The De Smet News

Bill Poppen retires after 48 years at helm of De Smet Farm Mutual

Bill Poppen retires after 48 years at helm of De Smet Farm Mutual

Bill Poppen is retiring as general manager of South Dakota’s largest mutual insurance company just four months short of serving 48 years.

He has been general manager of De Smet Farm Mutual Insurance Company of South Dakota since Aug. 1, 1970. He became general manager just a couple of days after receiving his law license from the South Dakota State Bar Association.

“I had the weekend in-between,” Poppen said last week about passing the bar and beginning at De Smet Farm Mutual.

An open house is planned in Poppen’s honor from 1-5 p.m. March 5 at the De Smet Event and Wellness Center off Prairie Avenue.

He will be succeeded as general manager by Steve Schlechter, who has been with the company for about 10 years. Schlechter represented De Smet Farm Mutual in the western part of the state before coming to the home office several years ago as marketing director.

He and his family live on an acreage near Bruce.

There are some things Poppen is sure he won’t miss as he leaves the office he’s held for so long.

“I guess as I think about retirement, the things that I won’t miss are the stress, responsibilities and concerns. But what I will miss are the people with whom I’ve developed so many close relationships. Not being able to see them on a regular basis will be difficult,” he said.

But beyond that, Poppen doesn’t anticipate much change in his life.

“Roxana (his wife) and I intend to stay right where we are and stay connected with the people of the community as much as possible.”

He said that connection with the people of De Smet has always come easily. Poppen grew up here and always hoped to spend his whole life here. He considers himself lucky to have married a city girl who came to love the community and farm life as much as he does.

Poppen graduated from De Smet High School in 1963, then graduated from Huron College and the University of South Dakota School of Law.

He said it was always the plan that he would join his father, Arthur, who was general manager of the company. Art, in 1948, joined Farmers Mutual Tornado Insurance Company of South Dakota, as the company was known then. Art followed his mother, Grace Poppen, there. Grace started with the company in 1943 when she was 60 years old. She retired when she was 76.

Art became general manager in 1952 and served until his sudden death in 1969.

At the time, Bill was a junior in law school. The company’s board of directors asked his mother, Irene, to manage the company until Bill could graduate.

She had worked there beginning in the late 1950s and when Bill became general manager in 1970, Irene assumed the duties of office manager, retiring in 1982.

Bill and Roxana’s daughter, Beth, is now with the company as the local agent.

Posted on 03-05-2018

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