Sioux Falls mayor hopes for honest, open conversation with students

Mike Huether

Mr. Huether goes to Augustana



In January, Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether led his monthly “Listening and Learning Session” at Sunnycrest Retirement Village.

He will perform the same ritual 3 p.m. Wednesday at Augustana in the Edith Mortenson Center Theatre. Huether tries to diversify the locations of his L and L Sessions, which he has been performing for about seven years.

“Students are an important group, and I want to find out their perspectives,” Huether said in an email. “I have gone to Augie on various occasions, including Q&A sessions. They are always a ton of fun and very enlightening for me.”

When Dean of Students Jim Bies heard of Huether’s interest in coming to Augustana, he tasked junior Hannah Norem and sophomore Josh Barrows with publicizing the event and helping with its moderation.

They accepted. Bies asked them because of their campus involvement through programs like the Augustana Student Association and the Civitas honors program.

Civitas students take “Reading Augustana,” a class which focuses on, among other things, Augustana’s place within the Sioux Falls community.

Barrows and Norem said they hope to see all kinds of students at the event, which is designed as an unscripted and open dialogue with the mayor.

They singled out first-year students, international students and other student leaders as groups they especially hoped would attend.

“We are targeting groups of students that we feel would have an extremely important say in things that happen in the city of Sioux Falls and the Augustana campus as a whole,” Norem said.

She said that international students, as well as students from outside the Midwest, might have different perceptions about Sioux Falls than people who grew up here. She said this event should help them learn from the mayor and vice versa.

Huether has been doing L and L Sessions since campaigning for mayor roughly seven years ago. The sessions have “no rules,” and attendees can ask the mayor anything that might be on their mind.

“That includes the good, the bad and the ugly that they see in our town,” Huether said.

Norem and Barrows asked that students come prepared with honest questions, concerns or suggestion.

“Faculty and staff are certainly welcome, but the ideas should mostly come from students,” Norem said.

Norem added that since Augustana is a net import of “smart people into South Dakota,” it made sense for government officials to interact with the student body.

Barrows said that because there are few opportunities to interact face-to-face with high-ranking government leaders, students should try to show up.

“To be able to get that experience of discourse with political leaders is really good, especially in this day and age when there doesn’t seem to be as much transparency between those two,” he said.

And if Augustana students simply want to be famous, this is their shot: L and L Sessions are broadcast on the Citylink channel in Sioux Falls, and Huether says citizens watch them “in a big, big way.”

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