Candidates for council, school board profiled; election June 8

HOT SPRINGS – On Tuesday, June 8, voters in Hot Springs will go to the polls and mark their ballot for one school board member, and if you live in the city’s Ward 1, you will also be voting for a representative on the Hot Springs City Council.

In the Ward 1 City Council race, incumbent Craig Romey will seek re-election against challenger Jeff Shannon. All three of the other vacant city council seats are being filled by candidates running unopposed.

For Ward 2, Dave Burris will retain his council seat, which he earned unopposed in 2019 as well. Newcomer Linda Varvel will be replacing Ward 3 Councilman Wes Grimes, who decided not to run for re-election, while Ward 4 will once again be served by Debra Johnston, who was appointed to her current seat last year.

In addition to the one city council election, there will also be an election for one seat on the Hot Springs Schools Board of Education.

There are a total of four vacant seats on the Hot Springs School Board – three 3-year term positions and one 2-year term position. With three people submitting petitions of the three 3-year terms, all of them will earn seats including incumbents Nikki Shaw and Ryan Walz and newcomer Colby Williams.

Shaw won election in 2018 and has been serving as the School Board Vice President for the past two years. She has three children – a daughter, age 23, and son age 22, who have both already graduated from Hot Springs High School, and another son aged 9 who is in the fourth grade. She is currently the Deputy Treasurer for Fall River County. Walz earned his seat in 2019 after running unopposed for a two-year position. He has been manager of Sturdevant’s Auto Parts in Hot Springs for the past 19 years and has three sons aged 15, 9 and 4 years-old.

Williams is new to the school board this year, and fulfilling the other three-year term being vacated by Mark Walton, who chose not to run for re-election this year after serving for a total of six years on the board.

Running for election on the June 8 election ballot for school board will be a pair of new candidates – Dean Burgess and Katie Burchfield – who are each looking to fulfill the one 2-year seat being vacated by Frances Stokes, who also chose not to run for re-election.

Each of the four candidates on the June 8 ballot for both city council and school – along with the two individuals who are running unopposed but are newcomers to their respective elected position – were sent questionnaires to complete and send back for publication in the Fall River County Herald-Star.

First, each candidate was asked to tell a little about themselves, and then answer the following questions:

1) What special skills, talents or experience do you bring to Hot Springs City Council (or) Hot Springs School Board?

2) What are the top two issues that most concern you regarding the City Council and its residents (or) School Board and its students and how do you plan to address them?

Following are their answers to those questions.



Incumbent Craig Romey

Age: 65

Occupation: Retired

Hot Springs resident for 51 years

Contact: 605-745-4465 or 890-0433

Born in Council Bluffs Iowa, grew up in Scottsbluff NE. Transferred from Scottsbluff to Rockyford Indian Reservation in S.D., then transferred to Hot Springs in the 8th grade. Wife, Debbie, we will be celebrating 46 years of marriage on July 3. We have a son, Steve and daughter, Jessica and 2 grandsons - Chandler, who is graduating from Edgemont High School on May 30 and Tony, who will be a freshman next year. I love to build my own hot rods. Built my wife her dream car  - a 1955 Chevy. Also own a 1955 Chevy Station Wagon that my wife bought for me in high school and a 1955 Chevy pickup. Currently I am building a 1936 Dodge Coupe and a 1937 Dodge COE truck. 

1) Being an army and national guard veteran, I served on the Save the VA Committee because I believe the Hot Springs VA is very important to Hot Springs and to rural areas around Hot Springs. I was also on the Hot Springs Volunteer Fire Dept, Hot Springs Ambulance Service, Hot Springs Police Reserve Program and the Hot Springs Search and Rescue/Dive Team.

During my time as a council member from 2011 to 2015, I implemented the free branch and yard waste for Hot Springs Residents, as well as worked on Airport improvements. I also made sure citizens were allowed to vote on the purchase of the Evans Plunge and also worked on the parks plans, which are still being done today.

I was employed by the City of Hot Springs Water/Sewer/Street Dept and Parks Dept. as well as the Material Recovery Facility. I gained a lot of experience in the infrastructure of those departments. I also worked for the Fall River County Hwy Dept and worked on various construction and bridge jobs as well. 

2) The most important projects I would like to see through is the Main Street Highway Project and River Project, these are vital for Hot Springs. Our park developments are also growing and need to continue to progress.

Challenger Jeff Shannon

Age: 59

Hot Springs resident for 14 years

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Born and raised in South Florida, one daughter 41 y/o Living in Tx, one son deceased. Moved to HS in 2007 and purchased B&B. Public service background including professional firefighter paramedic Lieutenant, Flight Medic, Detective Deputy Sheriff/Narcotics & Gang unit in South Florida, college instructor, Fall River County Coroner. Involvement in Hot Springs since 2007 includes, Kiwanis club, Miss SD pageant, Chamber of Commerce, American Legion, B&B owner. Current affiliations - National Executive Committeeman for the SD Sons of American Legion, American Legion Riders, professional guitarist, and affiliated with The United Churches of Hot Springs.

1) People skills and good listening skills, I will listen to the public and their ideas. I am approachable. I know how to work within a budget. I will be a boots on the ground Councilman. This is a great family oriented safe place to live and I possess the knowledge to make sure it stays that way. Administrative skills working with different departments within the city.

