January 6, 2020—Thanks to all Wisconsin electric co-ops who stepped up to help members they serve during the pandemic. Thanks to NRECA for telling this story!
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.
Eau Claire Energy Co-op Wins Leifer Award for Journalism
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.
DATCP Encourages Consumers to Participate in Cybersecurity Awareness Month
October 1, 2020—For many Wisconsinites, 2020 has been a groundbreaking year for the use of technological connection to maintain daily life. Our jobs, our schools, societal well-being, economic prosperity and nation’s security are dependent on the internet.
Under the overarching theme of “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.”, the 17th annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) is focused on encouraging individuals and organizations to own their role in protecting their part of cyberspace. This year’s campaign stresses personal accountability and the importance of taking proactive steps to enhance cybersecurity.
Throughout the month of October, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will share tips and information for consumers and businesses related to the NCSAM weekly themes.
Sponsored by all of Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives, “License to Live” was developed by employees of five electric cooperatives and WECA in conjunction with the Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange and Safe Electricity. The video and accompanying materials will be distributed to all driver’s education instructors in the state of Wisconsin starting in August. Plans also call for establishing a partnership/alliance with the Department of Transportation’s “Zero in Wisconsin” initiative, with the goal of making the program required training for all new drivers in the state and having related questions included on the written driver’s test.
“Our goal throughout this entire project has been simple. Education and awareness. If we can put together a quality product illustrating what to do during a car vs. pole emergency, it WILL save lives,” said Ben Bella, safety & compliance coordinator for four electric co-ops and a member of the committee that launched this campaign.
To learn more about “License to Live” and view the video, go to: https://safeelectricity.org/license-to-live/
July 14, 2020—Shannon Clark, CEO & general manager of Richland Electric Cooperative, was asked to serve on the newly formed Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access. Governor Tony Evers signed Executive Order #80 creating the task force July 14. The task force will advise the governor and Wisconsin State Legislature on broadband actions and policy.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored that access to high-speed broadband is a necessity, not a luxury, and folks across our state have had to adapt—from kids and educators shifting to virtual classrooms, workers having to work from home, and even folks using telemedicine to visit with their doctor,” said Gov. Evers. “I’m proud the People’s Budget made the largest investment in our broadband infrastructure in Wisconsin history, but we know we have more work to do and we have to connect the dots on how lack of reliable, affordable broadband affects folks across our state. This task force will bring together experts from across the state to research and recommend solutions that state leaders can adopt to connect every person in Wisconsin.”
Clark brings considerable expertise to the task force, including his experience launching the consortium that became Genuine Telecom, a telecommunications company providing telecommunications services including high-speed internet to businesses and homes in the Richland County area. Clark also serves as board chairman for the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC), which provides technology solutions for over 1,500 electric and telephone cooperatives across the United States.
More information about the task force and be found at https://urbanmilwaukee.com/pressrelease/gov-evers-signs-executive-order-creating-governors-task-force-on-broadband-access/?fbclid=IwAR0ecxf7riApHSeuj-6lVRb4INR0lWlbR6zhygNK_DMiagPk064SJ2EhWdI.
New Study Shows Two Thirds of WI Rural Counties Continue to Lose Population
June 4, 2020—Two factors that help slow or potential can help reverse rural decline can be affected by state and local policymakers: a diverse industry mix and access to high speed internet. Read 'Deconstructing Depopulation: Rural Characteristics & Population Change' to find out more.
Wisconsin Electric Co-ops Launch “Milk Gallon Giveaway” in Support of Wisconsin Dairy Farmers
June 5, 2020—Wisconsin electric cooperatives are coming together to support Wisconsin farmers, hit hard by the pandemic, by offering free gallons of milk to members. In honor of June Dairy Month, the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association and 15 electric cooperatives have partnered with Kwik Trip for the “Milk Gallon Giveaway,” to distribute potentially more than 100,000 gallons of milk.
The June issue of Wisconsin Electric Cooperative News includes a coupon for participating cooperative members to redeem at an area Kwik Trip in exchange for a free gallon non-fat, 1%, or 2% milk, to be redeemed at Kwik Trip on or before July 16, 2020.
If you do not see a coupon in your issue of Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News, that means your cooperative may be supporting dairy farmers in other ways, such as supporting food banks, dairy committees, scholarships, or ice cream, cheese, and butter giveaways.
