You are here

Top Tourism Leaders Recognized by Gov. Daugaard


PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the South Dakota Department of Tourism presented awards to top visitor industry leaders Thursday evening at the 2015 Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Pierre.

For the first time in the history of the award, the Governor honored two industry members with the Ben Black Elk lifetime achievement award. The award was given to Doug Hofer of Pierre, and Joe Muller of Hot Springs. The award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to South Dakota’s visitor industry.

Mr. Muller has been in the visitor industry for three decades, and has been vital to the growth, development and national and international recognition of one of South Dakota’s most unique attractions, the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. Under Muller’s leadership, the attraction has expanded its facility, tour offerings and educational programs for both adults and children.

Mr. Hofer began serving the state of South Dakota in 1970 as a seasonal employee, and by 1987 was serving full time in a leadership role. During his tenure, state park visitation grew from approximately 5.3 million visitors to more than 7.4 million visitors per year, and the park system has experienced steady growth, sound natural resource management and top notch customer service. He is one of the longest serving state parks directors in the nation.

“The state of South Dakota, and the state’s visitor industry, wouldn’t be the same without these men,” said Gov. Daugaard. “Their attitude of service and the love they have for South Dakota are tangible, and I can’t thank them enough for the great work they have each provided throughout their many years.”

The A. H. Pankow Award, which honors a media outlet or individual member of the media for unparalleled coverage and promotion of the state’s visitor industry, was awarded to Jodi Schwan of Sioux Falls. Schwan shows incredible interest in the coverage of the visitor industry, and understands the impact that it has on South Dakota’s economy.

“Jodi is a driving force in South Dakota media,” the Governor said. “She has invested the time necessary to provide accurate, fair and exceptional coverage of the visitor industry and its importance to the state.”

Gov. Daugaard presented George S. Mickelson Great Service Awards to the Akta Lakota Museum at Saint Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, and the ClubHouse Hotel & Suites in Sioux Falls. This award honors businesses, communities or organizations that have done an exemplary job of exceeding visitors’ expectations in customer service.

“Both of these businesses are creating positive experiences for our visitors through proper staff training, unique staff recognition and emphasizing pride in their performance,” the Governor said. “We are grateful for their continued commitment to customer satisfaction.”

The Excellence in Tourism Innovation Award honors an industry partner for thinking “outside the box” when it comes to promoting their business, organization or destination. The 2015 award was given to the Children’s Museum of South Dakota in Brookings, in recognition for outstanding destination marketing promoting South Dakota’s visitor industry.

“Randy Grimsley and the team at the Children’s Museum are continuously innovating in order to increase repeat visitation and attract new visitors,” the Governor said. “Their Golden Ticket program and The Big Kid at Heart event, among other programs and events, sets them apart and gives visitors a reason to return again and again.”

The Rooster Rush Cacklin' Community Award, in its seventh year, went to Aberdeen for the community level support of the Tourism Department’s fall Rooster Rush campaign. Members of the Aberdeen community displayed a spirit of collaboration, and did an exceptional job of creating memorable promotions for their visiting pheasant hunters. This is Aberdeen’s third win in seven years.

The South Dakota Department of Tourism is comprised of Tourism and the South Dakota Arts Council. The Department is led by Secretary James D. Hagen.



For high resolution photos of all of the award winners, follow this link:


Wanda Goodman
South Dakota Department of Tourism
Phone: 605-773-3301