When it was time for Corey and Lisa Thelen to determine where their children would call home, they did research. They were living in Nebraska, just starting their family, and they decided to analyze the cost of living and take-home pay in surrounding states.
“We were done paying state income taxes,” said Corey. “We wanted to move back to South Dakota to raise our family.”
Lisa grew up outside Mitchell and graduated from Mount Vernon High School. While she was a freshman at Concordia University in Seward, Neb., she met Corey. Seward was his hometown and he was already working for John Deere, a company he joined while he was in high school.
Lisa transferred to SDSU where she completed her Doctor of Pharmacy degree. During her college years, she and Corey married and spent a few years living in South Dakota. When she was recruited by a Nebraska health system, they moved back to Nebraska.
Throughout all their moves, Corey continued to work for John Deere. He says he started at the bottom – cleaning tractors and doing shop work – but he continually progressed. He’s worked as a technician, a precision ag consultant, in sales and is now the store manager of C&B Operations (formerly Ellefson Implement) in Mitchell.
“John Deere is a tight network,” he said. “When we decided we wanted move back to South Dakota, it took two phone calls and a handshake, and I had a job.”
Lisa took a pharmacist position with Kmart, where she stayed for 13 years until the store closed. She has been with Lewis Family Drug for the past 3 1/2 years.
Their children have thrived in Mitchell.
Daughter Ashley, 27, graduated from MHS, attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as an undergraduate and recently graduated with her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She’s now pursuing postdoctoral research in cancer immunotherapy at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
“When Ashley was in high school, it was the science fair at Dakota Wesleyan that sparked her love of research,” said Lisa. “Julie Olson, her teacher, encouraged the students to participate by telling them they could skip a test if they entered the science fair.”
Not only did she enter, Ashley won locally and placed at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), igniting her passion.
“We continue to sponsor the Thelen Research Awards at the local science fair to help our local students go to ISEF because it had such a huge impact on our daughter,” said Corey. “She received a great education and many opportunities here in Mitchell.”
The other kids are busy with typical high school and middle school activities. Connor, 16, enjoys South Dakota’s hunting and fishing, and he is a wrestler and tennis player.
Kamryn, 13, plays tennis and soccer, including a traveling soccer team, and loves spending time with friends.
Corey and Lisa have both found Mitchell to be good for their careers. They like the fact that their jobs allow them to get to know their customers on a personal level. Neither of them sees special requests or calls at home as a negative.
“The people who live here are what make Mitchell great. It’s never a bother when I get a call from a patient with a question,” said Lisa. “Those relationships are important.”
“If someone needs help, I don’t mind going back to work to get them up and running,” said Corey.
In addition to their demanding jobs, the couple is involved in their church and they manage their acreage outside of town. Corey serves on the Mitchell Chamber board. He also is on the Precision Ag Advisory Board at MTI and works with the entire ag team there to stay current with the precision ag trends and machinery.
While the family loves to travel and appreciates Mitchell’s proximity to the airport, their visits around the world and to cities on the West Coast have made them value their lifestyle even more.
“Traffic is terrible in cities,” said Corey. “It makes me appreciate living in Mitchell with room to run and plenty of fresh air. And when family visits, they are amazed by how friendly and nice people are.”
“Living in Mitchell has been a 10 out of 10 for us.”