Images by Candace Ann Photography
Here at 605, we fancy ourselves the eyes and ears of young Sioux Falls. Part of this community awareness entails keeping an eye on the movers and shakers within the populous, particularly those who are making this a better place to live. Each of the following young adults is passionately committed to bettering Sioux Falls and perpetuating the values that make this such a great place to call home.  

What all of these people have in common is an enthusiasm for their work, a sense of personal accountability, and a genuine love for the community that they are helping to foster. Each of them has found their own way of making our city a better place than when
they found it.  

Jennifer McNamara
Age: 32
Hometown: Sioux Falls, SD

South Dakota is one of only four states that does not have a felony animal cruelty law on the books. This is the nexus of Jennifer McNamara’s mission, and why she helped to found the South Dakota Coalition for Companion Animals. It is a new and growing group formed in an effort to make life better for South Dakota pets and their owners. 

SDCCA works within the community and with legislators to expand the laws protecting animals beyond dog fighting, which is a nationwide felony. The SDCCA feels that our state’s current law is simply too broad, lumping neglect and abuse together.

McNamara said, “We don’t have any limitations on cruelty—and we should. We should because we are better people than that. As South Dakotans we believe in taking care of each other, taking care of property and taking care of ourselves. We need to send a message to the abusers. They’re just not welcome here.” 

It may appear that a fight like SDCCA’s would be wholly-consuming, but this fiery activist has a lot more going on than petitioning lawmakers. McNamara is a married mother of one who has worked for 15 years in the medical field. She claims that her greatest pastime is simply living in Sioux Falls, and as those who follow her on Twitter know, she takes her amusement as seriously as she takes her work.

McNamara is a foodie who is known for taking pictures of her plates and posting them online. “I like to know the good places to eat. Food is a big hobby. I don’t drink, so I always eat when we all go out,” she said.

Aside from which establishments have the most tantalizing cuisine, McNamara is the authority on who has the cleanest and nicest bathrooms. When pressed for specifics, she admitted, “Paramount [Studio Wine Bar] has the nicest bathroom. I would like to host
parties in Paramount’s bathroom. It’s gorgeous.”  

McNamara is a big fan of Mixed Martial Arts and other sports where the success of the individual does not rely upon a whole team. While she works closely with colleagues at SDCCA, she likes to exemplify the power of the solitary warrior as well. She does bite prevention workshops for children where they are taught the correct way to behave around dogs and other pets. She has also been active with a pit bull rescue group, and is the owner of three dogs (two of them pits).  

McNamara says that the stigma attached with growing up in the Riverside neighborhood on Sioux Falls’ lower east side made her sympathize with the often-stereotyped breed. She asserts that too many people do not stop and realize that a dog can be a 20-year commitment and it is important for potential owners to assess their lifestyle before getting that moment’s “it” breed.

“My family does all of the things that pit bulls like to do. You have to be active. They are very people-centric. You have to be in a group all of the time. That is exactly how my husband, daughter and I are,” McNamara said.   

The most important thing that McNamara wishes to exemplify is that anyone from any walk of life can use their voice and their hands for the benefit of others. She says that a lot of volunteers think it takes money to make a difference, but that they just need to get their bodies out there.

“You shouldn’t feel hindered by being young or poor, and it doesn’t matter what your cause is. If you believe in it and want to make a change, you have to not be afraid to do it,” she said.  

Check out the South Dakota Coalition for Companion Animals’ Web site at Follow Jennifer McNamara on Twitter at @jenimc.

Dave & Cassie Medema
Ages: 27  
Hometown: Sioux Falls, SD

Dave and Cassie Medema look like a couple from a parenting magazine. They are the young, bright-eyed, entrepreneurial face of the contemporary family. As with most new parents, the birth of their first child forced them to reassess and restructure many facets of their lives.

Before the pregnancy, these high school sweethearts were renting in downtown Sioux Falls. Dave was working in insurance sales and Cassie was doing freelance graphic design work. They had always imagined how nice it would be to merge Dave’s sales know-how and computer science degree with Cassie’s design expertise. Once baby Evan’s arrival was imminent, it seemed like the perfect time for the Medema’s to move their musings into reality.

Both were raised on the east side of Sioux Falls, Dave and Cassie fell in love with the convenience of living downtown. When it came time to buy, they were unyielding in their search for the perfect centrally located house. About a year ago, they found the just what they were looking for in the McKennan Park area. The plan when they bought the house was to eventually work out of it together, and to be a constant presence in the lives of their future children. 

Dave said, “The perfect storm hit right around February.” 

They arranged and rearranged to make the space as productive as possible, and two months shy of Cassie’s due date, Funky Fresh was born. 

“When people come over and see our office space, they get kind of weirded out. We have our desks set up literally five feet away from each other. We are together for about twelve hours a day and have managed not to make each other too mad yet. Then there is the plethora of baby gear in the office, too. We have kind of an office/daycare setup, but it’s a good situation,” said Cassie.

