Bill Drummond, former executive director of the Mid-West Electric Consumers Association, was presented with East River Electric Power Cooperative’s highest honor, the Eminent Service Award, during the organization’s 70th annual meeting Sept. 9, 2020, in Sioux Falls. The award is given annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to East River and the cooperative movement.
Drummond dedicated his career to rural America and the region’s cooperative movement. His decades of work helped to strengthen electric cooperatives and public power to improve the lives of people across rural America.
“The energy industry has faced many challenges over the past several decades, and Bill helped our industry navigate them,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “During his tenure at Mid-West, Bill led efforts to protect against harmful legislation and repeated attempts to sell federally owned infrastructure assets and switch to market-based rates. Because of his steadfast leadership, the federal power program remains strong and continues to serve millions of consumers with renewable hydropower across the region.”
Drummond led the Mid-West Electric Consumers Association for 6 years where he managed the association of 300 consumer owned utilities and public power districts across nine states and represented Mid-West members in the Missouri River Basin, standing up for preference power and the consumers served by these utilities.
Before taking on the role with Mid-West, Drummond was the administrator and CEO of the Bonneville Power Administration and prior to that served as deputy administrator. Earlier in his career, he worked as the manager of the Western Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative, a position he held for 16 years. Prior to that he also created and managed Prairie Power Limited, Canada’s first generation and transmission cooperative and also worked for the Public Power Council in the Pacific Northwest and the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. He is a graduate of the University of Montana and earned a Master’s degree from the University of Arizona.
East River Electric Board Director Ervin Fink was presented with East River Electric Power Cooperative’s 20-year service award during the organization’s 70th annual meeting Sept. 9, 2020, in Sioux Falls. The award was presented to Fink in recognition of the 20 years that he has served on the cooperative’s board of directors.
As a member-owner of Douglas Electric Cooperative, Fink serves as the representative for Douglas Electric on the East River board of directors and has served on the local Douglas Electric board for 34 years. He currently serves as the Douglas Electric board president as well as East River’s board secretary.
“We have the distinct pleasure of honoring Ervin, one of our longest serving board members, with this 20-year service award. During Ervin’s tenure on East River’s board, our cooperative family has experienced immense load growth, has developed innovative programs and has maintained our legacy of providing safe, affordable and reliable electricity,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “East River offers its sincere thanks and appreciation for Ervin’s continued leadership within our cooperative family.”
Ervin is a graduate of Armour High School and served in the National Guard for six years. He owns a farming operation near Armour. Ervin and his wife Dee have two children.
Photo caption: East River Electric Board Secretary Ervin Fink (left) was presented with a 20-year service award from East River Electric Board President Jim Ryken for his years of service on the co-op’s board of directors.
East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 70th annual meeting Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. The theme of this year’s annual meeting was ‘Energized for the Future’. The meeting highlighted the many ways that East River is working together with its member systems to ensure that East River’s regional efforts are in sync with the needs of its membership as well as to continue delivering on the cooperative network’s strong history of providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, East River limited in-person attendance and also offered a livestream viewing option for the annual meeting.
During the morning general session, speakers discussed the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the rural economy. They also highlighted how the cooperative network assisted their communities through the time of need.
“Member cooperatives stepped up to help each other through the crisis and leaned on each other for advice. The resilience of our cooperative structure also came to the forefront, with our member systems pulling together to share resources, overcome challenges, support each other and keep the power on for hundreds of thousands of people in our region, including many essential businesses,” said East River Electric General Manager Tom Boyko.
The cooperative’s leaders also provided an update on the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund workforce housing development financing partnership which aims to address the region’s lack of adequate workforce housing. The initiative began with an initial $4 million in loan funds that REED dedicated specifically to housing development, with a goal of raising an additional $6 million in outside investments.
The first outside investment for the initiative came from Avera Health in 2019. Avera committed $2 million, with funds from the partnership to be used for lending through REED for housing development and housing infrastructure in Avera-served communities. In February 2020, SDN Communications and its 17 member companies across South Dakota also joined the initiative with an agreement to invest $1 million over 4 years. This May, First Bank and Trust joined as a third partner, committing $1.1 million to the effort.
“REED’s member electric cooperatives are excited to launch this housing development initiative and cultivate partnerships with other regional entities,” said Boyko. “We want to assist communities in developing housing that meets the needs of today’s workforce and helps address the urgent need for quality workforce housing in the region.”
REED’s housing loans assist private and nonprofit developers who build multi-family apartment complexes and single-family homes for sale or rent; and are not made to individual homeowners. As a nonprofit, the REED Fund can offer loans with attractive rates with the objective of spurring economic development. The REED Fund is a nonprofit corporation that is governed by 26 member electric cooperatives. REED partners with commercial and other economic development lenders to provide financing and leverage private investment in more than 69 counties throughout South Dakota and Minnesota.
During the annual meeting’s lunch, East River’s leadership presented the cooperative’s Eminent Service Award to former Mid-West Electric Consumers Association Executive Director Bill Drummond. The Eminent Service Award is the most prestigious honor given by East River’s Board of Directors. East River Electric Board Director Ervin Fink was presented with East River’s 20-year service award for his 20 years of service to the cooperative’s board. As a member-owner of Douglas Electric Cooperative, Fink serves as the representative for Douglas Electric on the East River board of directors and has served on the local Douglas Electric board for 34 years.
The afternoon session began with an update from Basin Electric Power Cooperative. A business meeting followed the annual meeting’s general session where the director election was held, and the cooperative’s policy statements were adopted.
East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko (left) and East River Electric Board President Jim Ryken provided an update to the co-op’s membership during East River’s 70th annual meeting.