An interview with the first, first gentleman of South Dakota

With its first woman governor, Kristi Noem, South Dakota also has its first, first gentleman, her husband Bryon. Courtesy photo 

SPEARFISH — In November 2018, South Dakota made history by electing it’s first ever woman governor, Kristi Noem, and by proxy, gained its first ever first gentleman.

“It’s good,” said Bryon Noem, South Dakota’s first, first gentleman. “Y’know, you try to figure out what that actually means, but it’s a great thing, I love it.”

Noem grew up on a farm in Hamlin County, after graduating from Hamlin High School he attended Northern State University in Aberdeen where he met Kristi. The two were married in 1992 and spent the next 10 years working and building her family’s farm in Hamlin County. Bryon also took a position as an insurance agent at Bryant State Bank and eventually bought out the insurance portion of the bank and created Noem Insurance Inc.

Noem said Kristi didn’t have much in the way of political aspirations at that time, but as their family and their business grew, she felt more and more compelled to take an active role in the issues South Dakotans face.

“Her dad always told her, ‘hey, if you see a problem, do something about it, don’t just complain about it,’” he said.

The decision for Kristi to go into politics didn’t come easily or quickly. Noem said.

“Anytime you make a life-altering decision, of course it’s hard,” he said. “For us, we prayed heavily about it, and we really sensed that this is what God wanted us to do at that time.” 

Noem said they were aware of the changes Kristi’s political career would bring to their relationship, but knew as long as they both put family first, it didn’t matter how that family was configured

“Everything we do, we do together,” he said. “This decision was made together, and we knew things would look different if she won.”

Noem said with their third child, Booker , currently completing his senior year at Hamlin High School, they’ve adapted well to the distance that Kristi’s duties as governor and Bryon’s responsibilities as a business owner keep between them.

“I go back and forth, she goes back and forth; we make it work,” he said.

Noem recently accepted a position on the Spirit of Dakota Award Selection Commission. The award is given to a woman who has demonstrated vision, courage and strength of character in the development of her family, community and/or state. Previously all the First Ladies of the state have held a position on the commission, and Noem will be the first male member of the commission since it was started in 1987. 

“I think it’s cool, actually,” he said. “I’m honored that they would ask me. Some would think, ‘well he’s a guy we probably shouldn’t ask him and make him feel uncomfortable,’ but I’m glad they did.”

Noem said he’s looking forward to serving on the selection commission, and has enjoyed reading about the seven nominees.

“Once you see stories written about people from individual perspectives, you realize, ‘wow, there’s some pretty amazing people out there,’” he said.

This will be the first official position traditionally held by a gubernatorial spouse for Noem, and he said he’s looking forward to supporting his wife in all their future endeavors as the first family of South Dakota.

“Of course you’re always going to events where you’re there as just the spouse,” he said. “But this is probably one of the first official events I’m doing as the first gentleman.”

The next event Noem is looking forward to is the Governor’s Pheasant Hunt held in mid October. 

When asked who the better shot is of the two, Noem responded as any doting husband would.

“She is,” he said with a laugh. “She’s really good. I mean, I’m not bad, but of course I’m gonna (say she is).”

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