On average, more than 5,000 people are arrested each year for drunk driving in South Dakota. Over the weekend, the Yankton School District Superintendent became one of them.
Dr. Joseph Gertsema was arrested early Sunday morning at a sobriety checkpoint near Vermillion.
Wednesday, he's talking about the arrest, detailing his embarrassment, but taking full responsibility for what happened.
Dr. Gertsema didn't think he was over the legal limit when he failed a sobriety test, last weekend. But, he says, after 23 years of service to the Yankton School District, addressing the matter professionally and respectfully is the right thing to do.
If you were to ask Dr. Gertsema what keeps him going, he would tell you the achievements of his students and staff, and the Yankton tradition.
But, he admits, the DUI arrest slowed him down.
"There isn't anything anyone could say right now, to me, nothing, that would make me feel worse than I actually feel right now. It'll take me awhile to forgive myself for this error," Dr. Joseph Gertsema said.
An error he wanted to address in public. While he can't go back and change what he did, he says he can control how he handles it.
"It's my problem and I want to take ownership of it and do the very best I can under some very difficult circumstances," Dr. Gertsema said.
Avoiding drinking and driving was a lesson he thought he'd learned, but this time, that lesson carries more weight considering his role in the district.
"People shouldn't drive after they've been drinking. I did that and I think it's a very valuable lesson. Quite frankly, I don't think there should be people drinking at all," he said.
The only thing Gertsema wants to do now is look forward, hoping he continues to be known as a man devoted to the district, students and their families. But first, one who is owning his mistake.
"I'm going to own this problem and do the right thing to the best of my ability," he said.
Dr. Gertsema continues to work with authorities and members of the Yankton School Board to determine a plan moving forward.
He appreciates the support he's received and does plan to stay with the district.
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