East River Electric Power Cooperative recently presented service awards to 25 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.
Mitchell Area Maintenance Foreman Merl Bechen, one of this year’s service award recipients, began working at East River 40 years ago. He started as an apprentice lineman on the Madison construction crew in 1978, moved to the Mitchell outpost in January of 1980 and eventually worked his way up to his current position of Foreman.
“When I started my job at East River, I thought this would be a temporary career until I could start farming. However, when the farming economy crashed, I realized being a lineman was something I could do long term. Over time, I was able to start farming and combine the two careers. I enjoy the benefits of both jobs,” said Bechen.
Over the years there have been many advances in line construction and changes to the equipment utilized by the line crew. Bechen said, “The new equipment allows us to work more safely and efficiently. Equipment such as the track vehicle has made a night and day difference in the work we can do.”
Bechen shared that he appreciates working for an organization that values their employees and the communities they live in. East River’s strong commitment to community and support of employees volunteering to help others creates a positive work environment. “I am lucky to have worked with great people over the years. The comradery, dedication to the work and skill set is high here. People are willing to get the job done right,” said Bechen.
Merl also extends thanks to his wife, Diane. “She put up with the long hours required with this job and always kept our life in order when I was gone for outages. I was gone a lot and I couldn’t have continued my career without her supporting me; she is a big part of my success,” shared Bechen.
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: Casey Anderson, Ryan Beyer, Anthony Dold, Erik Engelmeyer, Tyler Frost, Preston Munk, Justin Olson, Dan Rinehart and Chris Studer
• Ten years: Josh Bjorklund, Mark Hoffman, Kayla Kaup, Jason Ledeboer, Dennis Schneider and Corey Schwinger
• Fifteen years: Doug Boer, Mark Even, Clay Reagle and Travis Rude
• Twenty years: Jim Edwards, Denny Fouberg, Brian Kogel, Angie Neises and Russ Odegard
• Forty years: Merl Bechen
Group Photo caption:
East River Electric service awards were presented to (back, left) Mark Hoffman, Josh Bjorklund, Clay Reagle, Mark Even, Jim Edwards, Brian Kogel, Russ Odegard, Denny Fouberg and Merl Bechen; (front, left) Ryan Beyer, Justin Olson, Dan Rinehart, Erik Engelmeyer, Preston Munk, Tyler Frost and Chris Studer.