Jeff Genzer, President at Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer, & Pembroke, P.C. law office was awarded East River Electric Power Cooperative’s highest honor, the Eminent Service Award, during the organization’s 73rd annual meeting September 6, 2023, in Sioux Falls. The award is given annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to East River and the cooperative movement.
Jeff was recognized for his nearly four-decade-long career that has been dedicated to energy and environmental law. During his 38 years in his current position and during his prior tenure serving as staff counsel for the National Governor’s Association, he’s demonstrated commitment to and has worked hard to protect and advocate in the best interest of rural electric cooperatives and their member-owners.
He has been deeply involved in regulatory counseling, electric and natural gas rate making, and environmental permitting surrounding Clean Air Act permitting issues that impact energy projects. He has demonstrated legislative advocacy and litigation, appearing before various courts and federal agencies including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Jeff’s contributions to utilities and the cooperative cause have been significant, impacting state and local governments and initiatives across the Nation.
Throughout his career, he’s served as general counsel for several key energy organizations and currently serves as general counsel to the National Association of Energy Service Companies, the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, and the Energy Programs Consortium. He has worked with East River Electric for many years through his role with the Mid-West Electric Consumers Association, helping cooperatives access low-cost hydropower from the nation’s dams.
“In recognition of your 38 years of service to electric cooperatives across the country, the East River Electric board of directors thanks you for your service to the cooperative movement and for your leadership in advancing and protecting rural electrification,” said East River Electric CEO and General Manager Bob Sahr. “Your work has helped to power the lives of millions of consumers across our region and around the country.”
In addition to his advocacy and dedicated work in the legal field, Jeff has made a positive difference through service in the Peace Corps, where he contributed to many development projects and served as the first energy planner in Micronesia.
Ervin Fink was presented with East River Electric Power Cooperative’s highest honor, the Eminent Service Award, during the organization’s 73rd annual meeting Sept. 6, 2023, in Sioux Falls. The award is given annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to East River and the cooperative movement.
As a member-owner of Douglas Electric Cooperative, Fink served for 36 years on the Douglas Electric board of directors – and for 22 of those years he served as the representative for Douglas Electric on the East River board of directors. At the time he stepped down from the boards last year, he had been serving as the Douglas Electric board president and East River’s board secretary.
Ervin epitomizes the seventh cooperative principle of concern for community in his professional and personal life. And, throughout his years of service on both boards, he was an invaluable leader in directing many projects and policies that were crucial for the continued success of rural electric cooperatives including the implementation of East River’s Transmission System Upgrade Plan, being an advocate for farm safety campaigns and cooperative youth outreach programs, and approval of funding supporting economic development and advancing local organizations.
He served as a strong champion for public policies that benefit and impact utilities. His thoughtful engagement during electric cooperative visits to Pierre, Washington, D.C., and legislative fly-ins through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association paired with the close ties he maintained with legislators from his local community demonstrates his devotion to advancing the cooperative mission.
“The East River Electric board of directors thanks you for your service to the cooperative and your leadership in advancing rural electrification in our region,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “The leadership you have provided on the board of directors has helped to ensure consumers across the region have received safe, reliable, and affordable electric power for decades.”
Outside of the cooperative realm, he served in the National Guard for six years and is involved in his local church. Ervin is a graduate of Armour High School and owns a farming operation near Armour. Ervin and his wife Dee have two children.
East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 73rd annual meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. This year’s annual meeting theme was “Powering Possibilities.” The meeting highlighted the many ways East River Electric works alongside its member systems to enhance and power people’s lives and communities to make great things possible by providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Attendees took part in the event in person as well as through a livestream viewing option.
“East River exists to enhance the value of its members and together we have built a foundation for success,” said East River CEO/General Manager Bob Sahr. “We continue to celebrate our accomplishments, acknowledge our challenges and plan for the future. Through it all, we remain committed to the cooperative principles that guide us. We will continue ‘Powering Possibilities’ for our members and their communities and, through our cooperative efforts, turn possibilities into reality.”
During the annual meeting presentation, East River leadership discussed the cooperative’s Transmission System Upgrade Plan, detailing achievements, progress, and challenges that have been overcome. Now in its fifth year, the plan is focused on bolstering the system’s infrastructure and improving reliability while providing for future growth.
“As the demand for electricity continues to grow and decades-old infrastructure continues to age, the need for upgrades and expansion is necessary for continuing to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy,” Sahr said. “The cooperative has navigated extended material lead times, permitting and review challenges, and rising costs, but by working together with our member cooperatives we have been able to successfully complete projects on time thanks to the work of East River’s outstanding workforce.”
