Congratulations to Our 2020 Award Winners
Paudler, Petersen Honored with 2020 ACE Awards
December 18, 2020—The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association announced this week that David Paudler, Riverland Energy board president, has been selected as the 2020 recipient of the annual Ally of Cooperative Electrification (ACE) award. In addition, Sheldon Petersen, former CEO of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC), has been selected to receive the “Special ACE Award” which has only been presented two other times in history. The ACE award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the electric cooperative industry.
David Paudler – 2020 ACE Award Recipient
David Paudler has served on the Riverland Energy Cooperative Board for 11 years, including three as board president. He has also served for two terms on Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) board, including serving as chairman from 2015–2019.
In nominating Paudler for the ACE Award, Riverland Energy Cooperative General Manager Jerry Sorenson wrote, “To best describe Dave Paudler, I would say he is quietly fierce and has a work ethic that is second to none. His work in the background on many projects laid the groundwork for them to be successful and completed in a way to shine the spotlight on many rather than himself. His dedication to applying the cooperative principles is demonstrated in everything he does as a local and statewide director and in his national level representation.”
Dallas Sloan, Barron Electric Cooperative general manager, described Paudler’s work on the WECA board as “tireless” and “incredible” particularly during the challenging time of the organization’s independent transition.
Niles Berman of Wheeler, Van Sickle & Anderson agreed, saying, “To honor Dave with the ACE Award will do honor to WECA and its members. Dave has demonstrated in so many ways, over so many years, his commitment to cooperatives and his effectiveness as a leader of them.”
Beth Ede, former Riverland Board director, recalled Paudler’s leadership as a colleague in her nomination submission, writing, “His vigilant and consistent positivity allowed me to feel supported as I asked more questions than anyone should be allowed and made me find a comfort in challenging situations for the betterment of REC and cooperatives in general.”
Paudler is also a community leader, serving on the Onalaska Town Board for 18 years including four years as chair. He also served as trustee on the Holmen Area Foundation, and Holmen Community Center board. Paudler holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He is retired from GCS Software, Inc., where he was president. He and his wife, Elaine, have two grown children.
This year, WECA has elected to present a “Special ACE Award” to Sheldon Petersen, who has served as chief executive officer of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) and two affiliate organizations, Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative (RTFC) and the National Cooperative Services Corporation (NCSC), since 1995.
During his tenure as CEO, CFC’s loan portfolio grew from about $7 billion to nearly $27 billion. He created an organizational culture focused on member service and a commitment to excellence and expanded CFC offerings to help co-ops adapt to a rapidly changing electric utility industry.
According to Richland Electric Cooperative CEO/General Manager Shannon Clark, here in Wisconsin Petersen has been instrumental in many individual projects, beyond just financing.
Clark wrote, “Whether it be a storm that impacted us locally, or whether it was an important issue like capital credits, governance or a failed underwater cable, Sheldon has always been among the first to martial resources on our behalf—usually after a personal call to the local cooperative.”
“A lot of people think of electric cooperatives as a utility that simply provides electricity—but as we all know we are a membership organization that is a community partner that just happens to be the electricity provider,” Clark continued. “Sheldon has always realized it is our relationships—our network—that make us strong. CFC exemplifies those ideals on Wall Street and Main Street and his leadership has done so much for Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives and its members—it’s truly immeasurable.”
Petersen began his career in the rural electrification program in 1976 as staff assistant for Nishnabotna Valley Rural Electric Cooperative in Harlan, Iowa. In 1980, he became general manager of Rock County Electric Cooperative Association in Janesville, Wisconsin. He joined CFC in 1983 as an area representative and moved to CFC headquarters in 1990.
In July, Petersen, 67, announced that he plans to retire from CFC in 2021, once his successor is in place.
WECA has only presented the “Special ACE Award” twice before—to Governor Tommy Thompson in 2000, and to U.S. Senator Herb Kohl in 2006.