WECA Expands Eligibility for 2020 Essay Contest
May 14, 2020—All Wisconsin high school students and college freshmen, whose primary residence is served by an electric cooperative, are eligible to enter the 2020 WECA Essay Contest, which offers cash scholarships for the top three winners. The essay contest is usually open exclusively to attendees of the Youth Leadership Congress, but that event has been cancelled this year, due to the pandemic.Students interested in entering the contest must submit a 600 to 1,200-word essay in response to a question related to electric cooperatives and youth involvement. A panel of three judges will review the essays and select the top three winners, who will be awarded scholarships of $1,000, $500, and $250. Entries must be postmarked by August 26, 2020.
For more information, click the button below or email Tina Walden, WECA Executive Assistant and Youth Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID-19 and Wisconsin’s Electric Cooperatives
With so much information, it is important to utilize credible sources. Below is a list of links for Wisconsin co-op members to access the latest information:
Federal Relief Package Includes Support for Electric Co-ops
The $2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed last week includes many of the requests made by NRECA CEO Jim Matheson to bring help to electric cooperatives and their members by offering millions in aid for families in need, particularly those struggling to pay their utility bills. The bill includes funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief, Small Business Administration, and broadband programs. Also, the Small Business Administration loans included in the bill allow for loan forgiveness if the funds are used by the borrower to pay utility bills, which will serve as a valued option and incentive for members and offer assistance to electric cooperatives.
Here are some of the key provisions for co-ops in the nearly 900-page bill:
- Adds $900 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income and moderate-income consumers pay their utility bills.
- Adds $100 million for grants through the USDA RUS ReConnect broadband program and $25 million for the RUS Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program to expand investments in telemedicine and distance-learning services in rural areas.
- Adds $45 billion for the disaster relief fund administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Co-ops often rely on these funds to restore power after storms and other emergencies.
- Creates a $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program that provides federal government loan forgiveness (under Small Business Administration Section 7(a) loans) for small businesses to pay up to eight weeks of basic expenses, including electric, telephone, and internet bills.
- Creates a $10 billion SBA program to provide grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses to pay their workers and pay rent or mortgages, among other uses. Co-ops with fewer than 500 employees may be eligible for this grant program if they plan to apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Certain restrictions on those loans have now been waived.
Group Launches Application for Wisconsin Specialty License Plate to Honor All Utility Workers
In order for the plate to be produced, the group needs to submit 500 signatures from licensed Wisconsin drivers who commit to purchasing the plates at a ONE-TIME cost of $15, which covers the cost of production. The group is also raising funds for the development and design fee, which is $15,500. The purpose of the plate is to honor and recognize all persons working to ensure Wisconsinites have access to safe, affordable, and reliable electricity.
Vehicles that qualify to display the specialty plates include automobiles, motor homes, private trucks weighing 8,000 pounds or less, and farm trucks weighing 12,000 pounds or less.
The group promoting the “Keeping the Lights On” specialty plates hopes to complete the process and make the plates available to the public by April of 2021.
To provide your signature or make a donation in support of the project, go to the links below or contact Linda McAley, PO Box 65, Greenwood, WI, 54437-0065.
Lighting the Way for our Global Community
Partners for a Brighter Tomorrow is made possible by Wisconsin cooperatives and their communities, and NRECA International, a non-profit 501(c) (3) charitable organization, whose mission is to increase individual and community access to electricity in all parts of the world.
Lighting the way for a brighter future
November 27, 2019—Twenty-five hundred miles from Wisconsin, south of the Mexican border in a primitive, rural village of Guatemala, there is an American flag flying high, side-by-side with a native flag. It was placed there just weeks ago by the villagers as a symbol of gratitude for the life-changing mission taken on by 12 linemen from electric cooperatives in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.
Association picks new leadership team
November 6, 2019—The executive committee of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA), elected at the statewide co-op organization’s November annual meeting in Stevens Point, includes (l–r,) Judith Anibas of Eau Claire Energy Cooperative (secretary-treasurer), CEO Mike Wade of Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative, Diane Zimmerman of East-Central Energy (chair), David Hischke of Oconto Electric, and CEO Dallas Sloan of Barron Electric Cooperative (vice-chair). Also serving as statewide directors are William Fischer of Rock Energy, CEO Jerry Sorenson of Riverland Energy, Roger Wiff of Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, Karen Newbury of Price Electric Cooperative, and Robert Hess of Oakdale Electric, representing Dairyland Power.
