Over the decades, Ron Mielke led a double life.
For more than 50 years, he has been a valued team member at TSP, Inc., serving in multiple capacities. Ron also donates countless hours to a variety of public and personal causes.
At the same time, Ron had a second career, this one with the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and the U.S. Air Force/South Dakota Air National Guard. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army after received his bachelor’s degree and retired from the state Air National Guard as a Brigadier General after 38 years of service.
For his devotion to country, Ron today (Feb. 24) received the Arc of Dreams’ Community Dreamer Award for 2021. The Arc of Dreams is a landmark sculpture erected in Sioux Falls as a tribute to the dreamers of the past and present and an inspiration to future dreamers. The stainless-steel sculpture spans the Big Sioux River between Sixth and Eighth streets in downtown Sioux Falls.
SculptureWalk, a nonprofit that places new artwork in downtown Sioux Falls every year, owns the Arc of Dreams and established the Community Dreamer awards. This year’s honorees also include Kasey Olivier, Candy Hanson, the Rev. Rich Merkouris, Jeff Scherschligt, and Mavis Amundson and her husband, the late Dr. Loren Amundson.
A decision Ron made in college changed his life. Despite coming from a non-military background, he joined the advanced Army ROTC before his junior year in college. That “leap of faith,” the award notes, serves as an example to others. Such a decision could be “the open door to a lifelong pursuit of patriotism and adventure that could impact dozens of organizations, hundreds of employees/customers, and span the region through the organizations you will serve alongside.”
Ron joined TSP as a mechanical engineer. He served as the firm’s CEO and now works in business development for the 90-year-old architecture, engineering, and planning firm.
Following is the Ron’s nomination for the Arc of Dreams. Ron was unable to attend the ceremony at the Washington Pavilion. His stepdaughter, Jennifer Larsen, accepted the award in his place.
Arc of Dreams
Community Dreamer Award 2021
Ron Mielke’s leap of faith happened in college. He did not come from a military family and really knew little about the military when he decided to join the advanced Army ROTC at the end of his sophomore year at South Dakota State University. That decision would propel a career and a passion. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army upon graduation. Being in the Army sparked a passion for discipline, respect, accountability, leadership, responsibility, and teamwork in Ron. He began a 38-year association with the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and the U.S. Air Force/South Dakota Air National Guard. Ron said it made him 1 percent better every day and improved every single year. He is walking proof that small disciplines over a long period of time can yield tremendous results.
Ron served in the Vietnam conflict from 1965-1966 and left active duty in September 1967 to attend graduate school. Among his many military accomplishments, Brigadier Gen. Mielke, SDANG, (Retired), joined the South Dakota Air National Guard as a captain in 1972. He served as a civil engineering staff officer and operations officer for many years and was the 114th Civil Engineering Squadron Commander for five years. His squadron earned an “Excellent” rating in the 12th Air Force Operational Readiness Inspection in 1988. This was only the second “Excellent” rating given to a civil engineering squadron in the 12th Air Force. He ended his career serving as the Assistant Adjutant General for Air from 1995 to 2002.
In his civilian career, Ron has been employed by TSP, Inc. for the past 52 years, and he is one of eight principals in the organization. For 20 years he served as the architectural, engineering, and planning firm’s CEO. TSP employs 60 team members in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Watertown, Omaha, NE, and Rochester, MN. Ron was a registered professional mechanical engineer for more than 50 years. He is an instrument-rated private pilot; current co-chairman of the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce Military Task Force; past-president and current member of the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary; executive committee member and past chairman of Sioux Falls Air Show, Inc.; past chairman of the board and Business Leadership Council chairman of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce; past chairman of the Sioux Empire United Way; past board member of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation; past chairman of the board of Starbase of South Dakota, Inc.; life member of the National Guard Association of the United States and South Dakota; member of the National Society of Professional Engineers, and president of the Reserve Owners Association. Ron also is a recipient of the Distinguished Engineer Award from the SDSU College of Engineering. Ron resides in Sioux Falls with his wife, Karen Koob. His wife of 43 years, Charlotte, passed away in May 2013. His son, Steve, and Steve’s wife, Amy, are architects; they reside in New York City with Ron’s granddaughter, Grace.
Pay close attention to your interests, your passions, and your gut because, just as BG Mielke, SDANG (Retired), has taught us through his story, you may never know how far one decision can take you. Your leap of faith may seem like just another life decision, but it could be the open door to a lifelong pursuit of patriotism and adventure that could impact dozens of organizations, hundreds of employees/customers, and span the region through the organizations you will serve alongside.