East River Electric Power Cooperative recently presented service awards to 24 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.
SCADA, Radio and Load Management Foreman Paul Lambert, one of this year’s service award recipients, began working at East River 40 years ago.
“I grew up on a family farm in eastern South Dakota and electricity played an important part in our daily farm activities especially dealing with livestock. The cooperative model and service have always resonated with me perhaps in part because my maternal grandfather served in the State Legislature and helped draft the legislation that laid the groundwork for rural electrification in South Dakota,” said Lambert.
Three employees celebrated their 40-year work anniversary. Teresa Goehring, System Operator, added that there have been many changes in the electric industry over the years. Lambert agreed, “The job has changed in that the utility industry today demands more and more data with robust telecommunications networks to deliver this real time. I’ve always felt that East River fulfills an important service to rural America and am proud to contribute in a small way towards that effort.”
Steve Hofman, Meter/Relay Foreman, also celebrated his 40-year work anniversary. “Technology has drastically changed our jobs and how we perform them,” shared Hofman. “But with all the changes that have taken place, the one constant has been the dedicated, hardworking people that make East River such a successful organization. I’ve had a great career here and I’m happy to have had to chance to work for such a great cooperative for the past 40 years.”
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: Tom Boyko, Jennifer Buchholtz, Megan Rummel
• Ten years: Dan Coomes, Jennifer Gross, Adam Hansen, Dan Lembcke, Eric Nesheim, Nate Oines, Linda Roth, Colton Sanderson, David Smith
• Fifteen years: Jarad Deters
• Twenty years: Dustin Arthur, Tim Brown, Jeff May, Chad Nowstrup, Brian Wilkens
• Thirty years: Michelle Burggraff
• Thirty Five years: Doug Case, Jeff Rud
• Forty years: Steve Hofman, Teresa Goehring, Paul Lambert
Photo caption: East River General Manager Tom Boyko presents a 40 year service award to Steve Hofman.
A Connected Home Research Project launched on Wednesday as part of Dakota State University’s (DSU) MadLabs facility grand opening. The Connected Home project is a partnership between East River Electric Power Cooperative, DSU and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and is exploring technologies that will be included in the next generation rural home. It is also working to find solutions that will allow electric cooperatives to play an integral role in helping consumers optimize their energy use.
East River Electric is a wholesale power supply cooperative headquartered in Madison which serves 24 distribution cooperatives and one municipal electric system across eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. NRECA is a national association of over 900 electric cooperatives and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
“From wi-fi thermostats to smart appliances, our network of electric cooperatives is seeing increased adoption of smart home technologies among consumers,” said East River Chief Member and Public Relations Officer Chris Studer. “While current technologies can help manage electricity usage and benefit consumers, we noticed a gap between the capabilities of those technologies and the needs of our utility network to connect to those technologies. We hope to close that gap through this project.”
Researchers will investigate current products on the market and determine how utilities could potentially utilize existing technologies to control appliances and connected technologies within a home. They will also research the potential to build utility-specific technologies, both hardware and software, that could be used in homes to optimize energy usage and control power costs. A final phase of the project could include field testing of potential products in end consumer homes to determine the viability of any hardware and software that is developed.
“As use of smart home technology continues to increase among consumers, we’re hoping to use this research project to identify technologies that will help us in our transition to a new energy management future or to develop our own utility-specific technologies that can be replicated at cooperatives around the country to help consumers optimize energy usage and save them money,” said Studer.
The project’s research space resembles a smart home kitchen with additional appliances including a washer, dryer and water heater. “Many of the products included in the space were sourced from local companies. We are grateful to Rosebud Cabinets, KolorWorks, Karl’s Appliance and Montgomery’s for assisting in the construction and design of the space,” said Studer.
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.
Jim Edwards retired as Chief Operations Officer from East River Electric in 2019, after 20 years of service to East River Electric and its members. He provided a significant leadership role as the cooperative went through many transitions, adopted new technologies and experienced growth. “Jim was a key player in East River planning for and joining the Southwest Power Pool. His planning expertise was utilized as East River prepared for system growth throughout the years,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “For these and his many other contributions to East River and our member systems, we recognize Jim for his dedication and friendship with our highest honor.”