Awards recognize co-op service
November 5, 2019—Winning recognition for distinguished service to Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives were (l–r) Mary Kay Brevig, Eau Claire Energy Cooperative’s communications and public relations manager, receiving the N. F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award for excellence in her co-op’s local pages of Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News; Larry Dokkestul, recently retired CEO of Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, with the ACE (Ally of Cooperative Electrification) Award—the group’s highest honor—for dedicated service to cooperatives surpassing routine performance of duty; and Mary Hodowanic, accepting the Herman C. Potthast Award on behalf of her husband, Jim Hodowanic, the late operations manager of Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative. The Potthast Award honors conspicuous contributions to job-training and safety education for employees of Wisconsin’s energy cooperatives.
New communications staffer welcomed
October 4, 2019—Julie Lund, newly hired for the position of Director of News and Communication at WECA, begins her duties October 4 at the statewide organization’s Madison offices. Lund will succeed Dave Hoopman who currently holds the position and plans retirement at the end of November. A Wisconsin native, Lund is a UW – La Crosse graduate holding a degree in Mass Communications with emphasis in television production. She has been a news reporter, producer, and anchor at TV stations in Rhinelander and Madison. She has also held a variety of media related positions with the State of Wisconsin. Lund is to assume the duties of WECA’s director of news and communication in her own right as of December 1.
Guatamala: Partners for a Brighter Tomorrow
October 1, 2019—Twelve volunteer linemen from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa electric cooperatives are traveling to Guatemala today to help a rural village get electricity for the first time. This project—Partners for a Brighter Tomorrow—will provide power to 42 homes, a school, and a health post. This project was made possible by NRECA International, a non-profit 501(c) (3) charitable organization, whose mission is to increase individual and community access to electricity in all parts of the world.
Leaders descend on D.C. for fall fly-in
September 5, 2019—Leaders from Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives spoke this week with members of their congressional delegation on the importance of passing two key pieces of legislation. The RURAL Act would amend the tax code to ensure electric cooperatives do not lose their tax-exempt status when they receive federal, state, or local government grants and assistance, such as FEMA disaster relief and rural broadband grants. This measure would fix an unintended consequence of a change in the tax code from the 2017 tax reform bill. Without this fix, the current tax provisions would threaten our members’ ability to recover from major natural disasters or deploy critical infrastructure for broadband.
August 6—Two Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News articles received national recognition in August, in a competition designed to reward strong efforts in co-op journalism.
The October 2018 article “Empowering Enterprise” and the April 2019 story “Good News is No News” each earned an Award of Merit from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Statewide Editors Association.
The October article, describing Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative’s long-term success fostering economic development in the communities it serves, was honored in the category of Best Feature Communicating a Cooperative Principle or Touchstone Energy Core Value.
The April story, honored in the category of Best News Feature, contrasted negative public and media perceptions of environmental quality against the reality of several decade’s environmental improvement, exemplified by massive growth of U.S. energy production and consumption since 1970 even as pollutant emission volumes have plummeted.
The awards mark the Wisconsin statewide magazine’s second consecutive year of double recognition. Last year, the magazine won in the Best Editorial category and the Best News Feature category.
Habitat-restoration projects are blooming at Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives
July 30, 2019—There’s a certain buzz in the air around many of Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives, and it’s hovering around the pollinator gardens that have been popping up on co-op properties throughout the state.
At some co-op headquarters, traditional floral landscaping and stretches of sunny green lawn have been replaced with native pollinator plantings that are just coming into bloom. Often tended by co-op employees, these plants attract the pollinators—including bees, butterflies, and birds—that are needed for the reproduction of about one third of all human food crops, as well as 75 percent of flowering plants, according to pollinator.org.
Co-ops hail disaster funds included in state budget
July 3, 2019—Rural energy consumers won’t be left to cope on their own when natural disasters strike, thanks to a pair of bipartisan provisions included in the state budget bill signed into law today by Governor Tony Evers.
The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) hailed retention of the two items in the budget package, one providing direct assistance to a cooperative forced to repair and replace an underwater power cable knocked out of service by winter ice, and another re-establishing electric co-ops’ eligibility to make direct application for aid from the Wisconsin Disaster Fund.
Monarchs Still Need Help
Finance Committee: Island Cable Repair Stays in Budget
May 16, 2019—The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted Thursday to retain funding in the state budget bill that offers disaster assistance for the repair and replacement of the underwater cable that failed last June, cutting off electricity to the residents of Washington Island.