During the annual meeting lunch, East River’s leadership presented two individuals with the cooperative’s Eminent Service Award: Ervin Fink, a retired East River Electric and Douglas Electric Cooperative board member; and Jeff Genzer, president at Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke law office in Washington, D.C. The Eminent Service Award is the most prestigious honor given by East River’s board of directors to individuals who have had a great impact on East River Electric and the rural electrification program. In addition, East River Board President James Ryken of Clay-Union Electric was presented with an award for 25 years of service and director Galen Grant from Lyon-Lincon Electric was presented with an award for over 17 years of service on the East River board of directors.
The afternoon session began with updates from the Southwest Power Pool followed by a Minnesota legislative update from the Minnesota Rural Electric Association. A business meeting followed the annual meeting’s general session where the director election was held, and the cooperative’s policy statements were adopted.
Photo caption: East River Electric Power Cooperative CEO and General Manager Bob Sahr (left) and East River Electric Board President Jim Ryken provided an update to the co-op’s membership during East River’s 73rd annual meeting.
Every fall, Mitchell Technical College announces its Platinum Employer list, recognizing those employers who have hired the greatest numbers of new graduates into their first-destination careers from the college’s three most recent graduating classes.
This year’s Platinum Employer list, on display in Mitchell Tech’s Campus Center, showcases the 31 employers who hired a total 328 graduates from the college’s classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022.
“Many of these employers have developed relationships with Mitchell Tech and our students during their education, which has created a natural hiring process for many of our graduates prior to their graduation or shortly thereafter,” said Janet Greenway, Career Services and Advising Director for Mitchell Tech. “Most of these employers are located within or near the Mitchell region. We are thrilled that so many of our talented graduates are able to find employment close to home and meet South Dakota’s growing workforce needs.”
Businesses whose logos currently are displayed include:
• Avera Health
• Brink Constructors, Inc.
• C&B Operations (John Deere)
• CHS Farmers Alliance
• Dakota Provisions
• Dave’s Construction, Inc.
• Design Solutions & Integrations
• East River Electric Power Cooperative
• Elite Electric, Inc.
• Firesteel Health Care Center
• Golden West
• Jack Links, LSI, Inc.
• Johnson Controls, Inc.
• Monument Health
• Morton Buildings, Inc.
• Mueller Lumber Company
• Muth Electric
• Northwestern Energy
• Sanford Health
• SDN Communications
• Southeastern Electric Coop
• Summit Contracting
• Titan Machinery
• Trail King Industries
• TSB Communications Contractors Corp.
• Vantage Point Solutions
• Watts Electric Company
• Yankton Medical Clinic
About Mitchell Technical College
Founded in 1968, Mitchell Tech is an innovative leader in technical education and a valued partner in global workforce development, preparing students for career success and lifelong learning in an ever-changing world. The ultramodern campus, found on the edge of Mitchell, South Dakota, is home to thirty-five on-campus academic programs and four online programs. The college prides itself on its regionally unique programs and military friendliness.
A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of East River Electric Power Cooperative, upholding a lower court’s ruling to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Dakota Energy Cooperative seeking to terminate its wholesale power contract early in order to buy power from Guzman Energy, a for-profit, Colorado-based energy broker. The ruling upholds a contractual commitment between East River Electric and Dakota Energy, confirming that Dakota Energy must honor its long-term power contract until its agreed upon termination date of December 31, 2075, and that no provision in the wholesale power contract or East River’s bylaws allows for early termination of that obligation.
“Dakota Energy’s member-owners are the real winners here,” said East River Electric’s CEO/General Manager Bob Sahr. “East River Electric is a not-for-profit, local wholesale power cooperative that has provided dependable energy, some of the lowest rates in the nation and reliable infrastructure to its members for more than 70 years. We look forward to serving Dakota Energy and the rest of our members for generations to come.”
The legal dispute started in November 2020 when Dakota Energy, an electric distribution cooperative based in Huron, S.D., which provides power to areas in Beadle, Hyde and Hand counties, filed a lawsuit seeking to exit its long-term wholesale power contract with East River Electric. Federal District Court Judge Lawrence Piersol in April 2022 granted summary judgement to East River Electric and its power supplier Basin Electric Power Cooperative, dismissing the case. Dakota Energy appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Piersol’s ruling.
“The courts have spoken clearly twice now – Dakota Energy has not met the legal standard for pursuing its claims,” Sahr said. “The contract stands, and it’s past time to stop wasting member-owners’ money on attorney fees.”
