Editor's Note: This is the final installment of a 13-part series highlighting Aberdeen-area newsmakers to watch in the coming year. The order in which they appeared did not constitute a ranking.
Education is the reason retired educator Chuck Welke, District 2 senator, got into the race.
"My main thing is to learn a lot, meet a lot of people and hopefully do some things to help education and focus on things like nursing homes, healthcare issues and economic development," Welke said. "A lot of it starts with a good education."
Welke, a Democrat, defeated Republican and former District 6 Sen. Art Fryslie for the seat in a close race.
He arrived in Pierre Tuesday to kick off the legislative season and listen to Gov. Dennis Daugaard's State of the State address.
Welke retired after the 2009-10 school year after a long career with the Warner School District.
"Teachers talked me into running because they thought they needed a voice out here," Welke said from Pierre. "Schools right now are starving."
As a former school administrator, Welke said he knows firsthand how many programs have been sacrificed as the result of tightened budgets.
He said the most basic thing the state government should do is provide a good education for the students. His goal is to advocate for additional school funding.
"What the governor has proposed so far is not a very good increase," Welke said. "We’re hoping we can do a little better than what the governor’s offering."
Education funding and reform issues appeared on the November ballot, but didn't crop up during the governor's speech.
"I liked a lot of what I heard, but I'd just like to hear a little bit more about education," he said.
He said education shouldn't be left alone and that input should be gathered from schools at the local level to improve education in the state. The state role is to provide the funding, he said.
"I am all about education reform, but I believe reform should come from the bottom up," he said. "The people that work out in the field are the people who know what kinds of things need to be done."
He is a member of the local government, retirement laws and taxation committees.
"I really believe that we will work together," Welke said of bipartisanship. "There are a lot of people on the other side of the aisle that feel we need to get more money for education."
Members of all parties have the best interest of people in South Dakota in mind, he said.
"We're in different parties, but we’re all South Dakotans, and all have a lot of commonality," Welke said.