The power failure—caused by recurring winter ice damage over multiple years—forced Washington Island Electric Cooperative to switch to more expensive backup generation until the cable could be spliced. With close cooperation from state and federal agencies on routing and permitting, a replacement cable was installed last fall and current costs are now approaching $4 million.
April 30, 2019—This year’s budget process will be out of the ordinary in multiple ways. Tony Evers is the first Democrat to win the governor’s office in eight years, and both legislative houses reviewing his budget proposal are controlled by Republican majorities. Former leaders of both parties in the State Senate and Assembly recently speculated that 2019 might see three different budget bills: Governor Evers’ plan, another one crafted by legislative Republicans, and finally a compromise adopted well after the customary June 30 deadline. (Unlike the federal government, Wisconsin doesn’t shut down anything when a budget is late; the prior one simply stays in effect.)
ROPE Deployment Underway
April 4, 2019—Wisconsin electric cooperatives and others served in neighboring states by the Dairyland Power Cooperative generation and transmission system participate in a mutual assistance program known as ROPE—for Restoration of Power in an Emergency. A large ROPE deployment was underway Friday after the call for help went out on Thursday from Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services headquartered at Albert Lea, Minnesota. An estimated 400-500 poles were downed and approximately half the accounts on the Freeborn-Mower distribution system were without power in the wake of storms—snow, ice, mixed precipitation, and wind—that tore across the upper Midwest Wednesday and Thursday. Continue here...
Monarchs Still Need HelpMarch 28, 2019—Several times these past couple of years I’ve delivered updates on what’s been happening with the monarch butterfly and the decline of other pollinator species in North America. These are obvious concerns from the standpoint of environmental quality; less obvious but very real is our concern over the effect reduced butterfly numbers could have on rural utility operations The unfortunate fact is the monarch population east of the Rocky Mountains has declined by more than 80 percent over the past 20 years. Read the full story here.
Click here to learn how to create your own monarch butterfly habitat.
Dairyland Power Announces Major Solar Energy Facility
March 18, 2019—Dairyland Power Cooperative has finalized a power purchase agreement with Ranger Power for the proposed 149 megawatt Badger State Solar Project. Dairyland will purchase the entire output of the planned solar photovoltaic facility, which is proposed on the land of participating private landowners in the Towns of Jefferson and Oakland in Jefferson County, Wis. The Badger State Solar Project will generate enough renewable energy to power over 20,000 homes. Ranger Power is the developer of the solar energy facility. Pollinator habitat is also planned for the site. Read More
Clark picked to head NRTC board
March 15, 2019—Richland Electric Cooperative CEO and General Manager Shannon Clark was elected board chairman of the national Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) Sunday by fellow directors on the 17-member governing panel. Read More
Build future leadership, co-ops told at NRECA gathering
March 15, 2019—The leadership provided by electric cooperatives is “uniquely valuable” to the communities they serve and today’s co-op leaders must prepare new generations to take that leadership into the future, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson told attendees at the organization’s annual meeting in Florida Monday. Read More
February 1, 2019—The Federated Youth Foundation is pleased to once again offer the Charles Van Sickle Endowment Scholarship. This $2,000 scholarship will be awarded to a pre-law or law student who has an interest in cooperative law. The scholarship is made possible by an endowment established in 2013 to honor Wisconsin’s renowned electric cooperative lobbyist and attorney, the late Charles Van Sickle. View application here.
New Lobbyist Begins at WECA
January 7, 2019— Rob Richard, formerly of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, assumed the position of Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association’s (WECA) director of government relations January 2.Richard comes to WECA from the position of senior director of government relations for the Farm Bureau. His pre-Farm Bureau resumé includes 15 years’ experience as a legislative aide in the Wisconsin State Assembly and state Senate, including a stint as an aide to Freese when he was a member of the Assembly between 1991 and 2007.
Barron's Chris Kroeze Makes 'The Voice' Final
December 12, 2018—Barron's own Chris Kroeze has reached the live finale of 'The Voice'. Tonight's vote will determine the winner. Watch Chris live on NBC at 7 p.m. and vote for Chris on NBC.com or via the Voice app.
Youth Board Member Shares Experiences
December 6, 2018—WECA Youth Board member and Wisconsin NRCEA Youth Delegate, William Tuchtenhagen recently spoke with The River Falls Journal about the importance of cooperative youth programs.
