Christensen's 'transmission' from rookie to retiree

Tom Christensen, retired.

Like the transmission lines that carry electricity from one place to another, Tom Christensen has spent his career working to ensure that vital resource is carried from Basin Electric’s power plants to the homes, farms, and businesses that need it to power their daily lives.

On Dec. 30, Christensen, Basin Electric senior vice president of Transmission, Engineering, and Construction, retired after nearly 40 years of service to the cooperative and its members, leaving behind years of experience, the respect of countless colleagues, and strong relationships with members and others he worked alongside throughout his career.

Christensen began his career at Basin Electric in 1983 shortly after graduating from North Dakota State University with a degree in electrical engineering with an emphasis in power systems. Except for a two-year stint with Iowa Power and Light, he has spent his entire career at the cooperative.

Tom Christensen's new hire photo from 1983.

Throughout his four-decades-long career, Christensen worked in Resource Planning, Transmission, and Marketing and Power Supply before being hired by Mike Risan, former senior vice president of Transmission, to join the Transmission department. When Risan retired in 2018, Christensen was promoted to fill his position as senior vice president of Transmission, Engineering, and Construction. “And thank God for Gavin (McCollam, former Basin Electric vice president of Engineering and current chief operating officer), Pius (Fischer, recently retired vice president of Transmission), and all their employees, as well as the TSM (Transmission System Maintenance) employees who keep the lines and substations operating and in service,” Christensen says. “Together, they are the backbone that get this machine we call ’the grid’ correctly designed, built, and kept in service.”

Christensen served as Basin Electric's project manager when Corn Belt Power Cooperative (now a Basin Electric Class A member) built Wisdom Generation Station Unit 2, a unit that is co-owned by Basin Electric and Corn Belt Power. This photo was taken at the unit's dedication. Pictured from left to right are Corn Belt Power's Unit 2 Project Manager Don Jensen, Christensen, and Class A member Northwest Iowa Coper cooperative employee Kent Pauling.

Christensen says the concept of cooperation and coordination with other entities has been a central theme for his entire career. “Working with outside entities on challenging projects was not always easy but it has often saved us money and benefitted the membership, which is why it’s so important to do it,” he says.

To learn more about Christensen and his favorite parts of his career, what he feels the cooperative’s biggest strengths are, and why he says it’s been an honor to serve Basin Electric and cooperatives as a whole in From Rookie to Retiree: The ‘Transmission’ of Tom Christensen, in the winter issue of Basin Today.

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