Recovering political strategist turns restauranteur

Tale of a recovering political hand
Tale of a recovering political hand

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Story highlights

  • Steve Hildebrand was Barack Obama's deputy campaign manager in 2008
  • Hildebrand is now the owner of a restaurant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Hildebrand: "It's something I've always dreamed of doing"
Josiah's Coffee House and Café is a must-go destination for melt-in-your-mouth fresh baked goods and a perfect cup of coffee.
And the guy behind the counter isn't your average restaurateur. He was once one of the most elite Democratic political strategists around.
"It's something I've always dreamed of doing," Steve Hildebrand told us as we sat on stools in his restaurant.
After a quarter of a century in politics -- most recently as President Barack Obama's 2008 deputy campaign manager - he washed his hands of it all.
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Dems. serious about trying to win S.D.?
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Like many voters this election year, he's fed up with both parties.
"I'm pretty angry at the way Congress is managing our country," Hildebrand told us. "Whether that's my Democratic party or their Republican party, they're not getting my help. I don't want to help them," he said emphatically.
But his political expertise -- especially with the Obama campaign - helped make his business boom.
"I don't pretend to know how to market a restaurant but I do know something about social media from all that we were doing in 2008, so we built a lot of our reputation, we built a community on Facebook and Twitter and other social media outlets," said Hildebrand, who added that the café has 7,100 people on its Facebook page, and has done no paid advertising.
Josiah's has become a salon of sorts to talk about -- what else -- politics.
A bipartisan group gathers every morning at 7:30. It includes Dave Munson, a former Republican Sioux Falls mayor.
"We've known each other for years, since we were kids, so we just come down here, get together and talk about things that interest us," Munson said.
Hildebrand says it's a relief that prominent Republicans come in the door, since he spent so many years working aggressively to defeat their candidates.
Another way political campaigns were good training for the restaurant business is the long hours.
The cafe is open seven days a week and Hildebrand comes in at one in the morning on Tuesdays to do the baking.
It's a fresh start for a recovering political strategist, and a good thing for locals and visitors alike, because the food is objectively delicious.