SDN Blog

SDN bolsters staff with addition of former senatorial assistant

Posted on Wednesday, April 22, 2015 in Employees

Blog written by

Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson’s interest in national history and government lured her to Washington, D.C., where she attended college and enjoyed a successful career as a legislative assistant.

The opportunity to work for SDN Communications in Sioux Falls lured her back home to South Dakota. After serving as an adviser to former U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota on issues such as telecommunications and technology, she wanted to get into private industry.

“This seemed like the perfect fit,” says Johnson, who shares the last name of her former boss but is not related to him. “I knew SDN. I respected the company’s leadership and the work it was doing.”

Johnson started March 2 as SDN’s manager of government and external relations. She reports to Vernon Brown, vice president of marketing and member relations. He is thrilled to have Johnson on staff.

“She really is a national expert on telecommunications policy. She lived and breathed it in Sen. Johnson’s office,” Brown says. "We recognized the opportunity for SDN to grow by gaining a key player in the industry and it was an opportunity for Carrie to continue her work and return home to South Dakota."

Johnson, a Yankton native, built an impressive resume while studying and working in the nation’s capital.

She graduated from the American University School of Public Affairs in 2009 with the President’s Award, the highest annual honor given to a graduating senior. She complemented her two Bachelor of Arts degrees with a Master of Business Administration degree that she earned by attending night school at Johns Hopkins University.

In 2009, she was a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University. She also was named by USA Today as one of 20 All-USA Academic First Team Scholars.  

Johnson worked in Pierre as an aide during the 2009 session of the South Dakota Legislature. She joined Sen. Johnson’s staff as a research assistant in July 2009 and became a legislative assistant in 2011. She stayed on the senator’s staff until he retired in 2015.

In addition to advisory duties in telecommunications and technology, she had responsibilities in areas including taxation, budgeting, appropriations, labor, and education. Dealing with such issues at the federal level fit nicely with her broader interest in economic development in rural areas.

“It quickly became apparent that telecommunications is critical infrastructure that gives rural people access to opportunities,” Johnson says. “It makes the entire network – the entire country – more valuable if we are all connected.”

Her federal job involved working in nonpartisan fashion with staffers from other congressional offices.

“Working together was the way to get things done. That’s how I approached my time in the senator’s office,” she says.

Among her accomplishments was helping Sen. Johnson bring attention to call-completion problems in rural America. The Federal Communications Commission ultimately approved an order that improved the agency’s ability to monitor the delivery of phone calls to rural areas.

Her new job involves working with local, state and federal offices.

“I want to make sure that we have a seat at the table when important decisions are made that affect the rural telecommunications industry,” Johnson says.

She also will work with SDN’s member companies. SDN is owned by 17 phone companies that serve about 80 percent of the state’s land mass. SDN also is establishing a partnership with six independent phone companies in southern Minnesota and one in northern Iowa.

Johnson also will assist other members of the SDN staff who deal with governmental and regulatory issues.

Away from work, she enjoys running, theater and the arts. She also enjoys outdoors activities such as camping, hiking and fishing. “I’m really excited about it being so much more accessible,” she says.

Johnson joins a well-established but evolving company with 26 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. SDN provides broadband connectivity to businesses and institutions throughout the region. It also provides telecommunications equipment and services that help organizations move, store and protect electronic information.

Visit the SDN Communications website to learn more about the company.