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.

Kevin Robling, Deputy Secretary
Kevin Robling, Deputy Secretary

Kevin received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries science from South Dakota State University and began his career with GFP in 2009 as a graduate student in Clark County, radio-collaring white-tailed deer. In 2011, he was 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 took on a new position as the special projects coordinator where his main job duties included working with the GFP Commission and the state Legislature, implementing nonmeandered water legislation, internal program reviews and evaluations, deer license allocation changes, enhancing recreational opportunities and simplifying regulations identified through the department’s strategic plan. 

Kevin and his wife Holly have one year old boy /girl twins, Sawyer and Reese.

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 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.