Photo © Sam Stukel

Agency Leadership

Kevin Robling, Department Secretary
Kevin Robling, Department Secretary

Kevin strives to make a positive difference for current and future generations each and every day.  His passion for South Dakota’s outdoor resources is unmatched and that passion and excitement is focused on contributing to the excellent quality of life we have here in South Dakota. He takes pride in leading the team at the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) to ensure services, programs, and solutions are delivered effectively while making certain that our state’s natural resources are managed responsibly and to the best of our abilities. Customer service is his focus because it is the foundation of who we are as a department. Kevin is widely known for his ability to connect with others and build relationships because a significant amount of his time is spent listening to customers, and agricultural producers and working with staff to accommodate their needs and the needs of others. 

This is all backed by his education and his hard work ethic. Kevin received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries science from South Dakota State University and began his career with the department in 2011. He was first hired on as a resource biologist in Sioux Falls and was promoted to a big game biologist in 2012 out of Rapid City. In 2017, he transitioned into a statewide leadership role working directly under the Department Secretary. In this position he focused on strategic change initiatives - working with the GFP Commission and the state Legislature - to enhance recreational opportunities and simplify regulations to continuously reduce barriers to outdoor participation in South Dakota. 

Kevin is who he is because of his family. He and his wife, Holly, have three young children – Sawyer, Reese, and Cash. He grew up on a farm and the great outdoors and agriculture have always been – and remain – a huge part of his life. When Kevin is not at home or in the office, he is outside. From camping in our state parks to big and small game hunting across the state, people can find him on the lake, in a tent, on a horse, or on a tractor feeding his cows with a young one right beside him.

Tom Kirschenmann, Director of Wildlife
Tom Kirschenmann, Director of Wildlife

A Eureka native, Tom grew up on a cow/calf operation and large animal veterinary practice. After graduating with his master’s degree in wildlife management from SDSU, Kirschenmann spent 10 years working as a regional wildlife biologist for Pheasants Forever.  

In 2005, Tom joined South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, working as the upland game biologist out of the Huron office before moving to Pierre in 2008 to serve as the wildlife program administrator. Within a year, he was named terrestrial section chief and worked in that position for 10 years. Tom was also the Wildlife Division’s deputy director for three years before being named director.

Tom and his wife Crystal have two sons, Jett and Tate. He enjoys hunting, fishing, mentoring his sons, spending time with his family, and watching his sons participate in various sports.

Scott Simpson, Director of Parks and Recreation
Scott Simpson, Director of Parks and Recreation

Simpson, a Brookings native, has been with the department for 15 years overseeing budgets, hunting and fishing licensing, federal aid, geographic information systems, construction projects and education, and has served as a department lobbyist.

Scott and his wife Linette have recently purchased the family farm in Perkins County and this opportunity allows them to combine their passion for agriculture and conservation.  Away from work Scott is an avid hunter, angler and golfer and enjoys sharing these activities with their three children.  Scott received his BS in Business Management from the University of Sioux Falls and was selected for the first cohort of the State of South Dakota’s Leadership Development Program in 2005.

Simpson and his wife Lynette have three children, Annabelle, Ellie Jo and Charlie.

Chris  Petersen, Director of Administration
Chris Petersen, Director of Administration

Growing up in Sisseton, South Dakota, Chris spent much of his time enjoying all of the outdoor recreational opportunities that can only be found in the glacial lakes region of the state. Chris attended the University of South Dakota earning his Bachelor of Science in business administration in 1997 and his Masters in Business Administration in 1998. Chris and his wife Josie moved to Pierre in 2001 and began careers in state government. Chris worked for the Bureau of Finance and Management until 2006 when he was provided with a unique opportunity to serve as the director of administration and finance officer for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks while also serving as the chief finance officer for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

Living and raising a family in Pierre, South Dakota while serving as GFP’s finance officer for over 15 years, Chris appreciates the opportunity to work for the organization that connects people with the outdoors and showcases what defines South Dakota as a truly great state; hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.

Emily Kiel, Director of Marketing and Outreach
Emily Kiel, Director of Marketing and Outreach

Emily is a Watertown native where she basically grew up outside; hunting, fishing, and camping. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Minnesota State University Moorhead and a master’s degree in administration with an emphasis in organizational leadership from the University of South Dakota. For the past 16 years, she has served the state of South Dakota working in leadership positions focused on public relations, issues management, and strategic communications at the Department of Social Services, the Department of Tourism, the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications as well as Governor Noem’s Office. 

Emily began her career with the Game, Fish and Parks in 2014 serving as the strategic communications director while managing and implementing the 2016-2020 strategic plan with staff department-wide. As the marketing and outreach director and a passionate user of South Dakota’s outdoor resources, she oversees the communications and education teams to develop, implement and monitor key business objectives through large-scale marketing and outreach campaigns aimed at generating revenue and user growth for continued promotion of South Dakota and the GFP brand. 

Emily and her husband, Chad, reside on an acreage north of Pierre with their two children, horses, and a black lab pup. Together they enjoy everything about the great outdoors – from hunting deer, mountain lions, pheasants, doves, and turkeys to hosting statewide coyote calling contests, hiking in the hills, fishing the Missouri River, riding horses and watching wildlife.