East River Electric Employees Earn MREA LIFEGuard Award

East River Electric Employees Earn MREA LIFEGuard Award

Two individuals were recognized for heroic efforts Thursday, October 20 during East River Electric Cooperative’s All Employees Focus meeting. Skyler Nieman and Logan Janssen received the Minnesota Rural Electric Association’s (MREA) LIFEGuard on Duty Award. The award program encourages co-op employees to make safety a commitment on and off the job and honors individuals who have performed lifesaving activities or prevented serious injuries.

Photo of LifeGuard on Duty Award Sign

On May 12, 2022, Skyler Niemann and Logan Janssen of East River Electric Power Cooperative were on their way to the Sisseton substation for work that day. They were northbound on Interstate 20 when they saw a collision in the southbound land about a half mile ahead. They did not see the impact but observed what appeared to be a could of smoke from the impact that couth their attention.

As they passed the scene, they looked over and could see a car pushing something on its hood. It was a motorcycle. Skyler did not know if there was a driver on the motorcycle but could tell it was a serious collision. Logan immediately called 911. Skyler turned their truck around in the first median he could find, knowing they could bring a first aid kit and AED as he had these items on his work truck.

When Skyler and Logan got to the scene, about five other people had also stopped and were helping. The injured motorcycle driver was on his side and appeared to be unconscious. One lady monitored his pulse, and when he lost it, Skyler cut off his backpack to roll him over onto his back. One lady then started CPR, and Skyler and the lady continued this first aid until paramedics arrived. They had also hooked up the AED to him but never had to initiate a shock.

“Today, we commend Skyler and Logan as LIFEGuards who took prompt action to provide care to someone injured. They knew they had life-saving equipment on their truck and had the training to provide basic first aid. They lived their commitment to safety today,” said MREA Director of Safety and Loss Control, Lidia Dilly Jacobson, and spokespersons of East River Electric Cooperative. “A job well done, Skyler and Logan.”


East River Electric Power Cooperative Hires Danny Brown as New General Counsel

East River Electric Power Cooperative Hires Danny Brown as New General Counsel

East River Electric Power Cooperative’s board of directors has named Danny Brown as the cooperative’s next General Counsel. Starting November 3rd, he will be stepping into the role replacing Bob Sahr, who recently became the co-op’s general manager and CEO.

He brings 22 years of legal experience to the organization. Most recently, he served the City of Sioux Falls as senior assistant city attorney, where he was instrumental in providing legal counsel and representation as well as advising city council members and city officials in areas of operations and policy directives. Prior to serving the City of Sioux Falls, he was a partner at the legal firm Lammers, Kleibacker, & Brown LLP.

As general counsel for East River Electric, he will serve as part of the executive management team helping to form the strategic vision of the cooperative, providing legal advice, direction, and assistance to the general manager and CEO and the board of directors.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Danny to East River, said Bob Sahr, general manager and CEO. “With legal experience in the public and private sectors and ties to Madison, he’s a natural choice for the position. His extensive knowledge and track record are quite impressive and relevant to what we do here at East River; plus, his terrific personality makes him a great fit for the cooperative’s culture.”

Brown, a Madison resident, earned his Juris Doctor from the University of South Dakota School of Law, and his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Arizona. He is active in community organizations serving as a Member of the Board of Trustees for Madison Regional Hospital and as Trinity Lutheran Church president.

Prostrollo’s Installs First DC Fast Charging Station in Madison

Prostrollo’s Installs First DC Fast Charging Station in Madison

Prostrollo Auto Mall in Madison recently installed the first public DC fast charging station for electrified vehicles in the city. The charging station is capable of charging at 62.5KW per hour providing around 50 miles of range in 15 minutes. This station is compatible with all CCS1 and CHAdeMO types of vehicle connectors. This station will be available 24 hours a day and the payments are typically handled through a customer’s app on their phone.

“Range anxiety is one of the main drawbacks when a customer is considering an EV. This will allow the general public whether local customers or people passing through Madison an option of a rapid charge to get back on the road quickly,” said Nick Prostrollo.

East River Electric Power Cooperative recently purchased an all-electric Ford Mustang Mach E from Prostrollo Auto Mall. The Mustang has a top range of about 260 miles on a full charge.

“We appreciate the help from Prostrollo Auto Mall in securing our first modern electric vehicle,” said East River Electric’s Chief Member and Public Relations Officer Chris Studer. “As a wholesale electric provider for this region, we felt it was important to own an electric vehicle so we can help our members with their decision-making process when looking at an EV and learn more about what it’s like to own and drive an electric vehicle.”

East River staff recently tested the new DC fast charger at Prostrollo Auto Mall. “It’s a wonderful addition to Madison to have a DC fast charger here in town,” Studer said. “It gives EV drivers an opportunity to get a charge quickly and at an affordable price, and we excited that Prostrollo Auto Mall is the first to install a fast charger.”

Tom Boyko receives Eminent Service Award from East River Electric Power Cooperative

Tom Boyko receives Eminent Service Award from East River Electric Power Cooperative

Tom Boyko, former general manager and CEO of East River Electric Power Cooperative was presented with the cooperative’s highest honor, the Eminent Service Award, during the organization’s 72nd annual meeting on September 7, 2022, in Sioux Falls. The award is presented annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to East River and the cooperative movement.

Boyko worked for decades on behalf of consumers and led East River through a time of constant change and challenges to enhance the value of its members and improve the lives of people in rural America.

“Through his time at East River, Tom has shown steadfast leadership and has helped move East River forward into the future,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “The East River Electric board of directors is grateful for your service to the cooperative . . . The leadership you have provided throughout your career with the Western Area Power Administration and East River Electric has helped to ensure consumers across the region received safe, reliable and affordable electric power.”