The Medemas have done the bulk of their work for other start-up companies in the area. They think of it as a one-stop Web design shop. They specialize in helping new companies to brand themselves, that is, to establish an identity through logos and Web sites. 

They agree that since starting their company, it has become their biggest hobby. Aside from that, however, the Medemas love to attend events at Augustana, Dave’s alma mater, “We made it out to three or four football games this year, but we’re yet to miss a basketball game.” 

They love to eat at the sushi restaurants downtown, particularly Sushi Masa, and are avid music fans. The couple sees as much live music as they are able to, frequently making the trip to Minneapolis to see bands like Joey Ryan and the Inks, The Alarmists and Consolation Champ at venues like The Triple Rock and the 400 Bar. They love the intimacy of smaller venues, rarely attending concerts anywhere larger than First Avenue.

Although they miss some aspects of the Twin Cities, where they lived early in their marriage, the Medemas do not regret their decision to buy their home and start their business in Sioux Falls.

Dave asserted, “I like the efficiency of everything here. Everything is reasonably priced and where you need it to be. It just seems like life is very easy in Sioux Falls. We lived in Minneapolis for a while and whether it was traffic or crime, or just the cost of living and the job market—for us those things aren’t as much of a struggle here. We can focus on other things, like family and our business.”

The Medemas’ goals for the near future are refreshingly realistic. Cassie hopes to find time to polish her screen printing skills for business and artistic purposes. Although they are not looking to strike it rich with this endeavor, they hope to earn decent living and to always remember why they started Funky Fresh in the first place.

Cassie said, “We want to not get wrapped up in work so much that we don’t see each other.” 

Dave added, “But we want to become the best at what we do. There is a lot of great competition here in Sioux Falls, and we’re hoping that if someone wants a unique and interesting Web site or identity or logo that they’ll think of us.”

Check out their Web site at

Kiel Mutschelknaus
Age: 24  
Hometown: Brandon, SD

It is hard to believe that Kiel Mutschelknaus entered college undecided about his major. Luckily, though, he got into the last class taught by art professor Carl Grupp. To say that Mutschelknaus was inspired would be an understatement, and thus another bright-eyed art student was born.

Mutschelknaus went to work for Fresh Produce where he is a graphic designer. The company moved about a year ago from Brandon to their new location downtown, which thrilled him.

Said Mutschelknaus, “I really like where downtown is going. Fresh Produce is a great company, because we get to do a lot of quirky things.” 

Mutschelknaus has gotten to do design work for a vast array of clients including the Sioux Falls Air Show, Poet, the Washington Pavilion, and SDPB’s Rock Garden Tour. 

Through Fresh Produce, Mutschelknaus runs a blog called Graphic Content ( It serves as a forum where local artists and enthusiasts can discuss all aspects of the Sioux Falls art scene. In fact, the blog has been so well received that it has spawned a monthly gathering called DrawnTown.

DrawnTown is an activity open to the public where Mutschelknaus and other local art lovers gather around the city to draw. Thus far they have been to places such as the Falls and Rug & Relic. Usually they get about 20 people, but are always looking for more. DrawnTown takes place on the second Tuesday of each month around six or seven o’clock. The next meeting will be January 12th. 

Mutschelknaus considers art to be not only his work, but his most beloved pastime. “It’s weird when you like what you do. I feel really lucky that I get to go to work and get paid to do my hobby,” he said. 

Mutschelknaus mostly draws, because of the extraordinary convenience, but also paints as much as possible. In college, he painted mostly with oils. However, due to the lack of facilities since graduation, he has incorporated a lot of acrylics into his repertoire. Like
most artists, Mutschelknaus hopes to get his work out on display more. Mutschelknaus was featured on the Trolley Tour Art Show and will be showing work during March and April 2010 at the East Bank Art Gallery & Studio.      

In addition to visual arts, Mutschelknaus is a big fan of the music that Sioux Falls has to offer. “I’ve been really surprised. I never really expected much from our local music scene, but I’ve been really blown away by the caliber of work that’s been coming out,” he said. Amongst others, he loves We All Have Hooks For Hands. 

Mutschelknaus sees the strides that downtown has made as very positive, and thinks that the string of bars like Club David and Monks are a step in the right direction.  He is also a big fan of cuisine from south of the border. His favorite spots to eat are Mama Lada’s and La Fiesta.

“I know that those are both Mexican restaurants, but I really like Mexican,” he said.

More than anything, Mutschelknaus’ interests orbit around art in any form. According to him, the Sioux Falls art scene is on the brink of something big. He sees a growing interest in the arts and hopes to be a part of it for the foreseeable future

Mutschelknaus said, “I have a friend who said that she was going to make Sioux Falls the art mecca of the Midwest, and that’s really stuck with me. I really think we can do it.” 