"Youth programs have been something that are really important to cooperatives as of late because they are trying to bring in the next generation of cooperative owners." Says Tuchtenhagen. Click here to read the full article.
Good luck Chris KroezeNovember 5, 2018— Good luck to Chris Kroeze, a member of Barron Electric Cooperative brother of a co-op lineman, who is competing in the knockout round of The Voice tonight.
ALMA STACK DEMOLITION
Click here to watch the video of the demolition.
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month
IMPOSTOR SCAM: FAKE UTILITY CALLS
Wisconsin Youth Tour Wraps Up D.C. Experience
June 15, 2018— A delegation of youth members from Wisconsin's electric cooperatives have just completed exciting and educational week in Washington D.C. Delegates participated in workshops with peers from cooperatives all across the country, met federal legislators, and got to visit the White House, as a part of the NRECA Washington D.C. Youth Tour program.
WECA Promotes Electric Cooperative Careers
June 13, 2018— Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association staff attended the 2018 FFA Convention and engaged with FFA students on the many career opportunities available in the electric cooperative world.
Seasonal Saftey: Electrical Safety on the Water.
May 17, 2018—Whether close to home or while on vacation, hot summer temperatures beckon many people to activities in and around the water. To help ensure that the fun stays in these summer activities, it is important to keep safety in mind. Safe Electricity shares tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe when enjoying water recreation activities this summer. Continue reading on our Seasonal Safety page.
ROPE Lassos a Legislative Win
April 16, 2018—Wisconsin’s sales and use tax on services and materials furnished in mutual assistance between electric and telecommunications cooperatives became a thing of the past Monday afternoon, as Governor Scott Walker signed a reform proposal shepherded to enactment on the final day of the legislative session after a full year’s lobbying effort by the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association.
Mutual Aid Bill Passes Senate Unanimously
March 21, 2018—The Wisconsin State Senate voted 32–0 in favor of a bill that exempts electric cooperatives from sales and use tax for mutual assistance services they perform during disaster recovery. As the bill voted on in the Senate was the Assembly version, which passed in January; the final step for the bill is, being signed into law by the governor.
Rope bill gets Senate committee nod
February 7, 2018—The Senate version of a proposal eliminating the state sales and use tax on labor and materials furnished between electric and telecommunications cooperatives in mutual-aid situations was endorsed for passage this week by the Senate Committee on Revenue, Financial Institutions, and Rural Issues. The vote in a Thursday morning executive session recommending passage was 5–0.
The same committee held a public hearing on the bill (SB-501) Wednesday morning and took testimony from Barron Electric Cooperative General Manager Dallas Sloan, Adams-Columbia Electric Co-op Accountant Liz Hendricksen, and Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association Government Relations Director Beata Wierzba.
No one testified in opposition to the bill.
LEGISLATURE ADVANCES MUTUAL AID BILL
CO-OP LAW REVISIONS SIGNED
Wisconsin awards honor co-op service
November 10, 2017—Shannon Clark, Richland Electric Cooperative’s CEO and general manager since 1999, received the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association’s highest honor at the organization’s 81st annual meeting here November 7.
Clark is the newest recipient of the ACE (Ally of Cooperative Electrification) Award, given for the past 50 years to a nominee judged to have advanced the electric co-op mission in a distinguished manner beyond routine performance of duty.
He credited an earlier ACE Award winner, the late Richland Electric Board President Gilman Moe, for creating “a culture of people putting service above self,” adding that for Wisconsin’s electric co-op community, the commitment to service “makes us what we are.”
Clark has been a long-time leader of efforts to expand telecommunications and data services to rural Wisconsin and has served on numerous local, state and national co-op boards. This summer, he received a regional service award from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, recognizing his successes promoting rural economic development.
Also at the November 7 event Mary Kay Brevig, communications and public relations manager at Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, was presented with the N.F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award.
Its namesake was a Vernon Electric Cooperative manager who co-founded what became the Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News. Originally a tabloid newspaper, the Wisconsin R.E.C. News was launched in 1940 as the nation’s first statewide periodical produced for the general membership of rural electric cooperatives.
The Leifer award is given annually to the cooperative selected by an independent judge as having created the magazine’s best local co-op pages during the prior year. Brevig has won the award on three past occasions.
Commitment to utility worker job training and safety was honored at the Wisconsin event as Nathan Steines, director of operations at Barron Electric Cooperative, received the Herman C. Potthast Award for 2017.
