Leadership South Dakota Program

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The future success of South Dakota depends on our development of homegrown leaders. Leadership South Dakota is a program that works with promising South Dakota leaders in giving them the knowledge and skills they need to lead in their communities. Its mission is to attract engaged citizens from across the state, then provide them with the background, unique experiences, and insights necessary to assume leadership positions at the community, state, and national levels.

Persona Sales Manager, Sean Melmer is a recent graduate of the program. Having only been on the job for roughly a month, Melmer already has a vision for Persona and is strategically taking steps to bring that vision to fruition. He shared his experiences with us in the program from the application process all the way to graduation day.

Leadership South Dakota Experience

Q: What is Leadership South Dakota really about?

A: It is an opportunity to build leadership and critical thinking skills through experiences traveling around the state of South Dakota.

Q: How did you get into the program?

A: There is an application and vetting process.  In this last term, there were around 75 applicants who wanted to take part in the program. I was admitted along with 41 other people.

Q: What parts of South Dakota did you travel to?

A: All over the state. We visited 6 different locations that had different themes highlighting the key industries of each area. We would meet once a month and spend a few days at each location.

We first visited Pierre to learn how our state’s leadership works with the people who run it. I got to visit the Governor’s Mansion and meet Gov. Kristi Noem.

The second stop was in Brookings to gain valuable insight into our state’s #1 industry, agriculture, as well as the all-important topic of education.

Rapid City was our next site. There, we dove into the impact of South Dakota tourism. We got to visit Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Lucky for me, the next spot was in Watertown, so I got to sleep in the comfort of my own bed. We learned about our state’s technical education and the unique challenges facing smaller communities.

The fifth place we visited was Sioux Falls. We got to hear about the health care systems and the financial industries.

We concluded our tour in Mission to better understand Native American history and culture on the state’s nine reservations.

Our final destination was Chamberlain for graduation.

Q: What are some of your key takeaways from this program?

A: I will forever cherish my experiences in the Leadership South Dakota program. For one thing, the networking with classmates and exposure to community leaders was invaluable. The one thing I will never forget though, is the leadership modules. Hearing from leaders and the challenges, opportunities and successes they have encountered on their journeys was monumental for my professional growth.