Kiel’s Web site is

Kerri DeGraff
Age: 26  
Hometown: Sioux Falls, SD

As Sioux Empire United Way’s community impact director, Kerri DeGraff  is presented with the grim side of life on a daily basis. Luckily, DeGraff  is the glass-half-full sort, so to her each dour situation brings amazing opportunities for improvement. DeGraff ’s position requires her to assess unmet needs within Minnehaha, Lincoln, Turner and McCook counties.  

These needs could fall under health care, education, shelter, or any number of other headings. If a program is already in place that matches a specific requirement, budgets are analyzed to see how funds can be better distributed. When the program does not exist, it is up to DeGraff  and her team to bring it into reality. This is exactly what she has managed to do.  

Since beginning her tenure at SEUW three years ago as initiatives director, she has been responsible for launching many new programs: Starting Strong helps at-risk children who would otherwise be stuck on the Head Start waiting list, Family Foundations provides support and resources that enable young families to prepare their children for kindergarten, and Genesis is a mentoring program that aids families who are at risk of becoming homeless.  

Genesis is run through a non-profit called Community Outreach. DeGraff and other mentors walk participants through a budget plan, and help them to find affordable, appropriate housing for their families. This program was conceived after reports indicated that there were over 1,000 homeless children in the Sioux Falls area.

DeGraff said, “I just talked to the homeless liaison for the Sioux Falls School District and they have already identified 657 [homeless] children this school year. That is a 25 percent increase from this time last year.”

Although it can sometimes be a struggle to provide people with basic essentials (food has appeared on the top 10 list of requested needs for the first time in years), DeGraff  is impressed with the level of generosity that she sees within our city. According to DeGraff, “Our community is #2 in the nation for charitable giving per capita. We raised more than almost all other United Ways that raised over one million dollars—second only to Palm Beach County, Florida.”   

Outside of her demanding work, DeGraff  finds solace in physical activities. She finds running to be a great de-stressor and loves camping and taking walks with her husband and dog, Hershey. She plays co-ed volleyball through the city three nights a week and logs countless volunteer hours.

When asked about her personal goals, she disclosed that she sits down with her husband every year and sets out objectives to be accomplished. DeGraff  effervesced, “I am always striving to make an impact, so I will always volunteer. I think that I get more out of volunteering than I even give.”

To find out more about the Sioux Empire United Way, visit

Tyler Sharp
Age: 28  
Hometown: Long Valley, SD

Tyler Sharp appears to be a consummate example of what a young South Dakota professional is. He grew up on a vast cattle ranch near Long Valley in western South Dakota, and as an adult he ropes, rides horses and owns land adjacent to that of his parents. He is also responsible for bringing countless tourist dollars to the state and giving a new face to the Sioux Falls Convention Center & Visitors Bureau.  

After graduating from Augustana, Sharp took a job in Pierre with the South Dakota Office of Tourism as a trade representative. His job was to bring foreign tour guides to our state in an effort to show them how great a place it is to visit.

“I had an awesome experience out there in Pierre and traveling all over the world… promoting South Dakota as a tourist destination,” said Sharp.  

However, the constant travel eventually left  Sharp feeling burnt out, and he began to search for a job in Sioux Falls. That is when the Sioux Falls Convention Center came into his life. He was hired as marketing manager in February 2009. Sharp’s duties are to market the Convention Center itself and to make sure everybody knows it is a great place to hold events, big or small.

Sharp is working to change the perception that the Convention Center is only for huge events, like the recent one for the South Dakota Homebuilders Association. It can also be utilized for business meetings and weddings. “We host a lot of weddings out there, and our food and beverage capabilities are just amazing,” he said.

In addition to his responsibilities at the Convention Center, Sharp is very involved with the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. He was on the original Steering Committee for the Chamber’s Young Professionals Network. YPN is aimed at driving membership into the Chamber for people aged 21-39. Sharp sees it as “a way for people in our age demographic to network with each other and build relationships that benefit not only ourselves, but the SFACC for years to come.”  

Due to scheduling conflicts, however, Sharp has resigned from the Steering Committee, bur still sits on the Marketing Committee.

Although his parents remain out west, he remains very connected, getting out to the ranch once or twice every month. Sharp is grateful to have a sister, brother-in-law and three nephews in Sioux Falls and spends as much time as possible with them. Sharp said, “I get used as a jungle gym a lot.” 

Sharp is in his second year as a baritone in the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra Choir. In whatever free time he has left, can be found at Augustana or the YMCA. He is an enthusiastic racquetball player. Aside from utilizing their athletic facilities, Sharp volunteers at Augustana, helping to give marketing students an idea of what public relations is like in the real world.  

Sharp loves the downtown area and how it has grown. He finds the social aspects to be the best parts of living in Sioux Falls.

Sharp said, “It’s such a young and vibrant community. It’s a forward-thinking community. The people seem to look ahead at what it takes to maintain a good quality of life.”

Check out Sioux Falls Young Professionals Network at and the Sioux Falls Convention Center at 

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