Character, personality, tenacity

Above: Brad Konechne, a benefits specialist in the South Dakota Benefits Specialist Network, in the Health & Human Services Division of the Black Hills Special Services Cooperative, works on a client’s case in his Brookings office. (John Kubal/Register) Below: Brad Konechne is shown with Gov. Kristi Noem. (Courtesy photo)

Brookings man impacts others with disabilities

BROOKINGS – “No matter what happens in life, set your mind to it and you can do anything.” 

That approach to life and to his job as a certified work incentive coordinator have been the watchword for Brad Konechne of Brookings.

And it’s worked for him: he was recently recognized by Gov. Kristi Noem with the “Outstanding Employee With a Disability Award,” when South Dakota businesses and individuals who have made significant contributions to the employment of people with disabilities were recognized with the 2019 governor’s awards.

“Brad Konechne encounters barriers as a result of his disability, but he has found a way to directly impact the lives of others with disabilities through his hard work as a benefits specialist with Black Hills Special Services Cooperative,” said a governor’s news release recognizing businesses and individuals at the recent awards ceremony. 

The release also noted Konechne’s “character, personality and tenacity.”

He has also been recognized and lauded by those who work with him and know him.

“Brad is an asset to our team and is truly deserving of the governor’s award,” said Brooke Lusk, director of the Health and Human Services Division of the BHSSC and Konechne’s supervisor. “In his work and personal life, Brad promotes independent living and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.”

He also holds a second job. Since May 2015, he has been working Sunday and Monday nights at Cubby’s Sports Bar & Grill in downtown Brookings.

“He’s a great employee,” said Cubby’s kitchen manager Darrell Hallan. “He’s primarily a dishwasher. But he does other stuff if needed, kind of a utility man.

“Everybody loves him. He definitely makes the work environment fun for everybody. He’s got that kind of personality.”  

Konechne, 35, moved to Brookings in November 2014 and took a job as a benefits specialist in the South Dakota Benefits Specialist Network, which is in the Health & Human Services Division of the Black Hills Special Services Cooperative.

“I moved because of the job,” he said. “I like Brookings.” 

He  explained that his job is to “help people understand their disability benefits, like Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance.”

Brad is the son of Marvin and Monica Konechne of Kimball. He was born with cerebral palsy. A special education teacher helped him as needed while he attended school. He was active in sports at Kimball High School, where he was student manager of the football team.

Following graduation in 2003, he attended Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls, where he graduated with honors, earning an associate of applied science degree in graphic communications.

He later worked for Dakota Milestones in Chamberlain, which describes itself as “a private, nonprofit corporation that provides needed services to persons with developmental disabilities in a community setting. Our primary goal is to provide services to foster work and living skills.”

In addition to leading by example on the job, Konechne is active in other efforts at the state level that contribute to opportunities for the employment of people who have disabilities, that include: a leadership forum and as a council member on the Board of Vocational Rehabilitation. 

Konechne’s hobbies include four-wheeling and hanging out with friends and family. His parents still live in Kimball, and he has two brothers living in Sioux Falls and a brother who lives in Minnesota.

Contact John Kubal at [email protected]

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