SD Legislative candidate survey: Wendy Mamer

The South Dakota State Capitol building in Pierre.
The South Dakota State Capitol building in Pierre.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 6:09 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Wendy Mamer is running as a Democrat for South Dakota State House in District 14. District 14 is located southeast of Sioux Falls, with a western border that runs along the Big Sioux River and an eastern border that runs along Highway 11 between E. 18th Street and E. 57th Street. Mamer is one of two Democrats running in the district, alongside Mike Huber. Two Republicans are also seeking the seat, incumbent Taylor Rehfeldt and Tyler Tordsen.

Wendy Mamer is a Democrat running for the South Dakota State House in District 14.
Wendy Mamer is a Democrat running for the South Dakota State House in District 14.(Submitted)

1. Who are you? Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less.

I was raised on our family farm just across the SD border in Minnesota.  I’m still a farm kid at heart, and a passionate advocate for mental health and suicide prevention awareness.

I have worked at a residential psychiatric treatment facility for youth, in admission at Augustana University, and now at the Helpline Center. I enjoy being active in our community with my husband Kyle and our two dogs Milli and Milo.

Hearing people’s stories, finding solutions to complex issues, and building bridges by embracing differences and acknowledging similarities are values that I embrace in my personal and professional life.

2. What prompted you to run for office?

Running for office was never something I envisioned myself doing, but I deeply believe in public service and now is the perfect time for me to give back to our community. I’ve always been an educated voter, but I hesitated to get more deeply involved in politics because the divisiveness of it goes against what I believe in. My strength professionally has been bringing people together and finding solutions to complex issues, and that has been missing, sought after, and needed in Pierre— that is why I decided to run. My professional experience in mental health care and education provide a solid foundation towards solutions to some of the issues that are most important to voters in district 14.

3. What public policies are you passionate about? What would your policy priorities be in Pierre?

Every day, District 14 voters share with me that they are concerned about rising crime rates, particularly violent youth crime. Solutions to rising crime rates intersect with mental health, education, and juvenile justice policies— those would be my priorities. These priorities touch every South Dakota community, and I am committed to working on bipartisan solutions that ensure accountability and increase safety.

I have experience working with youth in the juvenile justice system, and I know firsthand the benefits of investing in youth education and mental health services. Adequately funding our education system is a direct investment in the well being and safety of our youth, families, and communities. I will support legislation that improves funding for school counselors, ensures psychiatric residential treatment centers and behavioral health facilities have the resources they need to properly serve their communities, and provides access to drug and alcohol treatment services.

The health of our communities is critical to the overall wellbeing and economic success of our state. In 2021, South Dakota saw its largest number of suicides ever with 202, and we continuosly rank within the top 10 in the United States for our death by suicide rate. We are experiencing a mental health crisis that continues to worsen. It’s important that we consider ways to support mental health education and suicide prevention efforts, particularly within our youth population. Homes, schools, and communities are feeling the weight of the youth mental health crisis— this issue must be prioritized.

4. Cutting the grocery tax has become central to this election cycle. Do you think that the legislature should cut the grocery tax next legislative session? Are there any taxes you would cut instead, or in addition to?

It’s encouraging that Governor Noem finally changed her mind about supporting an end to the sales tax on food in South Dakota. Concerns about rising prices and inflation are one of the biggest issues I’ve heard when visiting with voters over the last several months.

I’ve been clear from the beginning that had I already been in the legislature, I would have voted yes earlier this year on the bipartisan effort to end South Dakota’s sales tax on food, and will do so in the next session.

Our state has a surplus of over $115 million in taxpayer dollars this year, at the same time food prices have hit record highs. Eliminating the sales tax on food means more money in South Dakotans’ pockets and is one way the legislature can help fight inflation.

5. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier in the year. South Dakota currently has a law that prevents abortion almost completely outright. Are there any exceptions you would like to see the legislature enact? What other laws would you like to see passed to support mothers and families?

It’s vital that our state legislature prioritizes the well-being of pregnant women and children as South Dakota begins to navigate the post-Roe era. I would support legislation that makes exceptions for rape and incest and allows health care providers all of the tools needed to protect the life of a pregnant individual.The existing law needs clarifying for all involved, including doctors and nurses caring for their pregnant patients. This remains a health care issue best left to individuals and their health care providers, not South Dakota politicians.

6. Recreational marijuana is on the ballot in November. If it passes, would you commit to legalizing it?

Yes. I’ve heard from many District 14 constituents that respecting the will of the voters is critical and I couldn’t agree more.

7. What is the most important quality for an elected official to possess?

The most important quality for an elected official is the ability to actually listen. My professional experience has been founded on this same principle. Hearing what people say they truly believe and need is necessary to making progress. We need better listeners in public service. Active listening is something I’ve demonstrated by knocking on doors since June and visiting with voters. I will continue to prioritize that.

8. Who do you take inspiration from, and why?

Billie and Kelsea Sutton have been an inspiration to me. They are true public servants, dedicated to serving our state honestly, transparently, and in a way that unites us versus further divides us. Their deep passion for South Dakota is evident beyond their words, and is so visible in their everyday actions, too. I was proud to be selected to participate in the Billie Sutton Leadership Institute two years ago, and grateful for the opportunities that program provided to work on a project pertaining to my advocacy work for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Those are the kinds of doors the Suttons open for others to follow their lead and work to make a difference in our state.

State legislative candidates in contested districts this election season were emailed the same survey to complete for Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory News. With the exception of a quick spelling and grammar check, answers were not edited by the poster. Those who responded to the survey questions had their results posted.