South Dakotan is steadying force for good

For Krista Tschetter, associate general counsel at First Bank & Trust, Sioux Falls, pride in her accomplishments doesn’t stem from a singular event. “I think it’s sort of the everyday [activities], serving our internal staff and trying to find a best solution for whatever particular issue they might have,” she said.
The opioid epidemic washing across the country has impacted thousands of lives, including those of children in the Sioux Falls area. Krista Tschetter is working to make sure they’re not alone.

Tschetter, associate general counsel for First Bank & Trust in Sioux Falls, currently serves as board chair for the Sioux Falls area chapter of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association. CASA is a nonprofit that trains volunteers to serve as advocates for children going through abuse and neglect court proceedings. While the organization has filled a need in the Sioux Falls area for years, the impacts of the opioid crisis have drastically increased its workload.

“It has really hit a lot of homes really hard, and our children are the biggest victims,” said Tschetter, one of six being recognized by BankBeat magazine as an Outstanding Woman in Banking, sponsored by SHAZAM. “Our children are just collateral and they really deserve to have that adult voice giving them stability throughout the court proceedings, someone who is the voice of that child in court as to the best interest of that child.”

That’s where Tschetter comes in. As board chair, a role she took on earlier this year, she is responsible for both raising awareness and funds to underwrite CASA’s work, but also strategizing how best to deploy them, and enlist the services of volunteers who will be able to cope with the emotionally and psychologically difficult work CASA demands. Volunteers go through a rigorous initial 30-hour training session before they begin this work. Cases can last anywhere from six months to two years, depending upon the severity of the case, and volunteers accompany the children throughout the ordeal.

“Our volunteers are truly the superheroes in our organization,” Tschetter said. “They handle some of the worst of the worst cases impacting children in our community. There are some heartbreaking stories that come out of our office.”

Tschetter first developed an interest in CASA’s work while she was an undergraduate. After getting her law degree from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, she clerked for a circuit court and an appellate court in Pierre before working in a trust department for a while. Realizing she wanted to focus on work that more directly engaged her legal background, she took a job with First Bank & Trust in 2015.

“She is extraordinarily professional and kind,” said Kristina Schaefer, general counsel and director of risk management at the bank, who works closely with Tschetter. “She’s someone who, when you start to talk to her, you know that she’s really listening, and she’s listening because she cares about what you’re saying and she cares about you.”

Krista Tschetter (far left) poses with the executive director of the Sioux Falls CASA chapter and bankers from First Bank & Trust during the Red Cape virtual event, held every April in conjunction with Child Abuse Prevention Month. (First Bank & Trust was a sponsor of the event.)

That personal connection has served Tschetter well in her work in First Bank & Trust’s legal department. Coupled with a natural curiosity and drive to tackle new challenges, Tschetter has proved a valuable addition to the bank’s legal team.

“You don’t find people who often take a look at a problem and if it’s something that is outside their area of expertise, have a willingness to have it become their area of expertise,” Schaefer said. Tschetter, however, brings that curiosity and willingness to engage with foreign concepts and skills to make the bank run more smoothly.

When First Bank & Trust was working to acquire some banks in Minnesota recently, Tschetter stepped forward to handle parts of the process in which Schaefer herself lacked experience. “There were lots of different mini projects throughout the acquisition of those banks,” Schaefer said. “And she frankly took control of them and ran with it. They were for areas that were particular to things that we maybe didn’t have a lot of experience with yet.”

Tschetter’s people skills also came in handy during the transition. “She was able to work so well with our future coworkers,” Schaefer said. “She reassured them and provided a calm, steady voice throughout that acquisition.”