Rural South Dakota is in Connie’s DNA. Her dad was on the economic development board for many years in her hometown of Lemmon, and Connie was able to witness the challenges and rewards of his work. She spent eight years in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and is now the Vice President of Public Benefit for Delta Dental of South Dakota. Her background and experience in board governance, grant writing and rural healthcare brings a valued perspective to the Dakota Resources Board. Through her job, Connie has also managed a program that serves several SD reservations. She understands the importance of healthy rural communities to the overall economic well-being of our region.
Kelly is a farmer, an inventor, a business owner, a former Dakota Rising Fellow and is involved in economic development for Faulk County, where he was born and raised. His love of rural brought him back to his family’s farm after moving to Minneapolis to pursue a career as an electrician. After moving back home, he began designing and patenting farm equipment to help make feeding cattle easier. His products eventually grew into Common Sense Manufacturing, one of the largest employers in the county. His experiences as a “rural risk taker” make him a valuable asset to the Dakota Resources board, where he offers his insights as farmer and rancher, a Dakota Rising alumni and a mentor for other business owners. He believes in giving back to his community and knows that it takes a village to help rural communities thrive—something he has been able to witness first-hand through the significant economic and community growth in Faulk County–considered a “poster child” of success for Dakota Resources.
Justin is the Market President with Central Bank in Brookings. With more than 22 years of experience in the financial services industry, Gray assumed his current role in 2019. Prior to Central Bank, he was employed with Wells Fargo. He joined Wells Fargo in 1997 with their Management Development Program. He has held leadership positions within Wells Fargo Wholesale Banking since 2010. Gray holds a bachelor’s degree from South Dakota State University in Brookings. He has served on leadership boards for the Rapid City YMCA, United Way of the Black Hills, and United Way of Siouxland.
Glen has served the Boys & Girls Club of Rosebud in various ways since 2009. He filled the roles of volunteer, board member, and site director, before stepping into the executive role in July 2014. Glen also served in the United States Army Reserve and taught economics at Todd County High School. Glen has served on the national Native Advisory Board for the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) since 2016 and was inducted into the BGCA Great Plains Area Council Hall of Fame in 2018. Glen holds a B.A. in Economics from Minnesota State University Moorhead. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and dogs.
Onna LeBeau, member of the Omaha Nation of Nebraska, is the Executive Director of the Black Hills Community Loan Fund, Inc. in Rapid City. Onna is a mother to five young men and gaha (Grandma) to 2 beautiful children. Onna grew up in Aberdeen where she started her family, received her Bachelors of Science in Economics and Finance from NSU and career in community development. Onna’s passion for financial education and helping her native people is what drives her to provide services to as many as she is able to reach through her organization. Onna received her Masters in Applied Sciences from the University of Nebraska. In her spare time she loves to go hiking in the Black Hills, kayaking when ever she is able and enjoys listening to all genres of music and traveling while attending concerts with her boys.
Caleb Finck is a born and raised 5th Generation Farm and Rancher from a small farm south of Tripp, South Dakota where he lives today with his wife Toni. He is active in his community and promoting Agriculture across South Dakota and holds a degree in Agricultural Leadership from South Dakota State University. Caleb currently serves as a South Dakota State Representative for District 21 and is Chair of the House Transportation Committee. He also serves on several community boards and foundations in the Tripp Community and across the state. It's not uncommon for Caleb's background in a virtual meeting to include the cab of a tractor which he considers "an office with the best view anyone could ask for!"
Kelsea Kenzy Sutton works as an attorney for First Fidelity Bank in her hometown of Burke, South Dakota. She is a passionate "homecomer," and when she isn't lawyering she likes to spend her free time working on community development and rural advocacy. She helps run several local nonprofits, and together with her husband launched a statewide leadership initiative to help empower more community-minded, courageous, servant leaders. She loves historical fiction, hot yoga, and spending summers on the Missouri river with her family.