In actions a Washburn County (Wisconsin) sheriff’s investigator called “heroic,” Steines came upon a highway accident, contacted emergency personnel, assisted two victims in escaping their overturned vehicle which was leaking fuel, and attended to them until an ambulance arrived.
The Potthast Award is named for the Wisconsin co-ops’ job training and safety coordinator who, for more than two decades beginning in the early 1940s, spearheaded development of safety standards and practices for electric utility workers nationwide.
Wisconsin electric co-ops helping Florida rebuild Relief convoy headed south
September 11, 2017—Volunteer line crews from 18 Wisconsin electric cooperatives are joining in Florida’s massive recovery effort, helping rebuild shattered electric systems in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s devastation.
The Florida Electric Cooperatives Association, a statewide trade group, put out a call for help last Thursday, anticipating Irma’s Sunday morning landfall and the huge storm’s potential to simultaneously batter the entire state.
Line superintendents from Wisconsin cooperatives got word of the request at a previously scheduled meeting in Stevens Point and immediately began planning their response, assessing availability of workers and equipment.
Those preparations were completed during a busy weekend. Early Monday morning, co-op vehicles began departing from local headquarters across the state for assembly points at Eau Claire, Oakdale, Portage, and Janesville. At least three multi-co-op convoys planned to reach Ste. Genevieve, Missouri by Monday night, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi by Tuesday night, arriving in Florida by late Wednesday afternoon.
All the Wisconsin volunteers are assigned to assist rebuilding at Clay Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Keystone Heights, Florida, northeast of Gainesville. As of Monday morning, Clay Electric had approximately 130,000 members—representing about 75 percent of its system—without power.
More than 50 Wisconsin co-op employees were traveling southward Monday. Participating co-ops include Adams-Columbia, Barron, Bayfield, Central Wisconsin, and Clark Electric Cooperatives, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Dunn and Eau Claire Energy Cooperatives, Oakdale and Oconto Electric Cooperatives, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, Price and Richland Electric Cooperatives, Riverland, Rock, and Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperatives, and Taylor and Vernon Electric Cooperatives.
Anticipating a lengthy rebuilding project, a second round of 24 co-op volunteers had been recruited for later rotation into the damaged area.
More than 40 vehicles were dispatched, including bucket trucks, pole-hauling trailers, and digging equipment.
The relief mission is similar to assistance rendered by Wisconsin co-ops 12 years ago following Hurricane Katrina. Personnel from 14 Wisconsin electric cooperatives were dispatched over a four-week period to Louisiana on a rotating basis, helping to rebuild a local co-op distribution system that had been almost totally destroyed.
It’s also similar—on a larger scale—to the ROPE (restoration of power in an emergency) program in which Wisconsin co-ops help each other shorten recovery times when severe weather damages local electric systems.
On three previous occasions since this past spring, ten Wisconsin co-ops have loaned out line crews in ROPE deployments to help others speed up rebuilding of storm-damaged systems.
Hurricane Irma Relief Mission
September 8, 2017—Volunteer line workers from more than a dozen Wisconsin electric cooperatives will be embarking Monday on a relief mission to assist in rebuilding vital energy systems in Florida.
At this time, a final count of participating cooperatives and crew members is not yet available; a conference call has been scheduled for early Monday to review last-minute details.
However, part of the relief contingent will be departing at 9:00 a.m. Monday, September 11, from the headquarters of Rock Energy Cooperative, 2815 Kennedy Road at Janesville.
Prior to Monday’s 9 a.m. departure, there will be a media availability with co-op personnel involved in coordinating and carrying out this project.
For those interested in covering the story—which will undoubtedly be developing over at least the next few weeks—arrival at Rock Energy by 8:00 a.m. Monday is highly recommended.
Hurricane Harvey Local Charitable Funds
August 31, 2017—To find local charitable organizations, click here.
Texas Electric Cooperatives (TEC), the Texas statewide co-op organization, has indicated that cooperative employees “are often the last ones we hear about who need help.” For purposes of assisting with those needs, TEC has established a fund to receive and distribute contributions. Checks may be addressed to:
TEC Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund
Texas Electric Cooperatives
1122 Colorado Street, 24th Floor
Austin, TX 78701
Funds collected will be distributed directly to electric cooperatives in Texas to distribute locally.
ACE Award Nominations Due
August 7, 2017—Each year, WECA honors the best in Wisconsin's rural electric cooperative community with the Ally of Cooperative Electrification (ACE) Award. Past honorees have truly made outstanding contributions to rural electrification in Wisconsin, and we look to find this year's ACE Award winner.
