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The Sales and Marketing Executives, Inc of Sioux Falls (SME) honored three women of excellence at the SME Women in Business event on Tuesday, April 28.

The Young Women of Excellence was awarded to Bobbi Thury, a partner and lawyer at Cutler Law Firm. Licensed to practice law in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, she is passionate about serving her community with care and true excellence. Bobbi continues to learn and grow as a  member of Sales Marketing Executives, the SF Estate Planning Council, the Second Circuit Women in Law and Business and Professional Women. Bobbi, along with her estate-planning partner, started “Plans for Heroes” which offers first responders who are actively serving, a discount on customized estate planning services to thank them and protect them and their families. Her philanthropy is reflected in her willingness to volunteer for groups such as Make-A-Wish Foundation and LifeScape, while also serving on their boards. Not only is she a great role model and friend, but she is also a loving wife and mother of three children under the age of four.


The winner of Women Mentoring Women is Lori Popkes, the Associate Chief Nursing Officer and the Assistant Vice President of Women and Children’s Services at Avera McKennan Hospital. Lori has worked in healthcare in the community for more than 26 years, primarily in leadership positions. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and a Master of BA with a health care emphasis. At Avera McKennan Lori is responsible for strategic operations, budgeting, and program development along with outcomes of multiple different areas. What Lori is most passionate about in her position is mentoring others and leading by example, especially the new nurses at Avera. She encourages others to be the best person they can be while developing their talents. She is a very compassionate leader and her personal motto is to be a blessing to everyone she meets. Lori has also been mentoring a young girl through United Way, starting with her in 5th grade through her current status in high school. Lori credits her own mentors for helping her accept challenging new positions early in her career. Lori encourages other women to be proactive in their careers and to seek new opportunities while staying true to their values and beliefs. She is passionate about making sure woman make decisions that align with their personal mission statements.

The Women Working through the Decades Award goes to Mary Jo Leedom, Assistant Vice President of Perioperative Services at Avera McKennan. Mary began her career as a nurse and, over the years has developed a broad range of health care knowledge and experience. Through Mary’s support for excellence and quality improvement, Avera has consistently scored in the top 10 percent of all hospitals in quality and safety, resulting in national awards and recognitions. She has dedicated her time and talent to the community by serving on numerous organizations boards, including the American Red Cross and the Minnehaha County Detox Center. Her leadership motto is to be “out and visible.” Most often, you’ll find Mary in her blue surgical scrubs, eagerly awaiting the needs of her staff, physicians, patients and families. Mary’s compassion and support for others sparks a special interest to everyone she encounters. About a year ago Mary collapsed while giving a presentation at a leadership retreat. She suffered a life-threatening aneurysm, reducing her chances of recovery without severe deficits. However, Mary’s motivation to excel and her perseverance for life were strong, as she completed her master’s degree in Health Care Administration a month later. After returning to work, she had a substantial commitment to quality care with a special understanding of the “patient” side of health care.

OSP, a telecommunications trade magazine reaching an international audience, has named SDN Communications CEO Mark Shlanta a Progressive Rural Network Evolutionary.

He and other honorees are featured on the cover of the print publication released this week.

The cover story promotes: “Read how four rural providers embraced the challenge of staying relevant by making network strides despite their size.”

Shlanta has been at SDN 17 years, 15 of those as CEO. Under his leadership the company has become one of the fastest growing South Dakota businesses. There were 14 employees when he started in 1998; today SDN has 185. Initially the company’s fiber was only in South Dakota, but today it reaches into seven other states – extending from Billings to Minneapolis and Fargo to Kansas City.

SDN is owned by 17 of South Dakota’s independent telephone companies. They are cooperatives, municipal, family and tribal-owned companies covering 80 percent of South Dakota’s geography. Together they’ve amassed a 30,000-mile fiber optic network touching every corner of the state and connecting businesses, schools, and government for Wide Area Networking, Internet and Managed IT Services.

Last year SDN announced that six Minnesota telephone companies and one Iowa company asked SDN to interconnect their networks to provide more business-to-business connectivity. That interconnectivity will be complete by the fourth quarter, expanding SDN’s fiber footprint to the Wisconsin border and from the Twin Cities into northern Iowa.

The OSP online story can be viewed at:


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