Photo © Sam Stukel

Agency Leadership

Kelly  Hepler, Department Secretary
Kelly Hepler, Department Secretary

Since joining the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) as Department Secretary, I have been reminded again and again that the hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor recreational opportunities are almost limitless in this state. More importantly, the passion, dedication and engagement of our staff and South Dakota’s sportsmen and women are unmatched. 

Customer service is a large part of our  mission and continues to be at the forefront of who we are as an agency. Listening to our customers, making changes to accommodate their needs and the needs of others, being helpful, courteous, transparent and reliable are all ways to building lasting relationships with our customers. 

Kelly is a native to South Dakota; born in Deadwood and graduated from Spearfish High School before receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in Fish and Wildlife Management from Montana State University in 1978.

Kelly has enjoyed over 30 years of marriage to Carol Riedner Hepler, who is originally from Wisconsin. They have two grown children, Zachary and Maggie, and are avid fans of the Green Bay Packers.

Tony  Leif, Director of Wildlife
Tony Leif, Director of Wildlife

Tony grew up in Huron and received a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from South Dakota State University in 1985. After earning his Master of Science degree from Texas Tech University in 1987, he returned to South Dakota, taking a job as a wildlife conservation officer in Freeman. A year later, he moved to Huron to be a wildlife biologist and was promoted to senior wildlife biologist in 1998. While in Huron, he lead the department’s upland game management and research programs focusing on pheasants, wild turkeys and grouse.

Tony moved to Pierre in 2005 after receiving a promotion to be a wildlife program administrator a year earlier. He guided statewide management and research of game populations until 2007 when he was appointed director of the Division of Wildlife. Tony is a staunch advocate of science-based wildlife management that achieves socially-supported management goals derived from public input.

Tony and his wife, Kandee, have four children, Hillaree, Andrew, Ethan and Elliot.

Katie Ceroll, Director of Parks and Recreation
Katie Ceroll, Director of Parks and Recreation

A native of rural Beresford, Katie graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2007, with a history major and political science minor. After graduation, she traveled back to her home state, accepting a naturalist position at Fort Sisseton State Park. Then, in 2010, transitioned into park management and in 2012, became the district supervisor for Fort Sisseton, Roy Lake and Sica Hollow state parks. She served as the parks northeast regional supervisor for a couple of years before accepting the position to lead the entire division in the spring of 2016.

Katie is well-respected throughout the parks and recreation industry and is dedicated to serving the residents and visitors of our state. Her diversity of thought brings a fresh outlook on the future of our department and state parks.

As a rancher’s wife and mother of two, she believes in the quality of life that parks bring to communities and families and in the ability for all to enjoy our state’s natural heritage. 

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 moved to Pierre in 2001 and began his career in state government with the Bureau of Finance and Management. In 2006, he was provided with a unique opportunity to serve as the director of administration and chief 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.

For nearly 12 years, Chris has had the pleasure of working for two state agencies that showcase what defines South Dakota as a truly great state, outdoor recreation and agriculture.