Marc Eyre is the Vice President of Electric Operations for Black Hills Energy, where he is responsible for providing safe, reliable electric service to over 70,000 customers in 38 communities throughout western South Dakota, northeast Wyoming, and southeastern Montana. As an essential service provider, Marc knows the importance of investing in rural communities and has a passion for supporting economic development and growth. Outside of work Marc enjoys spending time with his family and serving in his church and community. Marc serves on the Board for Mitchell Technical College’s Foundation, Deadwood - Lead Economic Development Corporation, and United Way of the Black Hills. Marc and his family love the outdoors and all the great recreation western South Dakota has to offer.
Clay Hoffman was born and raised in the West River farming and ranching community of Winner, South Dakota. He went on to attend the University of South Dakota and graduated with a BA in Political Science in 2015. After a short stint in politics, Clay currently works as a Loyalty Giving Officer with the SDSU Foundation. In his current role, he works to cultivate relationships with alumni and friends of South Dakota's premier land-grant institution to discover their passions in support of the University. Clay is excited to be part of an organization that is dedicated to a thriving rural.
Blaine Crissman is the President and a Founding Partner of South Dakota Equity LLC. South Dakota Equity is a private equity firm that invests equity in a collaborative approach with management teams and co-investors. The equity investments are available to support growth in companies seeking to expand existing operations in, or relocate to, South Dakota.
As a Mitchell resident and Director of Commercial and Agribusiness banking for First National Bank, Jacqson has a unique perspective when it comes to the challenges and opportunities available to rural businesses and agriculture operations. He is connected to rural people and places through his job and is dedicated to helping them succeed. His financial and lending expertise are an asset to the Dakota Resources team, while his connections across the region allow him to spread the word about the valuable programs and resources available to the people living here.
Erik Gaikowski joined AARP as the South Dakota State Director in March 2016, representing over 106,000 AARP members in the state. Erik is a highly respected non-profit leader specializing in volunteer leadership development, strategic staff deployment, and community engagement since 2000. Previously, Erik led the development and coordination of a statewide advocate network and partner organizations to successfully influence health policy, and also developed strategic partnerships with medical, corporate, and public employers to advance organizational priorities to improve the health of all citizens. Erik’s upbringing in South Dakota drives his focus on improving livability in communities across the state, which was the impetus for convening statewide stakeholders to enhance livability and grow community and economic development for all South Dakotans. Erik holds a degree in Political Science from Northern State University. He lives in Sioux Falls with his wife Mandy and two daughters.
Ruth is the Senior Vice President of Citi Community Development with 20+ years of experience in the financial services area—ten of those focusing on community development. Her skillset is a direct benefit to the Dakota Resources board, made even stronger by her desire to help shape the future of rural. Through her work at Citi and 30+ years in the military, Ruth understands the impact strong communities have on youth and families and is proud to be part of an organization that helps build those impacts. She lives on an acreage near Garretson where she connects to the rural landscape through organic gardening and is a proponent of sustainability and giving back. In her words, taking care of each other is what rural people do.
Jon Farris joined BankWest in 2016 and serves as Special Assets Officer, providing assistance in debt recovery solutions. Previously he had worked for DuPont Pioneer as an Account Manager in east central South Dakota leading the sales efforts of Pioneer brand products.He worked for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) from 1994 to 2013, serving as Deputy Secretary, Acting Secretary and Director of the Agricultural Development Division. Prior to joining SDDA, Farris worked as an investment broker, served as an operations manager for a residential district and assisted in infrastructure development for local municipalities. Originally from Woonsocket, South Dakota, he grew up on a diversified farm and family business. Farris received his bachelor’s degree from South Dakota State University and his MBA from the University of Phoenix. He serves on the Mitchell Area United Way on the Board of Directors and is the current chair for the board for Dakotas America working with New Market Tax Credits.