We strongly encourage you, as the members of your cooperatives, to pinpoint that person who has made a difference in your co-op, and to our broader cooperative family. An awards committee will be appointed to review this year's applicants. Nominations must be submitted in writing per the attached form and received by the WECA office by Friday, September 1, 2017. The award winner will be announced on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, at the WECA Annual Meeting awards banquet in Stevens Point.
Please help us identify this year's ACE Award winner and submit a nomination today.
CWEC Assists Detert Dairy Farm Upgrade
August 1, 2017—Partnering with its statewide organization Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association, Central Wisconsin Electric Co-op (CWEC) was able to provide over $4,000 in grant funds to Cody Detert to help pay for electrical upgrades to his farm. Wisconsin electric cooperatives, including CWEC, have developed a uniform statewide farm rewiring program entitled Safety First. The program’s purpose is to assist dairy farmers with the cost of rewiring projects and to promote safety. Funding for the Safety First program comes from Wisconsin cooperatives.
Cody recently restarted the dairy operation of the 150 acre family farm located in the Marion area. The dormant portion of the farm was in need of some TLC, so Cody contracted with Olson’s Rural Electric of Clintonville to do the work, which included a service upgrade, hookup of feeding equipment, fans, & milking equipment and upgrading old farm lighting to energy efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs). “We’re pleased to assist Cody in making these needed upgrades to the farm,” said CWEC Vice President of Member Relations Mark Forseth. “We’re always excited to see a young person carry on a family business. We wish Cody all the best.” Cody indicated he’s already planning to expand his 60 cow herd.
For more information on this statewide program, go to our Farm Rewiring page.
Exploring the Cooperative Difference
July 28, 2017—More than 120 students from throughout the state learned about cooperatives and developed their leadership skills at the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association’s 54th annual Youth Leadership Congress at UW-River Falls July 26–28. Activities included team-building exercises that presented challenges requiring cooperation for a successful outcome, presentations by renowned motivational leaders, and district meetings in which students tackled real co-op issues. Pictured above are the six students who were elected to the 2017-18 Youth Board, which is tasked with planning and helping to run next year’s program: (l–r) William Tuchtenhagen, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services; Conor O’Donnell, Oakdale Electric; Sam Peterson, Oakdale Electric; Gracelyn Footit, Adams-Columbia Electric; Brady Coullthard, Clark Electric; and Darien Traczyk, Barron Electric.
Elections send one new director to WECA board
July 19, 2017—David Hischke, chairman of the Oconto Electric Cooperative board of directors, will be the newest member of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association board when the governing lineup for 2017-18 is seated at the annual meeting in Stevens Point this November.
Hischke’s was the only contested election held during this week’s district meetings at Arcadia, Barron, and Greenwood. Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services CEO Larry Dokkestul was re-elected without opposition in District 2 as was East Central Energy Director Dianne Zimmerman in District 3.
The District 1 seat vacated by Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Director Elaine Eckendorf—who reached her term limit on the statewide board—attracted three nominees including Adams-Columbia Vice-Chairman Lawrence Becker and Clark Electric Secretary-Treasurer Charles Lindner in addition to Hischke. Becker currently holds an ex-officio seat on the WECA board through his position as National Rural Electric Cooperative Association director for Wisconsin.
Industries Signal Restructuring Armistice
July 14, 2017—Long-simmering interest in electric restructuring among major industrial power consumers may finally have been taken off even the back burner, reaction to new ratemaking moves by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) suggests.
Late last month the commission approved an experimental pilot program called the “Day-Ahead Market Pricing Rider,” allowing Wisconsin Power and Light to offer industrial customers opportunities to shift load in response to power market signals.
Todd Stuart, executive director of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group (WIEG), issued a statement saying his members “appreciate WP&L’s efforts to move quickly on innovative real-time pricing options that provide manufacturers with additional rate choices and an ability to have more control in managing their costs.”
The statement appeared to signal that the PSC was close to successfully defusing an issue that triggered a new campaign for retail deregulation beginning about a year ago.
The WIEG membership includes Wisconsin’s 30 highest-volume electricity users and some of the strongest advocates of retail electric deregulation. The central issue driving continued interest in the largely dormant restructuring movement had been the perceived effect of electric rates on business competitiveness, and Stuart called the WP&L tariff “a good example of a utility working with the PSC staff and their customers in a good faith effort to keep us cost competitive in global markets.”