WECA’s Tim Clay Awarded 2020 Potthast Award
December 11, 2020—The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) is proud to announce that our own Tim Clay, vice president of operations, environmental and regulatory services, has been selected as the winner of the 2020 Herman C. Potthast Award, which recognizes outstanding service, dedication, leadership, and cooperation among electric cooperatives, with a focus on safety. A committee from Job Training & Safety (JT&S) calls for nominees and selects the winner. Clay is the first representative to be recognized from WECA since 1989.
Ben Bella, safety & compliance coordinator–shared services, Eau Claire, Jackson, Oakdale, Riverland Electric Cooperatives, submitted the nomination saying, “Tim Clay is the epitome of what this award looks to acknowledge and I believe his contributions frequently go unrecognized and can at times be under-appreciated – as he has set a standard of exceptional customer service, dedication, professionalism and technical understanding within and outside the scope of his job and responsibilities. To say he goes above and beyond to serve the Wisconsin Electric Cooperatives, would be a tremendous understatement. There simply is not a better candidate which exemplifies the characteristics of Herman C. Potthast than Tim Clay.”
Robert Cornell, manager of Washington Island Electric Cooperative, said, “Tim fulfills his role at WECA quietly and professionally without any fuss. His environmental background and his understanding of regulatory and compliance issues make him an extremely valuable resource.” Cornell continued, “As a small Cooperative, without a staff to assist me, Tim has always acted like he is a member of the team locally, not just a Statewide staff member. His experience dealing with the Department of Administration, the Department of Transportation, FEMA and the vast alphabet soup of state and federal agencies is impressive and his ability to keep abreast of the numerous safety regulations and notices and then disseminate them to the Cooperatives, along with explanations, makes all our lives easier and safer.”
Clay has served Wisconsin electric cooperatives for 24 years, first working as a compliance specialist beginning in 1996. Before that he held positions as a public health officer and field chemist with an environmental firm.
Much of his time working with electric cooperatives is spent helping distribution co-ops create regulatory policies, emergency response preparedness and coordination, developing statewide positions on legislative and regulatory matters on behalf of WECA’s members, and providing training and technical assistance to electric cooperatives on a variety of safety and environmental issues. In 2016, Clay was promoted to WECA vice president of operations, adding management responsibilities for the internal operations of the association to his previous responsibilities.
Clay earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with an emphasis in aquatic sciences. He also competed National Utility Training and Safety Education Association’s curriculum andis a Certified Loss Control Professional.
“Tim is a fervent leader in our office, with a dedication to working on behalf of the state’s electric cooperatives that is unmatched,” Stephen Freese, WECA president and CEO, said. “He is a respected professional with the unique qualities of exceptional knowledge, combined with integrity and humility. In short, we are all very lucky to have him.”
Clay will receive the award at a formal presentation at a WECA event next year pending the restrictions due to the pandemic. He will be mortified by the attention, so we will be sure to make it a very big deal.
About the Award
The Herman C. Potthast Award is named for a man of great dedication to the training and safety who served Wisconsin rural electric cooperatives for 29 years. He was a state and national leader, instrumental in implementing and promoting instruction and training to ensure safety among those working in the electric cooperative field. Potthast passed away in 1972. The award was created in 1973 and is presented annually.
December 4, 2020—It was a close race, but for the fifth consecutive year, Eau Claire Energy Cooperative (ECEC) has taken the top honor and earned the 2019–20 N.F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award. The Leifer Award recognizes exemplary work of Wisconsin electric cooperatives in producing local content for members in the Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News.
The judges from Mill Creek Communications Services noted that overall, Eau Claire’s stories were “well written and informative.” They also scored high for excellence in photos, and the combinations of relevant co-op news, information, and features.
Mary Kay Brevig, a recognized leader in co-op communications, retired from her position as Eau Claire Energy’s manager of marketing, communications, and public relations in April. Monica Obrycki, Eau Claire’s chief administrative officer, has served as local editor since May.
“I would like to congratulate both Mary Kay and Monica for their leadership and excellence in communications, which led to another win for Eau Claire Energy Cooperative,” said Dana Kelroy, editor of Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News. “The finalists in this year’s competition were all very close, and that is thanks to the high bar that is set by Eau Claire and our communicators across the state.”
