McKenna Sichmeller Receives $1,000 Basin Electric Scholarship

McKenna Sichmeller Receives $1,000 Basin Electric Scholarship

McKenna Sichmeller of Humboldt is the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship from Basin Electric Power Cooperative based in Bismarck, N.D. She is the daughter of Casey and Annette Sichmeller.

Basin Electric awards over 185 scholarships per year to children of member cooperative employees and children of member cooperative consumers across the region. Sichmeller’s father, Casey, works as a Project Coordinator for East River Electric Power Cooperative in Madison, a Basin Electric member.

McKenna will attend South Dakota State University in Brookings to pursue a degree in nursing. After college graduation, she will go on to attend Mount Marty for their Nurse Anesthetist program. Throughout her years at West Central High School, McKenna was involved in volleyball, basketball, softball, band, FCCLA, FFA, National Honor Society and was the Class President. “Thank you for selecting me as the recipient for the Basin Electric Scholarship,” said McKenna. “It will help me on my journey to become a Nurse Anesthetist.”

“Congratulations to McKenna and her family on this wonderful honor,” said East River Electric CEO/General Manager Tom Boyko. “McKenna’s commitment to academics, athletics and her community shows her dedication to achieving her goals. We wish McKenna well as she continues her education at South Dakota State University.”

Since the scholarship program began, over 5,000 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.

Cutline: (Left to Right) Tom Boyko, McKenna Sichmeller and Casey Sichmeller.

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against East River Electric

Federal Judge Lawrence Piersol has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Dakota Energy Cooperative against its wholesale power supplier East River Electric Power Cooperative, saying that the contract between the two electric cooperatives is clear and does not allow Dakota Energy to terminate its contract early.

“The ruling from Judge Piersol is a major victory for all of the electric cooperative member-owners across the state of South Dakota,” said East River Electric General Manager and CEO Tom Boyko. “A contract is a contract and Judge Piersol’s ruling is clear that the contract does not allow for an early termination. It affirms what we’ve been saying all along, Dakota Energy can’t just walk away from the commitment it made to its neighboring cooperatives. It is our sincere hope that this will end spending member-owner money on an expensive ill-fated legal battle.”

In November 2020, Dakota Energy, an electric co-op headquartered in Huron which serves consumers in Beadle, Hand and Hyde counties, filed a lawsuit against East River Electric in an attempt to force East River Electric to give Dakota Energy a buyout number so they could terminate their contract long before the agreed upon date of Dec. 31, 2075. East River Electric and its power supplier Basin Electric Power Cooperative argued in court that the contract that was extended in 2015 and signed by Dakota Energy did not allow for an early buyout. Judge Piersol agreed with East River and Basin Electric and granted their motions for summary judgement, dismissing the case.

Dakota Energy had earlier signed a letter of intent with a for-profit energy broker, Guzman Energy, based in Denver, to receive wholesale power if their case was successful.

“This ruling ensures that Dakota Energy member-owners will continue to have access to reliable and affordable power from East River Electric, their South Dakota-based wholesale electric cooperative, for years to come and they won’t be forced into buying power from a for-profit company,” Boyko said. “Not-for-profit electric cooperatives have always worked together to provide affordable power to their members and this ruling ensures that a for-profit company like Guzman Energy can’t come into South Dakota and profit off of co-op consumers.”

This year marks the fourth year in a row that East River’s rates have been flat or have gone down. East River also returned more than $17 million in capital credits and bill credits to its members between May 2021 and February 2022. About $840,000 of that amount went directly to Dakota Energy.

East River Electric is a wholesale power cooperative headquartered in Madison 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.

East River Electric’s 58th Annual LifeScape Fundraiser a Success

East River Electric’s 58th Annual LifeScape Fundraiser a Success

East River Electric’s 58th annual fundraiser to support LifeScape was a success, raising over $44,600. LifeScape is an organization which promotes independence for over 2,500 children and adults with disabilities throughout South Dakota. This year, the event was held as an online auction and an online raffle. Many local businesses generously donated items to the auction and cash to the LifeScape organization.

“The online auction and raffle were very successful and a direct tribute to our employees fulfilling our Touchstone Energy Cooperatives principle of Commitment to Community,” said East River General Manager Tom Boyko. “I want to thank our employee committee for their outstanding work and long days of organizing the event, reaching out to donors and coordinating the auction. We also want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the local businesses and member cooperatives that donated items to the auction and money to LifeScape. Our fundraiser was a success because of your generosity!”

East River’s annual fundraising efforts have helped provide for the very best in medical care, therapy, education and other services for the children at LifeScape. Several local children and people from around the region are served by LifeScape.

The East River Employees Committee donated $1,000, a total matched by East River Electric at $1,000 and matched by Basin Electric at $2,000. CoBank also contributed $2,000 to the event this year. In the 58 years since the East River fundraiser began, more than $379,600 has been raised to help LifeScape provide services to children and adults in rural South Dakota.

