South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles has a new member. On Feb. 12 the Senate confirmed local attorney Greg Gass. He is also State’s attorney for Kingsbury County. He was recommended by Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for the position on the nine-member board.
“Gregg brings years of experience, a strong sense of fairness and a concern for public safety to this position,” said Ravnsborg.
The Board of Pardons and Paroles is made up of nine members. The governor, attorney general and Supreme Court of South Dakota appoint three members each with one member of the three required to be an attorney. The current board has a retired sheriff, a pastor, a highway patrolman and some attorneys serving on it.
In late 2018, Gass saw a notice in the South Dakota State Bar Association’s newsletter seeking an attorney interested in the board appointment. “I had always had an interest in that, so that’s what I did,” Gass said.
The board usually meets Monday through Thursday one time a month, but it can vary. When the board isn’t conducting hearings they cover items from contestant parole revocations or non-compliance hearings, to training and pardon hearings. “The board makes recommendations to the governor in certain situations for pardons.” According to Gass, there’s also lots of training from the parole booklet they gave him, including training with the director of paroles and the chief training agent.
“Probably one of the more difficult parts of the training is simply learning the evidence-based practices that the parole board uses to try to come up with a somewhat standardize approach so that people are treated uniformly, or relatively uniformly, and fairly through the process,” Gass said.
As a young man Gass attended South Dakota State University in Brookings sand obtained a degree in economics. He worked in state government and then as a foreman at an electronics factory in Brookings. These jobs weren’t really giving Gass the satisfaction he craved, and he had always been interested in law, so he applied to law school and was accepted.
“One wife and two kids later, here we go to law school,” Gass said. He attended law school at University of South Dakota in Vermillion, he even went summers so he could finish in two and a half years.
Gass started his career as an attorney with a law firm in a small town, but soon went to work for the state attorney’s office in Rapid City and became the chief deputy. He then went into private practice in Rapid City. He later learned of an opening at De Smet Farm Mutual as a casualty claims manager.
“I worked with them for about six years, and then I went into private practice. I've been in private practice ever since. My son joined the firm in 2009 when he got out of law school. His office is in Brookings and my office is here in town,” Gass said.
“Living in a small town, it's been a good opportunity to raise my kids in a good community. It's been a good way to earn a living. It's been interesting and I think the parole board adds more interest to that, Gass said. “As far as other goals, I would hope that my overall goal has been to do the right thing, but as far as major political ambition, I'm just a small town lawyer.”
Gass said helping people is most rewarding. “There are a certain number of clients that you remember that you know were in difficulty and you were able to help.
“Not having decisions go your way that you thought should have been decided differently,” is what Gass said can be frustrating as an attorney. “There's a certain amount of frustration here, you've always got at least two sides in this and half of those sides will not get the result that they think their client deserved. There's a certain amount of frustration with that.”
Gass enjoys running as a hobby and still has a goal of running a marathon in each state. So far, he’s run 30 marathons in 27 states.
He doesn’t go for the big New York City Marathon, or the Boston Marathon, Gass enjoys the smaller venues with less participants. “I prefer smaller venues. I don't care if there are 50 runners there. It's the scenery and going to a place to run and a reason to go there, meet people, Gass said.
“I think this position on the board will be really interesting. It's a change. It's something different and interesting, and I hope to be a public servant,” Gass said.
Posted on 02-28-2019
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