Greg Hollister retired as East River’s Chief Financial Officer after a combined 40 years of service in the cooperative family, with 20 of those years being at East River. Greg dedicated his career to making sure co-op members at the end of the line have affordable and reliable electricity. “We offer our sincere thanks and appreciation for your leadership role in overseeing the Indenture and other strategic financial functions at East River,” said East River General Manager Tom Boyko.
East River Electric Board Director Kermit Pearson was presented with East River Electric Power Cooperative’s 30-year service award during the organization’s 69th annual meeting Sept. 4, 2019, in Sioux Falls. The award was presented to Pearson in recognition of the 30 years that he has served on the cooperative’s board of directors.
As a member-owner of Lake Region Electric Association, Pearson serves as Lake Region’s representative on the East River board of directors and has served on the local Lake Region Electric board for 39 years. He also currently serves as Lake Region’s board president.
“We have the distinct pleasure of honoring Kermit, one of our longest serving board members, with this 30-year service award. During Kermit’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 Kermit’s continued leadership within our cooperative family.”
Kermit is a graduate of Britton High School and attended South Dakota State University in Brookings. He serves as vice president on the Basin Electric board of directors, and as treasurer for the Dakota Gasification Company board. Kermit has also represented Basin Electric on the South Dakota Rural Electric Association board of directors since 2013. In September 2018, Kermit was inducted into the South Dakota Co-op Hall of Fame. Kermit and his wife Peggy have four children.
East River Electric Power Cooperative, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Rushmore Electric, the South Dakota Rural Electric Association and CoBank are donating $47,500 to the South Dakota Veterans Council for the State Veterans Cemetery currently under construction in Sioux Falls. The donation was announced at a lunch ceremony during East River Electric’s annual meeting. Ken Teunissen, chair of the Endowment Committee and State Representative Larry Zikmund, R-Sioux Falls, attended the luncheon to receive the check.
“We are pleased to be able to provide this donation for the State Veterans Cemetery,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “South Dakota’s veterans have given a lot for our state and our country and our state’s electric cooperatives want to do what we can to give back to them.”
In 2018, the South Dakota Legislature authorized the state to seek construction funding from the National Cemetery Administration. Of the 72,000 veterans in South Dakota, 50,000 of them live in the eastern part of the state. The nearest national veterans cemeteries are currently in Sturgis or Fort Snelling, Minn. The cemetery will be constructed on approximately 12.9 acres north of the Interstate 229 and Interstate 90 interchange off Slip Up Creek Road and 477th Avenue.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the cemetery on Monday, Sept. 9. More than 100 people attended the ceremony.
East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 69th annual meeting Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. The theme of this year’s annual meeting was ‘Shaping a Stronger Tomorrow’. The meeting highlighted the many ways that East River is working together with its member systems on shaping a stronger tomorrow for the electric cooperative industry as well as 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. A new $10 million workforce housing development financing partnership between Avera Health and the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund aims to address increasing concerns regarding a lack of adequate workforce housing across the region. 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. Funds from the partnership will be used for lending in partnership with banks and other agencies to provide loans for housing development and housing infrastructure in Avera-served communities.
“All business sectors including health care and electric cooperatives in rural areas are looking for highly-skilled staff,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “It can be a real challenge to recruit workforce without quality housing options. We’re going to work on solving this critical issue.”
The cooperative’s leaders also updated attendees on East River’s aggressive 10-year transmission system upgrade plan that began at the start of this year. 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,” said Boyko. “East River was formed by the determination and collective effort of our member systems. The great working relationships between East River and our member systems will enable us to shape an even stronger tomorrow.”
During the meeting’s lunch, East River’s leadership presented two individuals with the cooperative’s Eminent Service Award. The Eminent Service Award is the most prestigious honor given by East River’s Board of Directors. The award recipients were East River Electric’s Former Chief Operations Officer Jim Edwards as well as East River Electric’s Former Chief Financial Officer Greg Hollister. The lunch ceremony also included a check presentation to announce a donation of $47,500 from East River Electric, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Rushmore Electric, the South Dakota Rural Electric Association and CoBank to the South Dakota Veterans Council for the proposed State Veterans Cemetery in Sioux Falls.
The afternoon session began with an update from Basin Electric Power Cooperative. A business meeting followed the panel discussion where the director election was held and the cooperative’s policy statements were adopted.