PHOTO CUTLINE – LifeScape empowers people to live their best lives.

Studer Named as the Touchstone Energy Distinguished Service Award Recipient

Studer Named as the Touchstone Energy Distinguished Service Award Recipient

East River Electric Power Cooperative’s Chief Member and Public Relations Officer Chris Studer has been named the 2022 Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives Distinguished Service Award recipient. Touchstone Energy Board President Deb Mirasola presented Studer with the award during the Touchstone Energy general session at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) annual membership meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, March 8.

Studer was honored for his dedication and service promoting the cooperative difference and helping Touchstone Energy evolve into the strong brand and national network it is today with more than 650 members in 46 states.

“Chris exemplifies the values of our brand and provides unwavering support to his member systems and local community,” said President Mirasola. “On the local, regional and national levels, Chris has showcased that working at a cooperative is about much more than selling electricity. He deeply understands the Cooperative Difference and lives out that difference each day.”

In thanking the Touchstone Energy Board of Directors for the honor, Studer said, “I’m so fortunate and proud to work with such great cooperative leaders who continue to build and enhance the brand that is so important to cooperatives across the country. Your leadership and commitment are unmatched, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work alongside you.”

As Chief Member and Public Relations officer for East River Electric, Studer leads the organization’s communications, marketing and government relations efforts. He also serves as one of Touchstone Energy’s Regional Members (RMs), which he previously chaired. In his role as RM, Studer works closely with other RMs to ensure the national brand network increases value and engagement to members across the nation.

Studer also thanked the East River Electric board of directors, leadership and staff, noting he was fortunate to work every day with talented people who live the Touchstone Energy values and use the brand to help communicate the Cooperative Difference. He also recognized and thanked the Touchstone Energy national staff and said the network was fortunate to have such impressive people working on its behalf.

“The Touchstone Energy brand creates a powerful link in the minds of cooperative consumers across the country,” concluded Studer. “It’s such an important piece of our business – helping to educate and engage our members to strengthen relationships and we use the brand and its core values to strengthen our collective reputation – because we are all stronger together.”

The Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Distinguished Service Award is the organization’s highest honor, presented annually to a cooperative leader who has made outstanding contributions to building the brand on the national stage.

East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager/CEO Announces Retirement

East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager/CEO Announces Retirement

East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager and CEO Tom Boyko has announced his retirement. After 36 years in the electric industry and just over 8 years as the CEO at East River, Boyko informed the board of directors of his intention to retire once a new general manager is named.

“I’m grateful to the board of directors for giving me the opportunity to finish my career at such a great organization,” Boyko said. “The East River employees are an extremely talented and committed group of people who are focused every day on providing reliable and affordable electricity to our member distribution systems that power the lives of hundreds of thousands of cooperative consumers in our region. It will be difficult to say goodbye, but East River’s future is bright because of a fantastic workforce.”

The East River board of directors has hired a firm to begin a national search for a new general manager and CEO. Boyko will serve until a replacement is named, likely sometime in the late spring or early summer.

“Tom has been an incredible leader over the past 8 years at East River,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “We’re happy for him and his family but we’re sad to see him go. He’s overseen an incredible amount of growth in electric sales over the past 8 years, implemented an aggressive transmission system upgrade plan and helped us navigate the twists and turns of the pandemic and he’s done it all with a steady hand. On behalf of the entire East River board, I want to wish Tom and his family all the best in the future.”

Mike Jaspers Receives 2022 Excellence in Agriculture Award

Mike Jaspers Receives 2022 Excellence in Agriculture Award

A friendly face in agriculture across the state, Mike Jaspers has been named the 2022 recipient of the Excellence in Agriculture Award presented at the South Dakota Corn 36th Annual Conference on Sat., Jan. 22, 2022, at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.

The Excellence in Agriculture Award goes to an outstanding individual who exemplifies excellence in agriculture by his or her significant contributions to the industry.

“I am extremely honored and excited to have received such recognition in front of my peers,” Jaspers said. “I truly believe the world is run by those who show up and I take that with me into every aspect of my life, not expecting to receive any type of award or recognition for simply doing what needs to be done.”

Jaspers not only stepped up to serve as the interim Executive Director at South Dakota Corn, he is also the business development director at East River Electric Power Cooperative and is a cattle, hog and row crop farmer in addition to having served as the state secretary of agriculture under Gov. Daugaard.

About SD Corn: South Dakota Corn, which houses the South Dakota Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) and the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council (SDCUC), serves as a powerful educational and legislative voice for corn farmers in the state. This active commodity group collaborates to promote corn by influencing public policy, educating consumers, developing new corn markets, increasing corn usage and improving grower profitability. Details at sdcorn.org.