Cecily Engelhart is an Ihanktonwan & Oglala mother, artist, coach, media nerd, foodie, bookworm, and kitchen dancing enthusiast. She was raised in South Dakota; her school years spent with her mother in the small college town of Vermillion and summers with her father, grandparents, and innumerable cousins on the Yankton Sioux Reservation along the muddy banks of the Missouri River. All her fondest memories relate to cooking delicious food, being in the sunshine, playing favorite games, and watching movies. She is unwaveringly passionate about how methods of expression shape our understanding of ourselves and each other. Her personal and professional work have consistently coalesced around storytelling in its various forms, most often through cooking, design, writing, and filmmaking. Through all her contributions to the world, she seeks to be a good relative, a good future ancestor, and a responsible steward of Unči Maka.
Patri brings over 20 years of design expertise, cultural sensitivity, and a wild and wonderful wit to her work. Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Patri resided in New York, Florida and Texas before making the Black Hills her home. As an architect and community member, Patri finds joy in creating solutions that catalyze smart growth and renewal with a special love for rural and remote communities. An engaged and passionate civic leader, Patri is a 2021 Bush Foundation Fellow. During the fellowship, she expanded her knowledge of public policy and social justice and her capacity for intercultural development, with the goal of creating a more equitable approach to architecture through policy, planning, practice, and participation. She understands that architecture is powerful and permanent and seeks to make the design and construction of places and spaces more just.
Brian Depew is Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs based on Lyons, Nebraska. He provides strategic leadership for the Center’s community development, financing and policy change efforts. Brian also serves on the governing body of the National sustainable Agriculture Coalition. He was a 2018 BALLE Network Local Economies Fellow. When not at work, Brian can be found chopping wood, working in the garden and tending a small flock of sheep.
As another year comes to a close, the staff at Dakota Resources and I want to wish you and yours a happy holiday season. This year has been one of progress and change, and we’re eager to share with you a peek back at what we’re grateful for this year and a preview at what’s to come in 2023.
The intersection of Highway 14 and Highway 45 in South Dakota is neither just a stopping point on the journey from Huron to Pierre, nor the site of two historical steer statues that mark the gateway to Miller, a town of 1,366 people. Since 2018, this intersection has been the site of Kessler’s of Miller, a grocery store cherished by the community as the domino that has since kicked off a flurry of business activity in Miller, home to the Hand County seat.
Children in communities far and wide are heading back to school, including Oglala Lakota students in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. But for this community, which sees approximately 75 percent of students leave the public school system between eighth grade and high school graduation, student retention is hopefully on the upswing due to the arrival of Lakota Tech High School, a career and technical education school.
What does it mean to truly love where you live? Sometimes it’s an outward expression, like we see on “I Love NY” sweatshirts. Other times, it’s an inner meditation that we repeat to ourselves in moments when our minds and our hearts are missing a place that’s no longer our home. And still other instances, it’s a passionate resolve to put in the work necessary to make our places something meant to be loved.
Economic development is central to cultivating a thriving rural. In order for rural America to grow effectively and meaningfully, financial programs need to be flexible enough to meet organizations and agencies where they are and robust enough to truly support these entities in moving their community forward.
In his letter to rural shapers at the end of 2021, Dakota Resources President Joe Bartmann talked about one big initiative in 2022: launching Thriverr, a platform that will house the Learning Network for years to come. Today, we’re checking in with Dakota Resources Learning Network Orchestrator and Community Coach Mike Knutson to share how Thriverr is making relationship-building and collaboration possible. We hope that you enjoy this Q&A.
It’s been said that to be a leader is a verb, not a noun, and that’s an adage that aligns with Dakota Resources’ Ali Sheley. This month, Sheley celebrates her graduation from Leadership South Dakota, a premier leadership development program that draws together professionals across industries in the state to promote greater understanding of what it takes to be a leader in our state.
If you ever read a “Choose Your Adventure” book as a child, we at Dakota Resources hope to harken back to that eXperience this summer at RuralX 2022! If you’re passionate about your rural community, RuralX is for you.