Skip to content

An Interview with Yankton’s City Manager

Amy Leon Story Header

Keeping An Eye On The Future Of Yankton

Yankton, one of South Dakota’s historic cities, is a welcoming community for visitors and residents alike. Community leaders embrace the past, but with a keen eye to the future.

Amy Leon, Yankton’s City Manager for the past 10 years, agrees with that sentiment – especially keeping that eye on the future.

“What really excites me most about Yankton is how we’ve positioned ourselves for the future,” she said. “When you talk about cities that are ready for the future, Yankton is one of them.

“I think what we’ve done well as a city is plan for the future and look at projects long term,” Leon continued. “With the new water treatment plant, Yankton won’t have to worry about its water supply for any of our lifetimes. We even have capacity to help other communities if necessary.”

So many parts of our community stand out. For example, our beautiful and abundant parks and trails system come to mind. But, there are so many aspects that many of us may take for granted.

“A lot of people probably don’t think about the streets they drive on, or water and sewer,” Leon said. “But those are foundational to what a strong community looks like. Or when I think about all the people involved in public safety – our law enforcement, our volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services – these are people who care deeply about the community. They live and work with us. They are our neighbors. I really think that is sort of unique in this day and age. Yankton has built a lot of social capital.”

The City of Yankton continues to thrive because citizens and local businesses invest for success.

Yankton has been on a forward trajectory for a while now with population growth, business growth and the ability to look back and see what has worked in the past and what hasn’t.

“One of the great things about Yankton is we pay attention to and learn from our past,” Leon said. “We learned a lot from the flooding we had over the past decade. In both the water treatment plant and the wastewater treatment plant, we have built in so many redundancies to assure that everything will be working even under dire circumstances. So, if we have another disaster – which we will – we’re confident in that we’ll be able to meet everyone’s basic needs.”

It's not just the city that is making things happen in Yankton, though.

“You know, the city as an organization is maybe setting the tone, but other organizations and individuals throughout the community are leading the effort that really makes Yankton such a welcoming city,” Leon said. “We have so many community events – Ribfest, Rock’n’Rumble, Riverboat Days – the list goes on.”

There's A Reason Things Look So Nice In Yankton

“I think that sometimes, as Yanktonians, we don’t necessarily think of all the intentional forethought that goes into so many aspects of what makes so attractive,” she said. “The lined boulevards leading to downtown, the landscaping and planting, the signage – that’s all intentional. The Parks Department, along with help from the Federal Prison Camp, works on that each year. That makes a huge visual difference. They say you always eat with your eyes first. We take great pride in our city’s appearance for residents and visitors alike.”

There are also safeguards in place to ensure the beauty of the city is maintained.

“I should also mention that these beautiful things that we see are just the visible part,” Leon added. “There are things in town that you don’t see – and that is also intentional. In some other cities and states, you might see an overabundance of signs that probably don’t add to the value of your visual experience. I know not everyone agrees with not allowing any and all signs outside a business, but having that protection gives our community a cleaner look.”

Westside Park Project

Thanks in large part to the generosity of the Benedictine Sisters and the Ellen McVay family, Yankton is going to have something new at Westside Park. “We’re going to have a labyrinth,” Leon said. “Everyone knows that the purpose of a labyrinth is mostly for self-reflection on the journey our lives have taken as we’re on this journey through the labyrinth. At the center, there will be an interactive sundial. So, when you get to your center and the center of the labyrinth, you can reflect on the passing of time and where you’re at on your own journey.

“This is great thing for mental health,” she added. “We’re hoping this will help add to the quality of life in Yankton which is something we’re always conscious of. We all talk about mental health being so essential, but how do you incorporate that into your planning as a city? This project is doing that and I’m really excited about it.”

This is just a recent project on top of many the city has undertaken in the last few years.

“People may like some things and not like others, but we want to make people curious,” Leon said. “If you can get people curious about things, that may prompt them to take a closer look and learn something new. That’s how you get thousands of people showing up for a Christmas tree lighting, parade and fireworks on a December night to usher in the Christmas season, for example.”

All year ‘round, Yankton has something for everyone.

Scroll To Top