Herman C. Potthast, a man of great dedication to the training and safety of the Rural Electric Employees, served the Wisconsin Rural Electric Cooperative for 29 years. For 19 years he was a Supervising Instructor in Rural Electrification with the Wisconsin Schools of Vocational and Adult Education. He was General Chairman of the National Safety Council’s Utility Section. He helped produce two instructional motion pictures on electrical safety procedures, which are being used for training purposes throughout the United States and 14 foreign countries.  He served as Wisconsin Job Training and Safety Coordinator from 1943 to 1962. While serving in this capacity, he set up training programs for the distribution line personnel, which included JT&S meetings for all employees, Indentured Lineman Apprentice Training, foreman and supervisory training, and numerous technical job related sessions.
He joined the REA staff in May 1962, as Field Safety Officer in Wisconsin. In 1966 he was transferred to Washington, D.C. In July, 1971, he was named Chief of the Borrowers’ Safety Staff. Mr. Potthast passed away on February 29, 1972.
Because of his outstanding service, dedication, leadership, and cooperation, the Wisconsin Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Job Training & Safety Department has presented a memorial plaque, Herman C. Potthast Award, to be given annually to the worker in Wisconsin rural electrification who best represents those qualities of dedication, leadership, cooperation, and service that were exemplified by “Potty.”

The following factors should be considered as representing the philosophy and ideals of Herman C. Potthast:

  • The value of being a competent tradesman
  • Apprenticeship programs as means of training
  • Self-improvement by the individual
  • Technical understanding of the job
  • Importance and value of job safety
  • Belief in rural electrification movement
  • Interest in fellow man
  • Willingness to share knowledge
With the above factors taken into consideration, the following criteria should also be considered when nominating a person for the Herman C. Potthast Award:
  • Does he/she have the respect of his/her fellow worker?
  • Does he/she inspire the respect of his/her subordinates?
  • Does he/she have the confidence of his/her supervisor and bosses?
  • Does he/she have a good technical understanding of his/her job?
  • Has he/she demonstrated the ability to act as a leader?
  • Has he/she demonstrated a consistent safety consciousness in his/her work?
  • Does he/she set a good example in safety performances?
  • Has he/she demonstrated the willingness and ability to teach the craft to others?
  • Has he/she taken part in community affairs outside of his/her job?
  • Has he/she been active in statewide groups or associations?
  • Does he/she actively encourage safety among others?
  • Does he/she help to create a good image for his/her employer?
  • Is he/she effective in fostering good member and public relations to the extent permitted by his/her job?
  • Does he/she consistently try for self-improvement beyond the requirements of his/her job?
  • Has he/she shown an interest in developing the ability of his/her subordinates by delegating responsibility and authority?
  • Is he/she familiar with the policies and practices of his/her organization?
  • Has he/she shown a high degree of competency in whatever his/her job may be?
This award has been given annually since 1973. Recipients of this award are:
Year Award Winner Title Cooperative
1973    Jerome Sowieja Line Superintendent Clark Electric Cooperative
1974 Lloyd McCaskey Manager Oakdale Electric Cooperative
1975 Elmer Kallevang Operations Administrator Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative
1976 Fred Titera Foreman Barron Electric Cooperative
1977 Oscar Lahti Manager Bayfield Electric Cooperative
1978 Jim Cleary Manager Jump River Electric Cooperative
1979 Louis Vesperman Line Superintendent Grant Electric Cooperative
1980 Ray Jones Area Supervisor Dairyland Power Cooperative
1981 Norman Nelson Line Superintendent Barron Electric Cooperative
1982 John Holley El. Operations Manager Oconto Electric Cooperative
1983 Harold Barg Line Superintendent St. Croix Electric Cooperative
1984 Jon Steinhaus Manager Adams-Marquette Electric Cooperative
1985 Daniel Hoag, Jr. Line Superintendent Oakdale Electric Cooperative
1986 Eldon Eaton Program Director Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (JT&S)
1987 Conrad Engstrom, Jr. Operations Manager Vernon Electric Cooperative
1988 Joseph DeMeulenaere Instructor  Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (JT&S)
1989 Charles Parr Instructor Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (JT&S)
1990 Gerald DeWolfe Line Superintendent Pierce-Pepin Electric Cooperative
1991 Jim Hayward Journeyman Lineman Oakdale Electric Cooperative
1991 Scott Brookman Journeyman Lineman Oakdale Electric Cooperative
1992 Darrell Peterson Operations Manager Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative
1993 Leonard Pierzyna Operations Manager Trempealeau Electric Cooperative
1994 Dean Baldwin Manager Buffalo Electric Cooperative
1995 Jean Everson Member Service Trempealeau Electric Cooperative
1996 Dennis Schultz Operations Manager Rock County Electric Cooperative Association
1997 Dan Stelpflug Operations Manager Grant-Lafayette Electric Cooperative
1998 Tony Ernst Lineman Head of the Lakes Electric Cooperative
1999 Dave Oelkers General Manager Riverland Energy Cooperative
2000 Noble Larson Operations Manager Eau Claire Energy Cooperative
2001 Bob Moseley Director of Operations Clark Electric Cooperative
2002 Jon Ebert Operations Manager Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative
2003 Dave Woyicki Operations Manager Riverland Energy Cooperative
2004 Garry Christopherson Director, Safety & Security Dairyland Power Cooperative
2005 Allan Klaus Chief Operating Officer Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative
2006 Terry Tiber Engineering Superintendent Oakdale Electric Cooperative
2007 Wayne Miller Line Superintendent Taylor Electric Cooperative
2008 Mike Stamper Manager, Safety (Dist. Co-ops) Dairyland Power Cooperative
2009 Jim Heizler VP, Electric Operations Price Electric Cooperative
2010 Mike Most VP, Electric Operations Pierce-Pepin Cooperative Services
2011 Tim Engel Lineman Barron Electric Cooperative
2011 Jeff Secraw Lineman Barron Electric Cooperative
2012 Scott Hayes Load Management Technician Riverland Energy Cooperative
2013 Scott Bailen Lineman Clark Electric Cooperative
2013 Josh Burns Lineman Clark Electric Cooperative
2014 Doug Lewis Manager, Safety (Dist. Co-ops) Dairyland Power Cooperative
2015 Henry “Hank” Meierotto Operations Manager Bayfield Electric Cooperative
2016 Ken Miller Manager, Safety Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative
2017 Nathan Steines Director of Operations Barron Electric Cooperative
2018 Lance Burke Safety Manager for Power Delivery Dairyland Power Cooperative
2019 Jim Hodowanic Operations Manager Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative
2020 Tim Clay VP of Operations Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association
2021 Larry Hallett Chief Operations Officer Richland Electric Cooperative
2022 Benjamin Bella Safety & Loss Control Manager,
Shared Services
Eau Claire Energy Cooperative
Jackson Electric Cooperative
Oakdale Electric Cooperative
Riverland Energy Cooperative
2023 Wendy Fassbind Director of Education & Events Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association


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