East River Electric Power Cooperative recently presented service awards to 25 employees with years of service ranging from five to 40 years.
“I’d like to congratulate this year’s service award recipients and thank them for their dedication to East River Electric,” said East River General Manager Tom Boyko.
Mitchell Area Maintenance Foreman Merl Bechen, one of this year’s service award recipients, began working at East River 40 years ago. He started as an apprentice lineman on the Madison construction crew in 1978, moved to the Mitchell outpost in January of 1980 and eventually worked his way up to his current position of Foreman.
“When I started my job at East River, I thought this would be a temporary career until I could start farming. However, when the farming economy crashed, I realized being a lineman was something I could do long term. Over time, I was able to start farming and combine the two careers. I enjoy the benefits of both jobs,” said Bechen.
Over the years there have been many advances in line construction and changes to the equipment utilized by the line crew. Bechen said, “The new equipment allows us to work more safely and efficiently. Equipment such as the track vehicle has made a night and day difference in the work we can do.”
Bechen shared that he appreciates working for an organization that values their employees and the communities they live in. East River’s strong commitment to community and support of employees volunteering to help others creates a positive work environment. “I am lucky to have worked with great people over the years. The comradery, dedication to the work and skill set is high here. People are willing to get the job done right,” said Bechen.
Merl also extends thanks to his wife, Diane. “She put up with the long hours required with this job and always kept our life in order when I was gone for outages. I was gone a lot and I couldn’t have continued my career without her supporting me; she is a big part of my success,” shared Bechen.
East River presented the service awards during an all-staff meeting and spouses of the recipients were invited to attend. Before the awards ceremony, the group had enjoyed an employee appreciation breakfast.
A listing of the awards is as follows:
• Five years: Casey Anderson, Ryan Beyer, Anthony Dold, Erik Engelmeyer, Tyler Frost, Preston Munk, Justin Olson, Dan Rinehart and Chris Studer
• Ten years: Josh Bjorklund, Mark Hoffman, Kayla Kaup, Jason Ledeboer, Dennis Schneider and Corey Schwinger
• Fifteen years: Doug Boer, Mark Even, Clay Reagle and Travis Rude
• Twenty years: Jim Edwards, Denny Fouberg, Brian Kogel, Angie Neises and Russ Odegard
• Forty years: Merl Bechen
Group Photo caption:
East River Electric service awards were presented to (back, left) Mark Hoffman, Josh Bjorklund, Clay Reagle, Mark Even, Jim Edwards, Brian Kogel, Russ Odegard, Denny Fouberg and Merl Bechen; (front, left) Ryan Beyer, Justin Olson, Dan Rinehart, Erik Engelmeyer, Preston Munk, Tyler Frost and Chris Studer.
East River Electric Board President Jim Ryken was presented with a 20-year service award during the 68th annual meeting. The award was presented to Ryken in recognition of the 20 years that he has served on the cooperative’s board of directors.
As a member-owner of Clay-Union Electric Corporation, Ryken serves as Clay-Union’s representative on the East River board of directors and has served on the local Clay-Union Electric board for 29 years. He also currently serves as Clay-Union’s board secretary.
“We have the distinct pleasure of honoring Jim, one of our longest serving board members, with this 20-year service award. During Jim’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 Vice President Pat Homan. “East River offers its sincere thanks and appreciation for Jim’s continued leadership within our cooperative family.”
Ryken is a graduate of the Gayville-Volin High School and attended Northern College in Aberdeen. He is a member of the South Dakota Soybean Association as well as the Clay-Union Irrigators. Ryken and his wife Margo have two children. He is a native of the Clay Yankton county area and farms south of Gayville.
The Eminent Service Award is East River Electric Power Cooperative’s highest honor and is given annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to East River and the cooperative movement. The awards were presented during East River’s Annual Meeting in September.
Ron Alverson helped shape South Dakota’s corn industry. He is a founding member and past president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, helped establish the corn checkoff program to create new markets and uses for corn and helped pass South Dakota’s first ethanol productive incentive. He is a founding board member of Dakota Ethanol LLC, an ethanol plant near Wentworth, and is a past chairman of the American Coalition for Ethanol.
“Ron’s roles with the South Dakota Corn Growers, Dakota Ethanol and the American Coalition for Ethanol have helped to educate policy makers and the public about the economic and environmental benefits of ethanol,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “For these and his many other contributions to East River and rural America, we recognize Ron for his dedication and friendship with our highest honor.”
For more than 40 years, Ron has grown corn and soybeans near Chester. He graduated from SDSU with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy.
Mike Risan, retired senior vice president of transmission with Basin Electric Power Cooperative, was also presented the Eminent Service Award. Risan dedicated 40 years of service to rural America and the region’s cooperative movement. He dedicated his career to making sure co-op members at the end of the line have safe, reliable and affordable electricity.
