East River Electric Power Cooperative recently presented service awards to 19 employees with years of service ranging from five to 45 years.
“I’d like to congratulate this year’s service award recipients and thank them for their dedication to East River Electric. We are especially proud of everyone for continuing to work hard and provide our essential service during challenging times such as we are facing this year,” said East River General Manager Tom Boyko.
Brandon Area Maintenance Foreman, Jeff DeLay, one of this year’s service award recipients, began working at East River 45 years ago.
“I was hired as a groundman and held various lineman positions over the years, working my way up to my current foreman position. I have enjoyed the variety of duties and working with new equipment and technology throughout my career. I appreciate working for an electric cooperative and knowing that we are all working together towards a common goal,” said DeLay.
Dean Feistner, Facilities Coordinator, celebrated his 40-year work anniversary. “I have been greatly blessed through the 40 years that I have been at East River Electric,” shared Feistner. “Having the opportunity to work with a professional group of people where you can see the difference that you make in both our community and in the entire system footprint has been rewarding. I have witnessed many changes to the industry over the years. I started out using manual drafting tools then moved to computerized drafting over 30 years ago. There have always been opportunities for problem solving and for being innovative.”
A listing of the awards is as follows:
• Five years: Brian Byrd, Shayla Ebsen, Ryan Himley, David Schaefer, Elliott Shoup-Owens
• Ten years: Bob Donelan, Cathy Olinger, Casey Sichmeller
• Fifteen years: Maria Anderson, Chad Gerdes, Deb O’Neal, Bob Sahr, Terry Zingmark
• Twenty years: Brenda Fods
• Thirty years: Ron Golden, Barb Strom
• Thirty-Five years: Roger Kranz
• Forty years: Dean Feistner
• Forty-Five years: Jeff DeLay
Jody Sundsted, retired Senior Vice President and Upper Great Plains Manager for the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), was presented with East River Electric Power Cooperative’s highest honor, the Eminent Service Award, during the organization’s 71st annual meeting Sept. 8, 2021, in Sioux Falls. The award is given annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to East River and the cooperative movement.
“East River Electric and its member systems honor your years of service to the federal hydropower system and your work to provide consumers with safe, reliable and affordable electric power,” said East River Electric General Manager Tom Boyko. “Your leadership throughout your career has helped advance the mission of WAPA and its customers like East River which provide a valuable service that powers the lives of people throughout our region.”
As WAPA’s Upper Great Plains Regional Manager, Sundsted led more than 340 employees across Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota in serving customers with cost-based federal hydropower. Before taking on the regional manager mantle, Sundsted served as the vice president of Upper Great Plains Power Marketing. Sundsted began his federal career in 1985 as a general engineer with WAPA. During his career, he served in the Power Marketing office as a public utilities specialist in the Contracts and Rates divisions and as the Upper Great Plain’s financial manager before his leadership role in power marketing.
Sundsted holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial and management engineering from Montana State University.
Paul Sukut, who served as Chief Executive Officer for Basin Electric Power Cooperative for the past 7 years, was presented with East River Electric Power Cooperative’s highest honor, the Eminent Service Award, during the organization’s 71st annual meeting Sept. 8, 2021, in Sioux Falls. The award is given annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to East River and the cooperative movement.
Sukut 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.
“On behalf of East River and our member systems, thank you for your 42 years of service to the electric power industry and 38 years of service to Basin Electric Power Cooperative and its members,” said East River Electric General Manager Tom Boyko. “The leadership you have provided throughout your career has helped to ensure consumers across the region received safe, reliable and affordable electric power.”
Sukut has worked for Basin Electric since 1983 and has announced that he will be retiring in the near future. Prior to being named Basin Electric’s CEO and general manager in 2014, Sukut served as the organization’s executive vice president and CFO.
Sukut has a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and political science from Jamestown College in North Dakota, and a master’s degree in accounting and tax from the University of North Dakota. He is a North Dakota registered Certified Public Accountant and a Chartered Global Management Accountant.
