This article is part of a weeklong America 360 series on Sioux Falls.
SIOUX FALLS — I walked into Josiah's Coffehouse & Café on a recent Friday morning in search of Steve Hildebrand, the longtime Democratic operative who developed the crucial field operation that helped Barack Obama win the Democratic nomination in 2008. "He's in his office," said the young woman behind the counter, pointing over my shoulder. It turned out I'd walked right through Hildebrand's "office": the sunny lobby of the Lumber Exchange Building adjacent to Josiah's, where he was settled into an armchair with a laptop perched on his knees.
Hildebrand opened Josiah's one year ago, and — perhaps improbably — has all but quit political life since then. Oh, he still retreats to his laptop between the breakfast and lunch rushes to post political commentary on his Facebook page — recent items have included digs at Texas Republicans and celebration of the Supreme Court's decisions in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. But when I begin to ask Hildebrand whether he misses politics, he cuts me off with a curt "No."
As he tells it, Hildebrand decided in early 2012 to get out of political consulting and "try something different, take a risk in the restaurant business, which can be dicey." He had already started to break away, readily and vocally voicing his disappointment when he disagreed with the Obama administration. Hildebrand — who turns 50 this year — had also spoken openly about struggling with depression during the 2008 cycle (he declined to elaborate on the campaign experience), as well as his growing reluctance to spend more time away from Sioux Falls, where he and his partner of two decades share a home. (Hildebrand grew up in Mitchell, S.D., an hour outside Sioux Falls.)