In 2022 alone, East River Electric invested more than $75 million in local transmission projects for its member cooperatives. Over the years they have spent millions in the Dakota Energy territory to respond to growth and provide members with affordable electricity.
“A lot more goes into the electric utility business than just buying energy,” Sahr said. “East River’s member cooperatives own us, and our dedicated workforce responds during storms, builds and maintains a reliable transmission network, and supports local economic development all at some of the lowest rates in the entire country. We’re here for the long haul and work only for the members at the end of the line.”
East River Electric is a wholesale power cooperative headquartered in Madison, S.D., which is owned by and serves 24 electric co-ops and one municipal electric system in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. It has long-term power supply contracts with its member systems to ensure long-term reliability and cost control.
“A hallmark of the cooperative business model is members working together to achieve more, as a group, than they can accomplish individually,” Sahr said. “This case is about more than a contract – it’s about a bond and commitment to work together with your neighbors for the greater good. East River’s members set the stage for our historical success when they formed us and our cooperative business model, and working together as a group will be the key to our future success.”
To read the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision Click Here.
To read the Federal District Court’s decision Click Here.
The second annual Who Powers You contest hosted by the region’s Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives has officially come to a close with the announcement of three winners who were chosen from among the contest’s 20 finalists. The contest spotlights outstanding individuals who are making a difference in their communities while recognizing them for their remarkable efforts in empowering and inspiring others.
“As an electric cooperative, our services extend beyond delivering safe, affordable, and reliable power to our member-owners,” said Chris Studer, Chief Member and Public Relations Officer at East River Electric Power Cooperative. The Who Powers You contest highlights the commitment of our co-op to the communities and member-owners that we serve. We know that our co-op community is filled with people making a difference and we are honored to celebrate them.”
Weekly contest finalists were featured on KELOLAND Living from March through mid-May. Three contest winners were announced on May 25, 2023.
Bob and Nancy Montross, members of Kingsbury Electric Cooperative, have been awarded the first-place grand prize in the Who Powers You contest. Their instrumental role in countless projects has helped bring vibrancy to the De Smet area and South Dakota. Bob, known as the “promoter,” and Nancy, referred to as the “organizer,” form an exceptional team who have dedicated time and effort to raising funds for the De Smet Event & Wellness Center, supporting the Arts Council, serving on the cemetery board, and helping to bring concerts into the area. Additionally, their involvement with the Highway 14 Trail & Observation Tower project will further enrich Kingsbury County. The Montrosses’ unwavering dedication to the Beef Bucks organization has significantly raised awareness of agriculture and beef, not just in South Dakota but across the nation and involvement with the Cattleman’s Association and the South Dakota Beef Council further exemplifies their commitment to the industry.
As grand prize winners, they will receive a $3,000 award to support their ongoing efforts, stating they intend to donate it to the Highway 14 Trail and Observation Tower project they are currently focusing on. The Who Powers You award recognizes them as true ambassadors of their community, the state of South Dakota, and the livelihoods of individuals who live, work, and spend time in rural areas.
The second-place, $1,500 prize was awarded to Laura Klock, whose outreach impacts Central Electric Cooperative’s service territory. Hailing from Ethan, South Dakota, Laura is the founder of Helping with Horsepower. The regionally and nationally recognized program has made a significant impact on at-risk youth through its Bike Rebuild Program by teaching young people valuable motorcycle repair skills. The program offers opportunities for personal growth and development. Moreover, a partnership with Reclamation Ranch to offer the Therapeutic Riding Program has provided invaluable impact on individuals with special needs through equine-assisted therapy. Additionally, the Heroes Helping with Horsepower Program has extended support to veterans. Laura’s empowering, encouraging, and inspirational spirit for helping others is truly commendable. Her dedication to these programs, as well as her commitment to agriculture and farm life education in the region, is what earned her this remarkable achievement.
Pearl Holt, a member of Northern Electric Cooperative, was awarded the third-place $500 award in the contest. Through her tireless commitment to youth and community, Pearl has made a tremendous impact on the lives of others. Her involvement with esteemed organizations such as 4-H, the Aberdeen Area Horseman’s Association, Special Olympics, and the Brown County Fair reflects her unwavering dedication to serving others. Notably, Pearl’s exceptional volunteerism at SPURS Therapeutic Riding Center has further solidified her reputation as someone who is always willing to help out however she can. From assisting riders in classes to caring for horses and helping to organize the Barn Dance fundraiser, Pearl’s contributions are too numerous to mention in full, which is why she was chosen for the well-deserved recognition.
To learn more about the Who Powers You contest, visit whopowersyoucontest.com.