SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Kameron Nelson is an active member of the Sioux Falls community working at LifeScape as well as serving on the Young Professionals Network Steering Committee, Junior Achievement and the Rotary Club among other accolades.

He also happens to be making history as South Dakota’s first openly gay man to serve in the state legislature.

“I never felt like the gay candidate. It’s definitely something that I am proud of and not anything that I have hidden thus far,” Nelson said just two days after his win. “At the same time, I yearn for the day that me being a gay man is, you know, not something that is newsworthy.”

Nelson’s campaign to represent District 10 in the legislature stems from his desire to keep young people in South Dakota after graduation.

Nelson grew up in Rapid City and then attended South Dakota State University in Brookings. After graduation, he left South Dakota for a time but became what he calls a “boomerang” and returned to his home state.

“I was challenged by a friend who was really helpful in a sense that he said, you know, ‘If we’re not the ones to stick around and change it, South Dakota will never be the place that we want to see,’” Nelson said.

For the young Sioux Falls professional that means making South Dakota more inclusive by addressing the number of bills coming out of Pierre that attack LGBTQ South Dakotans, especially transgender youth.

“That’s a really deterring way of making people leave the state or perhaps not come here and build their lives here,” Nelson said.

Nelson hopes that his presence in the legislature will help connect other lawmakers with the LGBTQ community through getting to know him.

Tracking bills across the country in state legislatures, Nelson has an idea of what kind of legislation could be making its way to South Dakota during the 2023 session.

“We’ve always been on the defense. And I really hope to be an advocate in that space and bring light to the real issues that are affecting real people,” Nelson said.

While Nelson never focused on his sexuality while campaigning, instead taking the time to hear from members of his district on the issues impacting them, he understands that his election to the Capitol can serve as representation for LGBTQ youth.

“I think having someone in my role, when I was young, to possibly look up to, I think that would have possibly changed the trajectory of my life in some way,” Nelson said.

Over the summer Nelson said he attended the Pride festival in Pierre where he was asked to talk to attendees.

“Some of these kids are coming 100 plus miles to a place in Pierre, our state capital, for a place of belonging and inclusion and safety, and to know that they possibly don’t have that elsewhere in their home communities was really heavy to hear,” Nelson said. “And so, we’ve got to do better, and I hope that I can be a champion for them.”

In addition to being a voice for the LGBTQ community, Nelson is also excited to be a representative of young South Dakotans.

“I think there’s a lot of value in building intergenerational collaborations, and so making sure that young people do have a voice at the table,” Nelson said.

For a young professional like Nelson, he’s focused on stopping South Dakota’s brain drain while also bringing more people to the state through infrastructure, affordable housing and growing South Dakota’s economy.

“And so that includes child care. You know, access to child care is so expensive and a barrier that a lot of people deal with, which is really affecting our workforce. You go down the street, and practically everyone is hiring. And yet, we still have record unemployment percentages, as proven by the Department of Labor,” Nelson said. “Those are real concerns. But what are we doing to make young people feel like they are invested in our community, invested in their company?”

Nelson is already preparing for the legislative session, which begins on Tuesday, January 10, 2023, with the State of the State.