Noem appoints Veterans Affairs Secretary to cabinet

PIERRE, S.D. -- With less than three weeks until she takes the oath of office, Republican Gov.-elect Kristi Noem on Tuesday, Dec. 18, announced her latest cabinet pick for South Dakota's Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

In a Tuesday news release, Noem appointed Greg Whitlock to the role. Whitlock served in the South Dakota Army National Guard for more than four decades, during which he received numerous medals for his service. He is from Selby, located in south-central South Dakota, and currently resides in Watertown.

"I’ve dedicated my life to serving our country and state, and I’m honored to join Governor-elect Noem’s vision to expand employment opportunities and improve customer service for the people who’ve selflessly defended freedom," Whitlock said in the release.

Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard named the state's current Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Larry Zimmerman of Rapid City, in 2011. At the time of his appointment, Zimmerman was the South Dakota National Guard's highest-ranking noncommissioned officer.

In her release, Noem said the newly appointed Whitlock is a "proven champion for veterans" who "shares [her] vision for the future of South Dakota veteran care."

With Tuesday's announcement, Noem has appointed 14 members to her cabinet, including two that are interim appointments. As of Tuesday, five cabinet positions remain unfilled: secretaries of agriculture, education, human services, social services and tribal relations. Noem has also made several key staff appointments, including her daughter, who will work as a policy analyst.

Noem will be sworn into office on Jan. 5.