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don barnett


about the author

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Photo by Johnny Sundby.

How to Buy the Book:

Mr. Don Barnett was a resident of RC from l947 to 1980 and served as Mayor from l971-75. He relocated to metro Denver in l983 to expand his career in the construction and operation of several  small-town cable tv systems and later the financing and construction of 20 government owned golf courses. He has family in RC and visits the city 3-4 times per year.


Don grew up in Rapid City and earned his undergraduate degree from South Dakota State University. While a graduate student at the University of Nebraska, he sought a direct commission and joined the US Army in 1967. As a commander in the Medical Service Corps, he served as a senior administrator in a 400-bed neurosurgical and spinal wound hospital in Vietnam and earned the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in ground operations against hostile forces. He was honorably discharged at the rank of captain in December 1969. He was elected mayor of Rapid City in 1971 at the age of 29. During the four years in the position, he led the city’s recovery from the devastating flood of June 1972, dealt with civil unrest associated with American Indian Movement in February 1973, and successfully campaigned for the construction and development of a new civic center. After leaving the mayor’s office in 1975, he was the Democratic nominee for US Senate in 1978 but was defeated in the general election. He worked in real estate development and as a cable television entrepreneur. He also served as the senior vice president and national marketing director for a golf course development firm.


In his first year as mayor, Don married JoAnn Baumann. The couple raised two daughters, D’Anna and Debra before JoAnn passed away in 2010. He currently resides in Littleton, Colorado.

Jack Getz, professor emeritus of journalism and mass communication, South Dakota State University,

and former reporter and news editor, Rapid City Journal.

“Don Barnett's first-person account of the two unrelated catastrophes that ripped his small Midwestern community asunder nearly half a century ago is totally detailed, riveting, and accurate. His writing reflects the marvel of his performance as a young and until-then untested community leader during the most turbulent civic era imaginable. Additionally, his writing illustrates the selfless and willingness, even eagerness, of municipal appointees and all 10 members of the City Council at that time to put aside politics and personal differences to work for the common good.”

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