Tom Boyko, former general manager and CEO of East River Electric Power Cooperative was presented with the cooperative’s highest honor, the Eminent Service Award, during the organization’s 72nd annual meeting on September 7, 2022, in Sioux Falls. The award is presented annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to East River and the cooperative movement.
Boyko worked for decades on behalf of consumers and led East River through a time of constant change and challenges to enhance the value of its members and improve the lives of people in rural America.
“Through his time at East River, Tom has shown steadfast leadership and has helped move East River forward into the future,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “The East River Electric board of directors is grateful for your service to the cooperative . . . The leadership you have provided throughout your career with the Western Area Power Administration and East River Electric has helped to ensure consumers across the region received safe, reliable and affordable electric power.”
Boyko joined East River Electric as its fifth general manager in 2014. There he provided leadership in managing the co-op’s network of 25 member distribution systems across eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota.
He is a North Dakota native with a degree in electrical engineering from North Dakota State University. Prior to his role with East River, he spent 28 years with the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) starting in Bismarck, N.D., in 1986 as a construction field engineer. He then held positions in Huron, S.D., and Fort Peck, Mont., before spending 15 years in Sacramento, Calif. and then serving as the regional manager of the Sierra Nevada office for seven years.
Upon joining East River, Tom led the cooperative through its transition into the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), optimizing benefits for members. In a time of fast-paced change as technology and cybersecurity became an increasing threat, Tom led the charge to protect the organization’s technological presence. His strategic leadership included hiring a chief information officer and incorporating a robust cybersecurity and IT program for East River and its members.
His focus was also directed to enhancing economic and business development efforts to bring new energy load to East River’s territories, along with implementing a Renewable Energy Credit Program. He moved forward with a Transmission System Upgrade Plan to modernize and expand aging systems and also include more of East River’s assets in the SPP. And in a time of unprecedented uncertainty, he successfully led the cooperative through the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the workforce safe as the organization continued to provide vital electric service to members at the end of the line.
East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 72nd annual meeting Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. This year’s annual meeting theme was ‘Together Towards Tomorrow.’ The meeting highlighted the many ways that East River Electric works alongside its member systems, making crucial decisions that will position cooperatives for continued success while providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Attendees attended the event in person as well as through a livestream viewing option.
During the morning general session, East River introduced the new General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Bob Sahr who previously worked as the organization’s general counsel for 15 years and thanked outgoing General Manager and CEO Tom Boyko for eight years of dedicated service and leadership.
Discussions opened with a look back at 2022 severe weather events including the derecho storm that created widespread destruction across the East River service area. They highlighted how crews responded to the needs of others and quickly restored power — putting members first even though many had damage to homes, vehicles, and property of their own. “I’d like to thank East River’s employees for their incredible work and dedication to safely restore our system following the severe weather event,” said Sahr.
The discussion transitioned to other weather-related topics including reliability across Regional Transmission Organizations that East River Electric is involved in, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). “From severe weather to severe heat, we saw a record amount of summer demand for electricity across the East River footprint which led to a number of resource adequacy alerts and warnings across both SPP and MISO,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken.
Although demand was up, and reports warned of potential outages, SPP was able to meet the record peak demand for electricity and no summer outages were needed. The past year’s conditions emphasize the importance of continued firm generation from resources like coal and natural gas in addition to renewable resources for an all-of-the-above generation strategy to meet demand in extreme conditions.
Cooperative leaders gave an update on changing market dynamics and costs due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sahr stated, “as the world gets back on its feet and the impact of the pandemic winds down, supply chain constraints will also hopefully begin to ease in the coming year. Despite the current and future unforeseen challenges, East River and our member systems are well positioned to navigate them by working together.”
They also gave an update on the Transmission System Upgrade Plan which is designed to accelerate additions and replacements to the cooperative’s infrastructure to improve reliability and provide growth.
“Now in the fourth year of the upgrade plan, our crews completed several key projects this past year that are designed to strengthen our systems’ backbone with a primary focus on ensuring the safety of our workforce,” said Ryken. The project’s priority is to include more of East River’s system into the Southwest Power Pool to maximize revenue and limit impact on member rates.
During the annual meeting lunch, East River’s leadership presented the cooperative’s Eminent Service Award to former East River Electric CEO and General Manager Tom Boyko. The Eminent Service Award is the most prestigious honor given by East River’s Board of Directors. In addition, outgoing directors Blaine Livermont, Deb McCreary, David Allen, and Ervin Fink were presented with awards for their years of service on the East River board of directors. Fink, who served as board secretary and served as the East River representative for Douglas Electric for 22 years was presented with a gift for his dedication to East River’s executive board.
The afternoon session began with updates from East River Electric’s two wholesale power suppliers: the Western Area Power Administration and 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.