Remembering Sheila Bonrud

Sheila Bonrud

Sheila Bonrud passed away on Wednesday morning, May 17, 2023, at the age of 81.

Sheila wasn’t a public figure and didn’t have a high profile, but she was a mainstay of the South Dakota Governor’s Office – one of the dedicated employees who make state government function. She joined state government in 1976 and, over the years, worked for Governors Bill Janklow, Mike Rounds, Dennis Daugaard, and Kristi Noem.

Working with longtime Governor’s Office staffer Jim Soyer, Sheila played a key role in the management of each legislative session. She tracked every bill, every amendment, and every committee result. During the Governor’s Office’s daily meeting during session, the entire staff would refer to “Sheila’s List” – always hot off the printers – to flag amendments and identify legislative developments.

This meant that, although technically in an administrative role, Sheila had been a part of Governor’s strategy meetings during the legislative session for decades and across several administrations. It gave her insight into the legislative goings on, and she was never shy about sharing an opinion – sometimes in a stage-whisper that was easily heard by all.

Sheila eventually retired from a full-time role in 2005, but continued to come back and work during the legislative session, doing the tracking work and helping the administrative staff during that busy time. In 2016, she announced that she was going to “retire” again from this part-time duty, and Governor Dennis Daugaard presented her with a proclamation declaring “Sheila Bonrud Day.” But by the time the next session rolled around, Sheila had changed her mind and was back again.

Like Jim Soyer, Deb Bowman, and other longtime staffers, Sheila served ably and was dedicated to the governors she served, but she always had a special affinity for Bill Janklow. I can remember one time, during the Daugaard administration, when I walked through the waiting area when Sheila was covering the phones. The phone rang and she answered, “Governor Janklow’s Office!”

The Governor’s Staff always looked forward to Sheila’s first day back at the Capitol. She could always be counted on to provide the office with a steady supply of baked goods, discussion of the latest goings-on, and grandmotherly attention. And I know she was a great mother and grandmother, and an avid follower of her grandchildren’s activities.

To paraphrase Governor Janklow: “You don’t replace someone like Sheila Bonrud, you just find a way to go on without her.” The legislative session won’t be the same without Sheila, but I feel very fortunate to have known her and worked with her.

Update: Services for Sheila will be on Monday, May 22 at 10 am at Ss. Peter and Paul in Pierre. Her complete obituary is posted below:

Sheila Marie (Flanagan) Bonrud passed away peacefully at home on May 17, 2023. A Memorial Mass will be held at 10:00am on Monday, May 22nd at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Pierre with burial at Riverside Cemetery. For those unable to attend the services they will be live streamed on her obituary page at

Sheila was born in Henry, SD on January 17, 1942 to Frank and Kathryn (Ralph) Flanagan. Sheila was the sixth child of nine. She grew up in Henry, SD until the eighth grade when the family moved to Egan, SD. Sheila was a proud Egan Bluejay cheerleader who gained the nickname “legs”.

Sheila had a varied career from selling real estate, working at the Falcon and Kings Inn Lancer Room, and working numerous positions in state government. She worked for six Governors and retired numerous times because she loved retirement parties. In her most recent position, she was a legislative assistant in the Governor’s Office helping track legislation.

Sheila was known far and wide for her culinary skills. Her caramel rolls, homemade bread, pies and goulash were regularly requested at family gatherings.

Christmas was Sheila’s favorite holiday. Kids and grandkids alike were “voluntold” at Christmas time with a bowl of frosting to be used on her spritz cookies. Her platters of Christmas goodies were anxiously awaited by many every year. The grandchildren had additional duties of delivering loads of Christmas gifts to the host house.

Sheila’s passion was her family – daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “Grandma Sheila” was known by many Stanley County and Pierre school athletes and coaches due to the baked goods she sent with her grandchildren on every out of town bus ride. It was not unusual for her to get requests for treats and she made a special effort to keep the treats peanut free so all could enjoy. Her second passion was playing bare foot golf. She always had a “do over” golf ball in her pocket.

Sheila leaned on her faith throughout her life. She was an active member of Ss Peter and Paul Church where she was a member of the St. Michaels Band.

Sheila is survived by her daughters: Pam Bonrud, Lynne (Clark) Guthrie, Laurie (Eric) Gronlund and Paula Alexander; six grandchildren and three great grandchildren: Zachary, Cade (Tory), Karissa (Owen), Shelby, Halle (Michael), Kenzie (Alex), Ryan, Benjamin and Logan; sisters Lou Roby, Joan Haugen, Mary (Vince) Maag and a brother Ralph (Donna) Flanagan.

She was preceded in death by her parents, sister Pat Brekke and brothers Steve Flanagan, Bill Flanagan and Jimmy Flanagan.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be sent to the Stanley County or Riggs Booster Clubs.