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Kelly Hepler Selected As GFP Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014

CONTACT:  Tony Venhuizen or Kelsey Pritchard at 605-773-3212


Kelly Hepler Selected As GFP Secretary


PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced today he has selected Kelly Hepler to serve as the next secretary of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP).


Hepler currently serves as assistant commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), a position he has held since 2010.


“I’m thrilled Kelly has agreed to serve as our next secretary of Game, Fish and Parks and happy that we could help bring him back to South Dakota,” said Gov. Daugaard. “His wealth of knowledge and experience in handling complex issues will make him a real asset to our team.” 


Hepler was born in Deadwood and graduated from Spearfish High School before receiving his Bachelor of Science in Fish and Wildlife Management from Montana State University.


He began his career as a fisheries biologist with ADFG in 1979 and has held a number of different research, management and leadership positions within the department. Hepler also served as a principal investigator for the Exxon Valdez oil spill from 1989 to 1991.


Hepler will replace Jeff Vonk, who has served as GFP secretary since 2007 and will retire Jan. 8, 2015. Hepler’s official start date has not yet been determined, though he should be in place by March 2015. Current Parks Division Director Doug Hofer will serve as interim secretary until Hepler begins.


“I want to thank Gov. Daugaard for the opportunity to return to my home state as the secretary of Game, Fish and Parks,” said Hepler. “This is truly an honor, and I am excited to be able to work with the outstanding GFP staff and continue on a tradition of excellence. I am proud and humbled to be able to serve the people of South Dakota and look forward to fostering the state’s great outdoor heritage.”


Hepler has enjoyed over 30 years of marriage to Carol Riedner Hepler, who is originally from Wisconsin. The Heplers have two grown children, Zachary and Maggie, who are attending school in Fort Collins, Colo., and Maude the bloodhound. The Heplers are members of the Catholic Church and avid fans of the Green Bay Packers.


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