WECN Magazine Earns National Recognition

August 28, 2023—Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News (WECN) magazine has again earned national recognition for content. During the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Statewide Editors Association meeting at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., presenters announced WECN editor Dana Kelroy was selected as recipient of the 2023 Willies Award of Merit in the Best Editorial category for her October 2022 column, “Culture of Co-ops.”

The judges remarked that, “Culture of Co-ops is an excellent editorial. Short, concise, focused approach. Exceptional writing. Effective use of the ‘roll up your sleeves and get it done’ mantra in the lead and conclusion.”

Congratulations Dana!

Wisconsin Electric Co-op Communicators Recognized for Excellence

August 28, 2023—WECA presented awards of excellence for local news content published in Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News magazine at the recent Communication Power conference in Spring Green.

Certificates were awarded in the categories of Co-op News, Human Interest, Photography, and Energy Education for the judging cycle of 2021-2022. Co-op personnel listed below were editors of their local pages during this judging cycle.

Donna Abernathy, president of DLS Communications, served as judge of this year’s entries. Abernathy has decades of experience in electric cooperative communications and presented at the Communication Power conference.

Co-op News

Winner: Jump River Electric Cooperative, Denise Zimmer, editor
Judge’s comments: “This is a very ‘newsy’ newsletter — just as it should be. Of particular note is the article and accompanying photos covering the March ice storm (April '22). Good job on letting members commend employees for their work on restoration. The annual meeting issue really tips the scale in this category.”

Honorable Mention: Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative, Bert Lehman, editor
Judge’s comments: “Excellent work in meeting the objective of keeping members informed about what's happening and illustrating the news with appropriate photos. Though I know it's not exciting content, I like the board meeting reports.”

Human Interest

Winner: Vernon Electric Cooperative, Dave Maxwell, editor
Judge’s comments: “All three issues exhibit exceptional feature writing. Along with being good reads, I like that you consistently make the ‘co-op connection’ in these articles. Well done.”

Honorable Mention: Rock Energy Cooperative, Jonas Berberich, editor
Judge’s comments: “You excel in writing member-centric features. I enjoyed reading all of them. Of particular note is the effort to make the co-op connection in each article.”


Winner: Rock Energy Cooperative, Jonas Berberich, editor
Judge’s comments: “Feature photography is very nice. And I see there are cutlines written for all. Good work!”

Honorable Mention: Richland Electric Cooperative, Trevor Clark, now of Vernon Electric but editor of Richland Electric’s local pages during this judging cycle.
Judge’s Comments: “Really nice local photos in each issue. I also commend you for writing cutlines.”

Energy Education

Winner: Riverland Energy Cooperative, Beth Alesch, editor
Judge’s comments: “I find 2 energy education articles in each issue. All are specific to local programs and issues. Good work.”

Honorable Mention: Dunn Energy Cooperative, Jolene Fisher, editor
Judge’s Comments: “I see energy education pieces in every issue. Good job in localizing information.”

Congratulations to all award-winners!

60th Annual YLC Held at UW-Stout

July 14, 2023—The 60th Annual Youth Leadership Conference took place this week at UW-Stout, with 73 young people in attendance representing 15 Wisconsin electric cooperatives in attendance. During the three-day event, attendees learned about electric cooperatives and the 7 Cooperative Principles, as well as leadership skills and networking, all in a campus setting.

Activities this year included a presentation from Packer great Gilbert Brown, “The Gravedigger,” a motivational team-building presentation by Craig Hillier, motivational speaker, and author, a safe driving presentation, an etiquette dinner, a hypnotist, and a presentation about cooperative careers from Beth Knudson, NRECA youth programs and training manager. The youth groups also produced their own videos demonstrating cooperative principles. “What an incredible experience,” said Barb Miller, Rock Energy Cooperative director, and WECA board member, who attended YLC for the first time. “Kids are networking, they’re learning leadership, and all about what a co-op is about, at a very young age. This event is very well organized and an advantage for all co-ops. Compliments to everybody that’s involved.” On Thursday as YLC was wrapping up, Miller gathered a group of young people, including those from Rock Energy, and asked about their takeaways. All responses were positive.

