Brandon woman takes aim at District 10 House seat

By: 
Jamie Hult, Staff writer

Michelle Hentschel of Brandon is running for South Dakota House of Representatives in District 10 this fall. Hentschel, a Democrat, is challenging incumbents Steve Haugaard and Doug Barthel. Submitted photo

Michelle Hentschel wasn’t looking to get into politics when she decided to run for the South Dakota House of Representatives.

“I’m somebody who pays attention, and I’m always hoping we can do better,” said Hentschel, who’s running for District 10 on the Democratic ticket in the November election. “When we’ve had the kinds of bills that we’ve had in Pierre the last couple of years taking up the legislature’s time, and then, unfortunately, when some of them get passed, they also use the state’s resources when they end up in court later because they’re bad legislation.”

As the chief finance officer of EmBe, Hentschel is used to fiscal responsibility. She also served five years as treasurer for Friends of the Big Sioux River.  

The Brandon-based mom of two put her name in the November race this spring, hoping to help the legislature better manage the state’s time and money.

“I would really love to see us be more efficient with our resources and represent the things that people here are asking for – not trying to pander to special interest national groups that introduce these laws in several states across the country,” she said. “Instead, (let’s) focus on what we need here in South Dakota so we can make our resources go further to help people that live here.”

Hentschel is challenging two incumbent Republicans for the seat, Rep. Steve Haugaard, who also serves as Speaker of the House, and Rep. Doug Barthel. Both live in Sioux Falls.

Most recently, Brandon was represented in the House by the late Roger Hunt, a Republican who served 10 terms between 1991 and 2016.   

One recent piece of legislation that Hentschel considered a misuse of the state’s resources was House Bill 1057, which would have made it a felony for doctors to provide transgender healthcare to minors. 

“I don’t know about you, but I had never seen this in the news,” she said. “‘Oh, this is a big problem in South Dakota. This is an area we need legislation to fix a huge issue.’ Nobody was asking for that.”

She’d rather help direct the state’s resources to an area that residents do want to support – K-12 public education, which didn’t get its usual fiscal boost this year. 

“Our school system here is ranked one of the best in the state, and that’s for a good reason,” Hentschel said. “And I think it’s very important to a lot of people in this community that we have a superior education system – and yet we continue to not follow through on the promises that were made about teacher pay and education funding in K-12 … It seems like there has been some opposition to that with our current legislator – one of them, anyway.”

Many in Brandon are excited to have a local candidate in the race, including Jo Hausman, a former City Council member who ran for District 10 House herself in 2012.

“I’m very excited that she’s running and she’s running and that she’s a Democrat,” Hausman said. “We need more women in the legislature. And we need more Democrats, just to kind of even it out a little.”

Heidi Jorgenson is backing Hentschel, too.

“She is wicked smart, empathetic, community-minded, solution-focused,” Jorgenson said. “She is a great human – and I love supporting good energy.”

While Hentschel doesn’t have a platform, she does have priorities she’s passionate about, like taking care of the earth’s natural resources. 

“People in Brandon are very concerned about what’s coming out of their faucets,” she said. “We have to recognize that what’s coming out of those faucets starts down in our groundwater here. And what ends up in that groundwater is due to what we do above the ground.”

Hentschel recently stepped down as treasurer of Friends of the Big Sioux River to focus on her House campaign, but she remains on the board. Earlier this month, she worked with the group to clear debris left behind from the flooding in September.

If she’s elected, Hetnschel would like to revisit an issue that citizens brought up recently regarding ethics reform. 

“I know there were problems with the laws that were passed, and they needed some work,” she said. “I’d like to bring that back up and make sure we put something in place that does meet the needs the people were concerned about. I’m not 100 percent sold on the legislation that was passed, but it was clearly something the people want to see, that they know they can trust the people in Pierre that were elected to have honesty and integrity and transparency.”

Hentschel holds a bachelor’s in accounting from the University of South Dakota and a Master’s in business administration from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.

She and her husband, Ty, have lived in Brandon nine years and have two teenaged sons. She enjoys running, gardening, baking, bike-commuting to her job in Sioux Falls and volunteering at Brandon Lutheran Church and EmBe’s Dress for Success program.

To learn more about Hentschel or her campaign, visit her website at michelleforsd.com. 

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