Meet Brendon Plack '03

Staff director, Senate Republican Conference and
the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Sen. John Thune
— economics & business administration majors

Q. Who was your favorite professor at Augie? Why? 
There are a couple favorites that stand out from my time at Augustana.  Doug Nelson was one of the most likable professors.  His sense of humor and entertaining real life experiences made even accounting and business law courses enjoyable.  His memory lives on through the many alumni who hold him in similar esteem.

Dr. Sandra Looney was the first person to ever suggest a career in politics.  She said that my writing style was fit for the political world.  I’m still not sure if that was meant to be a compliment, but 12 years later, I certainly appreciate the advice.  Dr. Eggleston and Dr. Nesiba opened the door to economics, and kept me coming back to earn a second major.  The classroom discussion, which typically involved some good-spirited debates, helped solidify my interest in politics and the interaction between the public and private sectors. 

Q. Favorite Augustana memory?
Traveling abroad during J-Term to study the European Union is a memory that always stands out.  It was a unique opportunity to experience other cultures, learn about different governments, and establish new friendships. Additionally, performing at the annual Christmas Vespers is one of my favorite experiences at Augustana.  Bringing together the concert band and choirs every year during the Christmas season is a great tradition that continues today. Finally, living with some of my best friends at the “Rock House” senior year was a great finish to my time at Augustana. 

Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why? 
Certainly meeting and marrying my wife of two years, Lindsay, has provided the greatest personal satisfaction. Additionally, starting a career that allows me to help South Dakotans and routinely travel back to the state is very rewarding. I'm very fortunate to have a job that encourages traveling home to work and visit family and friends.

Q. A foundation for life at Augustana begins with our five values – Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. How did your time at Augustana help to ensure those values remain central in your life?
From the faculty to the administration to the students, these core values were promoted at every level of campus life.  The faculty and leadership taught us to grow spiritually and intellectually every day, which is something I still strive for today. 

Q. Tell us about your journey after graduating from Augustana – first job, grad school, travel, etc.? 
A. I started working for then-Congressman John Thune (R-South Dakota) in the Fall of 2002 as part of this first U.S. Senate race.  After graduating in 2003, I worked on the Bush-Cheney 2004 reelection campaign before rejoining Senator Thune’s team in January 2005.  I thought it would just be a few short years in Washington before returning to South Dakota, but 10 years later, I have a great job that allows me stay connected to South Dakota and a loving wife who does not mind the long hours and travel to and from the state.

Q. Tell us about your career – what’s an average day like?
A. There’s never a dull moment managing two staffs and working for a U.S. Senator.  The schedule is largely dictated by the legislative calendar.  Votes start on the Senate floor on Monday and usually wrap up by Thursday evening or Friday morning.  Throughout the week we juggle staff and constituent meetings, committee hearings, floor speeches, amendments while pushing forward bills and amendments that are important to South Dakota.  The average day starts early and usually lasts well into the night, but when you enjoy what you do, it hardly feels like work.

Q. Greatest challenges and best rewards of your current role? 
A. Building a bipartisan consensus on the issues facing our country is a constant challenge.  For as big as the divide is between Republicans and Democrats, the challenges we face together are even bigger.  It is difficult, but certainly not impossible, to work together in a bipartisan way to meet these challenges even with a divided federal government.  The greatest reward is being in a position to help South Dakotans on a daily basis.  All of our efforts are focused on helping South Dakota, keeping our nation safe, and ensuring our country is even stronger for the next generation.  I’m very fortunate to have that opportunity.

Q. Greatest professional accomplishment thus far? 
A. Helping Senator Thune build his team, move up in Senate leadership, and the Senate Commerce Committee has been very fulfilling.  We’ve had several accomplishments along the way including saving and improving the Ellsworth Air Force Base, enacting farm bills that save taxpayer dollars and provide a better agriculture safety net, and passing energy bills that have reduced our dependence on foreign oil. 

Q. What’s next for you professionally? 
A. I hope to someday return to the Midwest and continue working in politics or the private sector.