“Over the span of four decades, the energy industry has endured its share of changes, and Mike has been in the thick of many of them,” said East River General Manager Tom Boyko. “East River offers its sincere thanks and appreciation for Mike’s role in the development of the Integrated System with Western Area Power Administration and Basin Electric joining the Southwest Power Pool. East River has valued its relationship with you and your role in this region’s cooperative power supply system.”
Risan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from North Dakota State University as well as a Master of Business Administration from the University of North Dakota. He is a registered professional engineer and has served as a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 68th annual meeting Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. The theme of this year’s annual meeting was ‘Energizing our Cooperative Future’. The meeting highlighted the many ways that East River is working together with its member systems on making crucial decisions regarding the future to continue delivering on the cooperative network’s strong history of providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity.
During the morning general session, speakers highlighted East River’s increasing efforts to support regional economic development. East River Business Development Director Mike Jaspers also announced that East River, in collaboration with its member systems, will host a Livestock Development Summit at the South Dakota State University Performing Arts Center on November 15, 2018. The goal of the summit is to address key issues related to livestock development, discuss the most effective and responsible ways to move forward and connect with farmers, leaders and businesses in the industry.
The cooperative’s leaders also previewed an aggressive 10-year transmission system upgrade plan that East River will begin in 2019. The plan will update aging infrastructure, maintain the cooperative system’s strong reliability and allow the co-op network to accommodate continued load growth.
“East River exists to enhance the value of its members and we are committed to focus on that mission every day for the betterment of our members and their consumers,” said Tom Boyko, East River Electric’s general manager. “To continue our growth and our success in supplying reliable and affordable power, we must remain united as a cooperative family and again step up to make the important decisions that will position us for continued success.”
The afternoon session began with a political panel featuring South Dakota’s candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and governor. A business meeting followed the panel discussion where the director election was held and the cooperative’s policy statements were adopted.
Olivia Rud of Madison is the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship from Basin Electric Power Cooperative based in Bismarck, N.D. She is the daughter of Jeff and Jeanne Rud of Madison.
Basin Electric awards 180 scholarships per year to children of member cooperative employees across the region. Rud’s father, Jeff, works as the Power Supply Specialist for East River Electric Power Cooperative in Madison, a Basin Electric member.
Olivia will attend Northern State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in Spanish. She will also play on Northern’s volleyball team. She then plans to attend PA School to become a Physician’s Assistant. Throughout high school, Olivia participated in volleyball, basketball and track. During her high school career Olivia’s teammates voted her team MVP in both volleyball and track. Olivia is the president of the National Honor Society and is involved at her church, St. John’s Lutheran Church.
“We congratulate Olivia and her family on this tremendous honor,” said East River Electric CEO/General Manager Tom Boyko. “Olivia’s commitment to both academics and athletics shows her dedication to attaining her goals. We wish Olivia well as she continues her education at Northern State University.”
Since the scholarship program began, over 3,000 students in the Basin Electric system have benefited from this program. Recipients are selected on the basis of academic record, potential to succeed, leadership and participation in school and community activities, honors, work experience, a statement of education and career goals and an outside appraisal by a teacher or adviser.
Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota honored some of the area’s most impressive high school seniors Saturday, April 28, during the 16th annual Touchstone Energy Scholar of the Year banquet and recognition on the campus of Lake Area Technical Institute.
The event honored the 33 high school students who were chosen each week throughout the school year as the Touchstone Energy Scholar of the Week. It’s a program which recognizes students for academic achievement, co-curricular involvement and community service. The students are featured in weekly segments which air on KSFY Television and each student receives a $100 scholarship for being chosen as the Scholar of the Week.
Nathan Hulscher, a senior at Florence High School within Codington-Clark Electric’s service territory, was selected during the banquet as the Touchstone Energy Scholar of the Year. Hulscher, who plans to attend Augustana University in the fall, received a $1,000 scholarship. Trevor Case, a senior at Webster Area High School within Lake Region Electric’s service territory, and Alexander Palecek, a senior at Yankton High School within Clay-Union Electric’s service territory, were both chosen to receive $500 scholarships. The names were drawn from among the attendees.
Lake Area Technical Institute’s President Michael Cartney was the keynote speaker for the Scholar of the Year banquet. KSFY News anchor Brian Allen served as the master of ceremonies.
Touchstone Energy Cooperatives in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota provide safe and reliable electricity to more than 113,000 homes and businesses. The cooperatives have sponsored the Scholar of the Week program since 2002. In that time Touchstone Energy Cooperatives have awarded over $80,000 in scholarships as part of the Scholar of the Week program.