes are dropping. Businesses can’t afford to stay open. And fewer kids are coming home to farm or ranch.
While South Dakota has grown by more than 100,000 people since 2000, rural populations have decreased. Seeing our larger communities flourish is exciting, but I want to make sure we don’t lose South Dakota’s rural culture either. I want to show people that our way of life here is worth celebrating and promoting. I want to listen to peoples’ stories and learn from their experiences, then share them with others.
So over the next few years, I’ll be traveling to communities and uncovering the big things in our small towns. I want to listen to people tell stories about their hometowns. Whether it’s hearing the stories of a veteran over morning coffee… shooting hoops with the mayor and hearing about the good and tough times a town has gone through… eating ice cream and learning about the heritage of a community… I want to hear it all and share those stories with you. It’s my mission to celebrate the incredible value our small towns bring to our state.
Join me on this journey by following my Facebook page: @FGBryonNoem. This is South Dakota!