“YLC has changed the trajectory of my life,” said Emma Steinke, Youth Board member from Rock Energy who was selected to represent Wisconsin youth at the NRECA Annual Meeting.

The conference culminated with a competitive election for the 2023-24 Youth Board. Those elected serve in a leadership position working to engage more young people with electric cooperatives, they lead the planning of the 2024 Youth Leadership Conference, and they will participate in the 2024 Youth Tour of Washington, D.C.

Fourteen YLC attendees ran for youth board this year, delivering spirited and entertaining speeches to the group, making their case on why they would be good candidates. Six of the candidates were elected, plus one alternate.
The 2023-24 Youth Board members are, in order (L to R):
  • Carson Welter, Oakdale Electric Cooperative
  • Thomas Peters, Rock Energy Cooperative
  • Mya Petersen, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services
  • Helen Clements, Vernon Electric Cooperative
  • Jayden Mosley, Rock Energy Cooperative
  • Ryther Gehrke, Richland Electric Cooperative
  • Johnah Vircks (alternate), Clark Electric Cooperative

"Gravedigger" Gilbert Brown Featured Speaker at YLC

July 14, 2023—Green Bay Packer Hall of Famer Gilbert Brown, aka “The Gravedigger,” was the featured speaker at the 60th Annual Youth Leadership Conference at UW-Stout in Menomonie this week. Brown sat down for a candid conversation with Vernon Electric Manager of Communications and Member Services Trevor Clark to talk about his anti-bullying campaign, the Gilbert Brown Foundation, motivation and determination, his years as a Packer, and his thoughts on Green Bay’s upcoming season. He also took questions from the engaged audience of YLC attendees, chaperones, and even UW-Stout staff and law enforcement who dropped by for the presentation.

Brown offered up a little about his background with the Packers for the young people who weren’t born yet when he was on the field with Green Bay for 10 years from 1994 to 2004. “We weren’t part of that whole discount double-check,” Brown said sarcastically. “My team didn’t do that. We just went to the Super Bowl, back-to-back. Kicked some tail. Don’t like Bears. NEVER lost to the Lions at home."

On anti-bullying, Brown said, “When I was younger I was bullied, but it was to the point where I knew I could smash them. I knew it, but I had to deal with my Mama when I got home. So I had to try and figure out a different way to handle it. There's always different ways to handle things, not by brute force. Use your mind.” He added, “This is a tough world out there right now. Help somebody.”

After football, Brown started the Gilbert Brown Foundation, run entirely by volunteers, which raises money for 156 children’s charities. He recently purchased a car for a young man living with disabilities who had to walk to work.

Brown says his mother is his biggest role model. “My Mama was my everything, she still is,” he said, adding that when he was 14 he told her he was going to work hard and get to the NFL so he could buy her a house. “And that’s the first thing I did,” he said.

Looking ahead to the Packers’ upcoming season, Brown said, “Get on the Love train!” in reference to the new Packer quarterback, Jordan Love. When asked how he thought Love would do this season, Brown said, “When Brett Favre took over, he sucked. When Aaron Rodgers took over, he sucked. So when Jordan Love takes over, he’s probably going to suck. But it’s year two and year three when you have to give him the benefit of the doubt. He has something in there and I’m waiting for it to come out."

2023 Electrical Safety Poster Contest Winners

June 27, 2023—Congratulations to Stella of Price Electric Cooperative, Colton of Taylor Electric Cooperative, and Everlee of Taylor Electric Cooperative! These young artists took first, second, and third place, respectively, in the 2023 WECA Electrical Safety Poster Contest. This contest, held each May in recognition of Electrical Safety Month, is open to third-grade students from member households of participating co-ops.

First-place winners receive a Chromebook, second-place winners receive a $100 gift card, and third-place winners receive a $75 gift card. Thanks to all the amazing young artists who entered!

Click photos to see enlarged images.



Steve Freese, WECA President and CEO
Occasionally, I see a proposal and scratch my head and wonder why on earth did someone ever think that idea up? Well, I have one that I would like to share with you this month.

Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News

The Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News serves as the voice of the state’s rural electric cooperatives. Founded in 1940, the publication focuses on statewide issues that affect electric cooperatives, promoting the general welfare of Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives, their member-owners, and the areas they serve.

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