Last summer, an effort to rekindle legislative interest in restructuring was spearheaded by Saukville-based WIEG member Charter Steel announcing it would not further expand its business in Wisconsin because of what it deemed excessive rates paid to WE Energies.
The idea met with a cool reception in the legislature, and the PSC indicated it preferred more creative ratemaking as a means of addressing the industries’ concerns over rates that had eclipsed those in neighboring states—in part because of the cost of new infrastructure built to resolve reliability problems that prompted Wisconsin industries to call for retail choice 20 years earlier.
The Wisconsin Paper Council greeted the WP&L tariff approval with enthusiasm similar to that of WIEG and also sounded the business growth theme.
“Innovative rate options such as the real-time pricing tariffs are an important tool for both retaining and expanding manufacturing in Wisconsin,” Paper Council President Jeff Landin said in a joint statement with WIEG saying both groups “applaud” the PSC action.
Public Service Commission to form Wisconsin Monarch Strategy Committee—Co-op Representatives Sought
July 13, 2017—In a communication to WECA, the association was notified that the Public Service Commission is organizing a committee of Right-of-Way (ROW) stakeholders to explore potential strategies focused on protecting or creating new habitat used by the Monarch Butterfly.
The committee will include representatives from utilities, railroads, state/county/town road departments, and others. If you have an interest in serving as a co-op representative on this committee, please contact Tim Clay by Email or at (608) 467-4598.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing the status of the Monarch Butterfly for potential listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Price Electric's Tessa Otto Wins Scholarship Award
June 29, 2017—Price Electric Cooperative and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) today announced that Tessa Otto has won the 2017 Glenn English Scholarship. This is one of five scholarships given to college students by the Glenn English National Cooperative Leadership Fund. Scholarship winners have all shown a commitment to the Seven Cooperative Principles.
“Congratulations to Tessa Otto for winning this unique scholarship,” said NRECA Board President Phil Carson. “As a scholarship winner, she demonstrated a sincere appreciation for the principles that guide electric cooperatives to power and empower millions of American families and businesses. I’m looking forward to great things in her future.”
“We’re very excited that Tessa, a member of our cooperative family, has won this prestigious award,” said Price Electric President and CEO William L. Caynor Sr. “It’s very gratifying to see one of our cooperative Youth Tour participants continue to distinguish herself in such a meaningful way.”
Otto attends the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. Her scholarship award was $10,000.
A panel of judges evaluated applicants based on their GPA, internships, extra-curricular activities, leadership and involvement in cooperative programs.
To be considered for the scholarship, applicants must:
- Have participated in NRECA’s Youth Tour.
- Be full-time students.
- Have completed one year of study at their respective institutions.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.
Redrafted, pole attachment legislation passes Assembly
June 27, 2017—Revised legislation creating a regulatory framework for wireless service providers to mount equipment on utility poles passed the state Assembly in June, preserving its chances of passage in both houses before an unusually slow-moving state budget bill crowds out all other business in the Capitol.
Whether Senate passage occurs promptly or is delayed until at least September remained uncertain as June drew near a close. Theoretically, bills can be scheduled for floor action through June 30 or until budget passage, whichever is later, but the pole-attachment bill had not been placed on the Senate calendar. Moreover, the budget bill stayed in a holding pattern as lawmakers grappled with education and transportation funding issues. Failure to pass a budget before the state fiscal year ends June 30 has few consequences compared with the same failure at the federal level: It simply means the state continues to operate under its current spending plan until a new one is enacted.
Opposed in its original form by electric cooperatives—who were written out of a new draft early in June—the revised pole attachment proposal (Substitute Amendment 1 to Assembly Bill 348) passed with co-op support.
A memo to all legislators from Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association Government Relations Director Beata Wierzba said conversations with the bill’s co-sponsors and other lawmakers led to “improved language that makes this proposal a better bill and addresses our unique circumstances.” The bill’s latest incarnation, Wierzba said, clarifies that access to public right-of-way and utility easements does not include private property easements negotiated between electric co-ops and their members, preserves a Federal Communications Commission exemption for cooperatives covering pole attachments and make-ready requirements, and specifies that existing co-op policies apply if a communication provider chooses to deploy wireless antennas in a co-op service area.
Assembly passage was mainly uncontroversial. The substitute amendment was adopted on a voice vote and the amended bill was passed in similar fashion.