PIERRE — Shantel Krebs said Wednesday she hopes people in the coffee shops across South Dakota can stop talking about the office of secretary of state if she's elected next year.
“They shouldn't know who the secretary of state is,” Krebs told a lunch gathering of members of the Cen-Kota Republican Women in Fort Pierre.
Her goal is to return the office to the integrity and respect held under secretaries of state such as Alice Kundert, Joyce Hazeltine and Chris Nelson.
Her vision is a team approach built on quality staff and a renewed emphasis on customer service: “It gets things done. You don't hear about it, but you know it's working.”
Krebs, a state senator from Renner outside Sioux Falls, is seeking the Republican nomination. She is the only announced candidate looking to succeed the current office-holder, Jason Gant, a Republican.
After Krebs filed her official statement of organization for her campaign last month, Gant declared that he wouldn't run for election in 2014 to a second term.
Krebs, a self-described “fourth generation farm girl” from Kingsbury County who waitressed her way in Arlington to a business degree at Dakota State University while still working on the farm, owned two stores in downtown Sioux Falls before becoming a retail business consultant.
She and business partner Rick Knobe recently sold out of the buffalo ranch they ran together. Krebs, 40, is serving in her fifth term in the Legislature.
She recalled being selected as a House page in 1991 when she was 17. She was sponsored by then-Rep. Joyce Hodges and prizes a picture from that winter of herself with then-Gov. George S. Mickelson.
One of the legislators was Rep. Alice Kundert, who was elected to the House after she retired as secretary of state. “Alice scared the bejeebers out of me. She was such a strong woman,” Krebs said.
Krebs said she will upgrade some of the technology services in the secretary of state office while still keeping paper documents available for citizens who prefer to use them. She said her parents, who run a farm and a trucking business, don't own a computer.
She said she was encouraged by other legislators last winter to consider running for the office. She said she called some of her colleagues in the Legislature, whether Republican or Democrat, to get their thoughts.
She said they praised the even-handed way the office was managed by Nelson, a Republican who was Gant's predecessor and was term-limited in 2010.
Nelson later was appointed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to a vacancy on the state Public Utilities Commission and won election outright last fall.
Without mentioning Gant by name, Krebs touched on missteps in the past few years in the office, including partisan involvement in some election campaigns and the appearance of partisanship in some decisions.
“I just don't believe in that,” Krebs said. “It's a respected office and I want to see it's respectfully run.”
Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre, sits behind Krebs in the Senate chamber. He recalled meeting her on a dairy-industry tour in northeastern South Dakota. In a cheese factory, he saw her buzzing about asking questions and looking over the operations.
“That wasn't an act,” Monroe told the women at the meeting Wednesday. “She's full of energy.”