2) First, safety of our residents from crime and the ever growing evident drug problem. I want our citizens and children to be safe at all times. I would like to see more Police presence, have a plan to combat drugs, and ensure our schools are safe zones. Second, we have 33 empty store fronts in our city, I will work with the council to come up with a plan to get businesses to come here and help this town get back to being a vacation destination. This will boost our economy. Help me help Hot Springs, I will work tirelessly for you, the citizens of Hot Springs. Please vote for Jeff Shannon ward 1 on Tuesday June 8.



Linda Varvel (unopposed)

Age: 64

Mostly a lifelong resident of Hot Springs

Contact: 605-745-5175, please leave a message

I am a graduate of Hot Springs High School. My husband, Steve, and I have 3 children Elijah 42, Melissa 40 and Erin 29. Steve and I were married 32 years ago at the Kidney Springs gazebo. I am interested in gardening, Crafts and painting. In the past I have been a Girl Scout and a Den mother for my children. I am currently retired and volunteering for the US Army Corp of engineers as a Campground host.

1) Community awareness, prior Mediation training; the ability to communicate and work with people of varying backgrounds. I also enjoy a challenge.

2) Being new to public office I am sure there are many issues affecting the city and possible legalities surrounding them; so at this time I do not feel I am authorized to comment until I learn more.



Kathryn (Katie) Burchfield

Age: 46

Occupation: Full time mom, part time Children’s Minister at Hot Springs Wesleyan

District resident for 2 years

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I am a Minnesota native, majoring in Elementary Education at University of Northwestern in St. Paul. I worked several years as a Title 1, substitute, and classroom teacher before spending four years as a director at an orphanage in Haiti. While there, I met and married my husband, Blake, in 2005, and we adopted our oldest two children, now 16 and 14. We spent ten years in Ft. Worth, TX, adding two more kids, now 12 and 9. There I worked as a preschool teacher and supervisor, then homeschooled for four years and helped direct a homeschool co-op. We moved here in 2019, and I have enjoyed volunteering with the PTA this past year. 

My main passion in life is giving children a safe environment in which they can learn, grow and thrive. I have had a wide variety of teaching and life experiences, which has taught me to be objective, to listen well, and to be open to the ideas and opinions of others. Good communication is so important. I also believe that having people who have been teachers on the school board is important, since most of the board’s decisions ultimately affect the classroom. 

Morale: I want to be a part of restoring faith in our schools. I want teachers and staff to feel equipped and supported, I want programs and curriculum that cause students to enjoy attending, and I want parents to feel confident about sending their kids. I have seen good changes this year, and I want to be part of a team that makes our community proud of their school and motivated to get involved. 

Programs and curriculum: It is the school’s job to serve every student to the best of its ability. I believe that every child is good at something and has something to offer. Meeting the needs of every learner is a huge challenge, because the scope is so wide and every child is unique. That should motivate us to look for more resources. I was excited to see the new classes in the high school this year, offering students a chance to try out different jobs and skills. We may not have the resources to provide for every single interest, but we can keep working to offer a wider variety of opportunities. 

Dean Burgess

Age: 43

Occupation: BNSF Railroad

Years a resident of Hot Springs School District: 1 (moved back to hometown last year)

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (605)787-2556

I graduated from Hot Springs High School in 1998 and then earned a BS in Human Resource Management as well as a MA in English and Creative Writing. I served as a Military Police Officer in the Marine Corps and worked Anti-Terrorism with the Presidential Helicopter Squadron (HMX). I have also held several management positions post military service. Last year I returned to Hot Springs to work for BNSF Railroad, bringing with me Joni, my exceptional wife of fifteen years, and our four wonderfully unique children: Alexandra(14), Gabriel(12), Isabelle(9), and Sydney(7).

My management background and education in human resources has helped me find success in the area of personnel. I have built and maintained efficient teams through quality hiring, clear communication of standards, positive reinforcement, and drive for consistent improvement. I am skilled at creating efficient and safe work environments that support injury-free working conditions and mission accomplishment. I like generating order from chaos and enjoy seeing what a team can accomplish in that structure.

Since being back in Hot Springs, I have noticed a divide between the school staff and parents of the students. Information about upcoming events, grades, curriculum, etc. isn’t readily available for parents. While searching for this information, many parents are frustrated and could become less involved because of it. I would like to see this information streamlined into an easy to use website or application to eliminate this frustration. I would also like to see source material for lessons being taught in class available for parents. They need something to reference when their children come to them with a question they can’t immediately answer. Teachers and parents speaking in one voice generate a solid foundation for children seeking knowledge. Lastly, I would like to see an S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) Analysis completed on a regular basis, so the schools strengths can be maximized, weaknesses minimized, opportunities seized, and threats eliminated. 

I appreciate your vote.


Colby Williams

Age: 49

Occupation: Own small contracting service

Years resident of Hot Springs School District: 2

Contact: 970-412-7651

I am originally from Onida, SD, and graduated from Sully Buttes High School. We have 5 children, Cameron 30, Carter 27, Anastasia 21, Carson 19, and Logan 13. Our oldest four live in CO. Suzy is my wife and we have been married for 13 years in July. We are interested in organic sustainable farming, as well as Jr Rodeo. We attend the Wesleyan Church and Logan is involved in the youth group. Last year I helped coach Jr High football and we enjoy helping out with the football booster club.

1) I have older kids and experience in several different school districts as well as growing up in a home where my father was on the school board. I was able to see how the system worked and some of the struggles that school boards face.

2) As far as top issues, I honestly don’t think I have any. I am going into this with an open mind and to help the current School Board and Administration move forward. From my recent observations I see a fiscally common sense approach to the work they are doing and intend to help carry on that work and deal with other issues as they come.

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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