Finishing second in the running for the 2019–2020 Leifer Award was Richland Electric Cooperative. Trevor Clark, director of outreach services, serves as editor of Richland Electric's local pages.
The N. F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award is named for "Lefty" Leifer, former manager of Vernon Electric. Lefty was instrumental in the founding of the REA News back in the spring of 1940, making the statewide electric co-op publication the first of its type in the nation. WECA has presented the award in his honor since 1966.
“Keeping the Lights On”: New Specialty Plate Recognizes Utility Workers
December 14, 2020—The Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has announced the availability of a new specialty plate, designed to honor all of the state’s utility employees. Wisconsin’s utility workers are among the essential employees making sure people all across the state have the power they need at home, work and school. The “Keeping the Lights On” specialty plate is now available for a one-time fee of $15, and can be displayed on most cars, trucks, and campers.
“The pandemic has demonstrated just how essential our electric cooperative workers are,” said (insert co-op leader name). “Keeping the lights on is always a top priority, and we are excited to have this specialty plate as an option to show our appreciation to all of the people who work so hard on behalf of Wisconsin residents and businesses.”
Linda McAley of Clark Electric Cooperative was the driving force behind the year-long effort to create the specialty plate. McAley recently retired from her position as the co-op’s director of administrative services after 45 years and took on this project, leading a group to raise the design fee of $15,500, gather more than the 500 required signatures, and follow through until approval from the DMV. The group launched the effort in January and the DMV announced the availability of the plate on December 7.
“Ensuring electric cooperative members have access to safe, reliable, affordable energy is a monumental task that is only possible because of the hard work of all co-op employees – from lineworkers to suppliers, from meter technicians to IT, from warehouse clerks and office staff, to the board of directors,” said McAley. “I can’t wait to see these plates out on the road, and I would like to thank everyone who was supportive of the effort.”The specialty plate is intended only for honor and in recognition, so there is NO annual fee.
The one-time issuance fee of $15 covers production of the plate. Personalized specialty plates are also available for an additional $15 per year.
To order your “Keeping the Lights On” specialty plate, go to: https://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/dmv/vehicles/title-plates/utl.aspx
Supporters of this project include the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Border States Electric, The Benefitworks, RESCO, Power Systems Engineering, CO-Bank, Wisconsin Line Superintendents, Wheeler Van Sickle, Osmoe Utilities, Eaton, River Valley Architects, APEX Engineering, NISC, EIR Testing, CVTC Electrical Power Distribution Club, OK Sanitary, Dairyland Power, and many of the state’s electric cooperatives including Clark Electric, Eau Claire Energy, Dunn Electric, Adams-Columbia Electric, Price Electric, Jackson Electric, Chippewa Valley Electric, Bayfield Electric, Jump River Electric, St. Croix Electric, Vernon Electric, Scenic River Energy, and Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services. Present and former electric cooperative leaders including Marty Hillert, Jay Porter, Tim Stewart, Jim Anderson, Byron Nolde, Shane Larson, Dean Ortman, Lynn Thompson, Eric Thoreson, Diane Berweger, Dallas Sloan, Steve Lucas, Kenny Ceaglaski, Pat Susa, and the late Dean Tesch also supported the effort.
WECA 2020 Year in Review - Video
WECA Holds Hybrid 84th Annual Meeting
November 13, 2020—The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association shifted to a hybrid format for the 84th annual meeting in November, with limited staff and some WECA board members in attendance at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Baraboo, and other members and staff joining virtually. Board leadership announced the statewide is in good financial shape, in spite of the pandemic, which caused the cancellation of many programs.
David Hischke was re-elected to the board to represent District 4. There were no nominations for the open District 3 seat, so the board will work to fill that position with an appointee.
New Leadership positions include:
Chair – Judi Anibas
Vice Chair – Roger Wiff
Secretary/Treasurer – David Hischke
Executive Committee – Mike Wade and Jerry Sorenson
WECA President and CEO Stephen Freese presented outgoing WECA Board Chairperson Diane Zimmerman with the Director’s Award and thanked her for her service following two terms (six years) on the board.
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Wisconsin Energy Cooperative NewsThe 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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