Kristi Wagner Connects with the Future through Leadership South Dakota


By: Andrea Schmidt

Kristi Wagner doesn’t need leadership training. She has been leading the charge in South Dakota for most of her adult life. She and her husband decided 30 years ago to spend their lives making a difference in South Dakota, and they have made good on that decision.


You may know Kristi as a Community Coach for Dakota Resources. She is also an economic development professional, one of the founders of the international business program at Northern State University, the current President of the South Dakota Tourism Board, and the founder of her own company called Rushmore Center for Civic Leadership. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So why did she join the 2019-2020 class of Leadership South Dakota?

“I do know a lot about South Dakota, and I thought that could be of value, what I could give,” she says. “I feel like I’m very well connected with the current leaders of South Dakota. But it’s about the future leaders. That’s what I was longing for.”

She continues, “I wanted to build relationships and trust with potential future leaders of the state. My husband and I have both given it our all. So, I just want to make sure that our future leaders are there and will have the same passion. I needed to witness that myself.”

According to its website, Leadership South Dakota “prepares and promotes future leaders in the state with the knowledge and skills they need to lead South Dakota into the future.” It is a program that “builds leadership, critical thinking and public speaking skills through instruction and experiences you won’t get anywhere else.”

The class got to visit the Lakota Oglala reservation, the South Dakota Women’s Prison in Pierre, and get a behind-the-scenes tour of Ellsworth Air Force Base, among other things.

It was the perfect place for Kristi to find those young, passionate people.

“I made some great friends, great connections,” she says. “I got an understanding of the generation gap. I’m at the end of the Boomers. A lot of the others were Millennials and Gen Xers, and just understanding the generational divide was valuable.”

 Due to the pandemic, the class only met four of the six scheduled times, but it was enough time to make some real connections.

As Kristi says, “I think the people network and being able to connect those dots with communities and individuals we work with, that’s a go-to pool of resources. Also, I think the learning is phenomenal. It’s well-orchestrated, it’s challenging no matter where you’re at in your knowledge and background. It challenged me to think differently.”


Published On: November 5, 2020Categories: News & Notes

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