Watts elected state commander of American Legion

Watts elected state commander of American Legion
The American Legion Department of South Dakota State Headquarters in Watertown has announced that Gary Watts of Higgins-Jessen American Legion Post 88 in White was elected the new state commander of the American Legion in South Dakota during the closing moments of the 89th annual convention in Spearfish on Sunday, June 10.

Watts, a 27-year Paid-up-for-Life member of The American Legion defeated Paul Jensen of Gingrich-Dixon, American Legion Post 13 in Wakonda, for the position as leader of the 25,000-member organization in South Dakota.

Commander Watts' eligibility for membership in the American Legion is based on his four years of active duty in the U.S. Navy, where he served from 1959 to 1963. Upon discharge from the U.S. Navy, he joined the Navy Seabee Reserves, where he served until his retirement in 1990.

Commander Watts has served in key leadership positions previously in other organizations. He is a past president of the South Dakota Innkeepers Association and the Glacial Lakes Tourism Association. He has held many other key leadership positions within the American Legion, having served in many post offices to include commander of the Hoffman-Townsend American Legion Post 74 in Brookings (1994-95), district vice commander (1996-97), district commander (1997-99), and state vice commander (1999-2000). Most recently, he served as state finance officer for the American Legion from 2001-2006.

During the 2006 South Dakota American Legion State Convention, Watts was named as the recipient of the South Dakota American Legion's Robert C. Gabrielson

Memorial Leadership Award, which recognizes one individual from within the organization for superior and inspirational leadership.

Also elected at the 89th annual convention in Spearfish were five state vice commanders from areas across the state who will assist State Commander Watts in leading the organization during the coming year. Elected as state vice commanders were Doug Meyer of Humboldt, Larry Lindhorst of Cresbard, Charlie Fischer of Long Lake, Curt Halverson of Rapid City (member of the Custer American Legion Post), and John "Jack" Hantz of Lemmon. The commander and vice commanders all serve one-year terms.

Other officers elected included Paul Evenson of Sioux Falls (member of the Garretson American Legion Post) as national executive committeeman, Larry Price of Redfield as alternate national executive committeeman, and G. D. "Hoot" Gibson of Sioux Falls as master-at-arms.

State Commander Watts has appointed Gary Wolkow of De Smet as his membership chairman for the 2007-2008 membership year. Wolkow will travel extensively with State Commander Watts as they work to enhance the image and programs of the American Legion in South Dakota. The American Legion, which is already the largest wartime veterans organization in South Dakota and the nation, has set a goal to continue to increase the number of veterans who are members. State Commander Watts has chosen "Keep the Dream Alive" as his theme for his year in office.

Watts and his wife Bette have been married for 47 years and they live in White. They have three children, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. The Watts are active members of the Zion Lutheran Church in White.

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