About Tim Bjorkman

Tim has dedicated his career as an advocate and a judge to solving problems in a common sense, non-partisan way.
Tim learned the value of selfless service in the home growing up. His father, John Bjorkman, who served in WWII as an infantryman, was a life-long member of the American Legion and instilled in his children the importance of giving back to the community.

Tim, a fifth-generation South Dakotan, grew up in the family of a Milwaukee Road agent whose work took him across eastern and western South Dakota to various towns across the state. By the time Tim started school the family lived in Kimball. During his school years, Tim played every sport, captained his teams, and was his school’s Boys State representative.


He took his first job at 12, sacking potatoes at Folan’s IGA in Kimball. He graduated from Kimball High School in 1974.


​With help from his parents and by working his way through college, often with two jobs, Tim attended South Dakota State University. After a legislative internship semester in Pierre, he completed his degree studies in history and English at the University of South Dakota. ​


After college, while waiting to begin law school, Tim worked in a factory for nine months, where he developed a deep respect for hard work and those who perform it, and the dignity of all work.


Tim began law school in the fall of 1979. He served on the South Dakota Law Review Board, was a Claude W. Schutter Scholarship Award recipient, and three of his law review articles were published during his law school career. Tim worked during law school as a house painter, as an intern, and as a teaching assistant to law professors his last two years, and graduated from law school in 1982.

In 1980, Tim met freshman law student Carol Kay Ontjes, a student in a class Tim assisted teaching. The two married in 1982, the year they both graduated.​


From the start, the couple’s faith has been an important part of their marriage and family. As a part of that expression of faith, the young couple made a commitment that, before they started a family and began the practice of law, they would serve in Christian missions for a year. So, in early January 1983 they loaded up their 1967 Chevrolet station wagon for the trip to St. Catharine’s, Ontario, where they led a ministry to the isolated elderly living in the city.


Upon their return to South Dakota in December 1983, Tim and Kay hung out their shingle in the general practice of law in Bridgewater, where Tim would serve as a small-town lawyer for the next 23 years, while Kay assisted and worked out of the home as the family began to expand.


During Tim’s law practice years, he wrote wills, settled estates, handled real estate transactions, represented cooperatives, cities and towns and a variety of boards, and  tried cases to juries across southeastern South Dakota, ranging from DUI to murder as well as a variety of civil cases, and arguing successfully before state and federal appellate courts.


Tim’s deepest satisfaction in the law came from helping ordinary people navigate the hardships of life and business.  He made frequent house calls, and sometimes sat alongside dying clients as they expressed their last desires.


​As a lawyer, Tim served on the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Board of Governors, and for several years as chair of the State Bar of South Dakota’s Pattern Jury Instruction Committee, a committee made up of trial lawyers and judges who prepare the model instructions judges read to juries at a trial. In 2002, South Dakota’s Chief Justice appointed Tim to serve on the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles, a role he fulfilled until 2006.

Tim and Kay raised four sons:


James, a 2006 West Point graduate, who served as a platoon leader in Iraq, and later as an Army captain, and who now lives in Katy, Texas, where he works in the petroleum industry.


John served for 12 years with the South Dakota National Guard, including two deployments in the War of Iraqi Freedom with Charlie Battery. John is currently a senior at Augustana University, and also works in farming.


Sam, a West Point graduate, served as an Army captain and now lives in Aberdeen with his wife Naomi (Fuhrman) Bjorkman, a West Point graduate who also served as an Army captain. They have two children, Tessa Joy, who begins the seventh generation of South Dakota Bjorkmans, and Isaac John. Naomi is a homemaker and Sam works for the campaign as the Northeast SD Field Coordinator/Fundraiser at the campaign’s Aberdeen office.


Seth is a 2017 graduate of Southeast Technical Institute and is married to Caitria (Sweeney) Bjorkman. Seth is employed in the hotel business and Caitria is employed in food services and attends college. They live in Sioux Falls with their infant son, Alexander James Bjorkman.

In 2006, Tim was elected a judge of the First Judicial Circuit for South Dakota with 73% of the vote. He was re-elected without opposition in 2014, and served until leaving the bench in June 2017.

While on the bench, Tim served as President of the South Dakota Judges’ Association.

Tim is a student of history and an author of historical and legal topics. In 2006, the University of Oklahoma Press published his book of American and South Dakota history titled, “Verne Sankey: America’s First Public Enemy.”


Tim has also written extensively on the law. Several of his articles have appeared in legal and other publications, including one recently published in the South Dakota Law Review, titled, “A State in Shackles: The Effect of a Dysfunctional Childhood on Crime and Imprisonment,” available on this website under “Tim on the Issues.”


For fun and fitness, Tim has for many years trained and competed in USA Masters and Senior Track and Field, where he is a two-time USA Masters Track and Field All-American in the Pentathlon and 60 Meter Dash.

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