Boyko joined East River Electric as its fifth general manager in 2014. There he provided leadership in managing the co-op’s network of 25 member distribution systems across eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota.

He is a North Dakota native with a degree in electrical engineering from North Dakota State University. Prior to his role with East River, he spent 28 years with the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) starting in Bismarck, N.D., in 1986 as a construction field engineer. He then held positions in Huron, S.D., and Fort Peck, Mont., before spending 15 years in Sacramento, Calif. and then serving as the regional manager of the Sierra Nevada office for seven years.

Upon joining East River, Tom led the cooperative through its transition into the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), optimizing benefits for members. In a time of fast-paced change as technology and cybersecurity became an increasing threat, Tom led the charge to protect the organization’s technological presence. His strategic leadership included hiring a chief information officer and incorporating a robust cybersecurity and IT program for East River and its members.

His focus was also directed to enhancing economic and business development efforts to bring new energy load to East River’s territories, along with implementing a Renewable Energy Credit Program. He moved forward with a Transmission System Upgrade Plan to modernize and expand aging systems and also include more of East River’s assets in the SPP. And in a time of unprecedented uncertainty, he successfully led the cooperative through the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the workforce safe as the organization continued to provide vital electric service to members at the end of the line.


East River Electric Power Cooperative Holds 72nd Annual Meeting

East River Electric Power Cooperative Holds 72nd Annual Meeting

East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 72nd annual meeting Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. This year’s annual meeting theme was ‘Together Towards Tomorrow.’ The meeting highlighted the many ways that East River Electric works alongside its member systems, making crucial decisions that will position cooperatives for continued success while providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Attendees attended the event in person as well as through a livestream viewing option.

During the morning general session, East River introduced the new General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Bob Sahr who previously worked as the organization’s general counsel for 15 years and thanked outgoing General Manager and CEO Tom Boyko for eight years of dedicated service and leadership.

Discussions opened with a look back at 2022 severe weather events including the derecho storm that created widespread destruction across the East River service area. They highlighted how crews responded to the needs of others and quickly restored power — putting members first even though many had damage to homes, vehicles, and property of their own. “I’d like to thank East River’s employees for their incredible work and dedication to safely restore our system following the severe weather event,” said Sahr.

The discussion transitioned to other weather-related topics including reliability across Regional Transmission Organizations that East River Electric is involved in, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). “From severe weather to severe heat, we saw a record amount of summer demand for electricity across the East River footprint which led to a number of resource adequacy alerts and warnings across both SPP and MISO,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken.

Although demand was up, and reports warned of potential outages, SPP was able to meet the record peak demand for electricity and no summer outages were needed. The past year’s conditions emphasize the importance of continued firm generation from resources like coal and natural gas in addition to renewable resources for an all-of-the-above generation strategy to meet demand in extreme conditions.

Cooperative leaders gave an update on changing market dynamics and costs due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sahr stated, “as the world gets back on its feet and the impact of the pandemic winds down, supply chain constraints will also hopefully begin to ease in the coming year. Despite the current and future unforeseen challenges, East River and our member systems are well positioned to navigate them by working together.”

They also gave an update on the Transmission System Upgrade Plan which is designed to accelerate additions and replacements to the cooperative’s infrastructure to improve reliability and provide growth.

“Now in the fourth year of the upgrade plan, our crews completed several key projects this past year that are designed to strengthen our systems’ backbone with a primary focus on ensuring the safety of our workforce,” said Ryken. The project’s priority is to include more of East River’s system into the Southwest Power Pool to maximize revenue and limit impact on member rates.

During the annual meeting lunch, East River’s leadership presented the cooperative’s Eminent Service Award to former East River Electric CEO and General Manager Tom Boyko. The Eminent Service Award is the most prestigious honor given by East River’s Board of Directors. In addition, outgoing directors Blaine Livermont, Deb McCreary, David Allen, and Ervin Fink were presented with awards for their years of service on the East River board of directors. Fink, who served as board secretary and served as the East River representative for Douglas Electric for 22 years was presented with a gift for his dedication to East River’s executive board.

The afternoon session began with updates from East River Electric’s two wholesale power suppliers: the Western Area Power Administration and 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.

Bob Sahr named next East River Electric General Manager and CEO

Bob Sahr named next East River Electric General Manager and CEO

The East River Electric Power Cooperative board of directors has named Bob Sahr as the cooperative’s next general manager and CEO. East River Electric’s board president Jim Ryken announced today that Sahr, who is currently East River Electric’s general counsel, will take over as the cooperative’s general manager and CEO Aug. 1. Sahr replaces Tom Boyko who announced his retirement in March after just over 8 years leading the cooperative.

“The board is pleased to have Mr. Sahr lead our cooperative into the future,” Ryken said. “He has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the utility industry and within East River Electric having spent over 15 years as our general counsel. We’re confident that Bob will continue the cooperative’s mission of enhancing the value of our members.”

Sahr is the sixth general manager of East River Electric which celebrates its 72nd anniversary this year. The cooperative provides wholesale power supply to 24 electric cooperatives and one municipal electric system in South Dakota and Minnesota.

“East River Electric has a long and storied history of providing affordable and reliable power supply to our members and I’m humbled and honored by the board’s confidence in me to lead the organization,” Sahr said. “I’m excited about the opportunity and want to thank Tom Boyko for his service to the cooperative over the past 8-plus years.”

Sahr has served as East River Electric’s general counsel since November 2006. Prior to joining East River Electric, he served on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission from 2001-2006. A native of Pierre, Sahr has an undergraduate degree in business and a law degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Bob and his wife, Christine, live in Madison and have two daughters, Ally and Calista.