East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 71st annual meeting Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. The theme of this year’s annual meeting was ‘Cooperatives: The Power of Working Together’. The meeting highlighted the many ways that East River is working alongside its member systems on making crucial decisions that will position the cooperative network for continued success in providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity.
During the morning general session, speakers discussed how extreme cold temperatures in mid-February 2021 led to historic levels of energy demand on the U.S. power grid, resulting in widespread rolling power outages throughout much of the central portion of the country.
“The February energy emergency highlighted the importance of being connected to a cooperative family to share risk and avoid fluctuations in the energy market,” said East River Electric General Manager Tom Boyko. “Unlike consumers in Texas who were stuck with utility bills exceeding $10,000 dollars in some cases following the emergency event, East River’s members paid the same rate during and after the energy emergency as they paid before because we have long term resources to serve our load. That’s the power of being connected to a cooperative power supply.”
The cooperative’s leaders also provided an update on East River’s aggressive Transmission System Upgrade Plan. The plan is designed to accelerate additions and replacements to the cooperative’s transmission infrastructure to improve system reliability and provide for growth.
“East River is currently in the third year of our Transmission System Upgrade Plan. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our teams made significant progress on the upgrade plan over this past year,” said Boyko. “We completed several key projects that are designed to strengthen our system’s backbone. As always, this critical work was completed with a primary focus on ensuring the safety of our workforce.”
During the annual meeting’s lunch, East River’s leadership presented the cooperative’s Eminent Service Award to retired Western Area Power Administration Senior Vice President and Upper Great Plains Manager Jody Sundsted as well as to Basin Electric Power Cooperative CEO Paul Sukut. The Eminent Service Award is the most prestigious honor given by East River’s Board of Directors.
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 welcomed Scott Shewey as the cooperative’s new Chief Financial Officer on July 26. Scott joins East River with 14 years in public utility experience at Colorado Springs Utilities, a 4-service municipal utility. He spent the last seven years in executive leadership with Colorado Springs Utilities, with the last two as CFO overseeing rates, treasury, financial planning and analysis, accounting, risk management and supply chain.
Prior to Colorado Springs Utilities, Scott managed financial operations for 11 years combined at Ford Financial and Miller-Coors. He was born and raised in the Ormond Beach area of Florida and graduated from Florida State University with degrees in accounting and finance. Scott holds a 6-Sigma Black Belt certification from Ford Financial.
Outside of work, Scott enjoys spending time with his family and is involved in a range of outdoor activities including walking, hiking, trail running, bird watching and fishing. He also enjoys all levels of sports and spent many years coaching youth baseball teams. He has run 11 marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 2014. Scott and his wife, Jennifer, have three children: Jake (24), Ryne (21) and Anna (19).
Eric Fosheim of Madison will be the next Economic Development Manager at East River Electric Power Cooperative. Fosheim will lead East River’s economic development efforts and the organization’s Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund which East River administers on behalf of its member cooperatives. He takes over the role from Linda Salmonson who retired following a 30-year career with East River.
“I’m incredibly excited to join the East River team,” Fosheim said. “They have an incredible reputation of helping to build communities and driving economic development efforts throughout eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota and I’m ready to step in and help continue to advance the goals of the organization.”
The REED Fund was created in 1996 by the region’s electric cooperatives as a revolving loan fund, helping to finance hundreds of projects since its inception. The fund provides financing for businesses, non-profits, communities, health care and other vital services important to rural South Dakota and Minnesota. Fosheim will lead the efforts of the REED Fund as well as work on other economic development efforts on behalf of East River’s 25 member electric distribution systems.
Fosheim’s prior experience includes stints in banking, business development with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and South Dakota Department of Agriculture and most recently he served as the executive director of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation based in Madison.
Fosheim will begin his role at East River Electric at the end of August.