Why Leadership South Dakota?

The future success of South Dakota depends on our development of homegrown leaders; passionate and diverse citizens from every corner of the state. Leadership South Dakota’s 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.
Over the course of eight months, you'll get exactly that. You'll go places most people never see. Meet the behind-the-scenes people who make the state work. And finally, your team will explore one of the many challenges facing the state, and propose solutions that will lead us into the future.


Rick MelmerRick Melmer

Dr. Rick Melmer, founder and Co-Director for Dakota Education Consulting (DEC), is a Leadership Coach @ The Growth Coach of South Dakota. In addition, Melmer, Director of RVM Consulting, serves as a NAEP Ambassador for 13 states.

Melmer served as the Dean of Education at the University of South Dakota from 2008 – 2013 and the Secretary of Education for the State of South Dakota from 2003 - 2008. Prior to that Melmer worked as a classroom teacher, building administrator and Superintendent of Schools in Wyoming, Iowa, and South Dakota.

Melmer co-founded the Leadership South Dakota program which equips professionals to lead in their local communities. Leadership South Dakota, in its third year of operation, accepts around 40 leaders each year and helps prepare each of them to take a more active role and assume leadership positions - at the community, state, and national levels.

Melmer, a South Dakota native, holds a B.A. in Elementary Education and Psychology from Dakota Wesleyan University, an M.A. in Elementary Administration from South Dakota State University, and an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Wyoming.

Tom OsterTom Oster

Tom Oster, is the Co- Director of Dakota Education Consulting (DEC), a firm that specializes in Superintendent and Executive Searches, education consulting and leadership, mentoring, and strategic planning services to schools and statewide educational agencies. In addition, Oster offers a variety of professional services for education and executive organizations as the Director of Oster Consulting. Recent clients are the New Mexico Department of Education and Battelle for Kids.

Oster served as the Superintendent of Schools for the Sioux Valley school district in Volga, SD from 2011 -2016. From 2008 – 2011 Oster served as the Secretary of Education for the State of South Dakota. Prior to that, he served the Avon School District for 18 years, first as a high school principal and later the superintendent and elementary principal.

Oster was an athletic/activities director for 25 years, serving as President of the State Activities Association. Oster was inducted into the Athletic Directors Hall of Fame in 2013.

Oster, a South Dakota native, holds a B.S. in Secondary Education and an M.A. in Secondary Administration from Northern State University, and an Ed. S. in Education Administration from the University of South Dakota.

Oster, along with Melmer, serves as co-director for Leadership South Dakota. The program attracts engaged citizens from across the state, provides them with the background, unique experiences, and insights to make a difference in their community and state. Together, the Melmers and Osters are leading an organized effort, Leadership South Dakota , to develop homegrown leaders.


Experiences that will expand knowledge of our state. These include tours and visits to organizations, businesses and industries that are instrumental to South Dakota.


Access to extraordinary people who have contributed to the fabric of our state. These people are local and state leaders who have had a positive impact on South Dakota.


Skills in the area of leadership, health & wellness, communication and organizational management that will contribute to our future success in South Dakota.


Hear what others have to say about their Leadership South Dakota Experience.

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