Final remaining original incorporator of Basin Electric has died

Leroy Schecher
Leroy Schecher

Leroy Schecher was the last living member of the group who signed the papers to incorporate Basin Electric. He died on Mar. 27 (read his obituary).

As Basin Electric was gearing up to celebrate its 50-year anniversary in 2011, we shared the stories of all of our original incorporators through a series in our newsletter, Basin Update. You can find all those stories on our website, on the Original Incorporators page.

Below is Schecher's story.

As one of the original incorporators of Basin Electric, Leroy Schecher’s name, along with 68 others, is embossed on a metal plaque near the front entrance of the Headquarters building. He was barely 30 years old when the cooperative was started in 1961. Since then, Schecher has been an advocate of rural electric and telephone cooperative programs and a public servant for rural America.

Schecher started at Grand Electric Cooperative in Bison, SD, on Sept. 22, 1952. He was 21 years old “… What got me there was a hail storm and a rain storm. I was living on the farm and when the storm was over, there was nothing left. It was obvious I needed to find a job, so I went to town and just happened that one of my high school classmates, who had been working for Grand, was leaving to go to college and when he walked out, I walked in, and they hired me.” Schecher stayed for 31 years and worked his way up to manager.

Schecher said he was aware something had to be done about power supply in 1960 and 1961.

He said the group relied on the advice of Leland Olds because Fred Aandahl, assistant secretary of Interior (Eisenhower administration) had been telling the cooperatives “that all the power that could be generated from the Missouri River dams has been allocated, so if you are going to grow, you’ve got to do something for yourselves. That was generally the story as I remember it.”

Schecher became Grand Electric’s manager on June 9, 1961, and the incorporation of Basin Electric was just a month earlier on May 5. He said the former manager had already resigned, so he went along with a number of the Grand Electric board to help incorporate Basin Electric.

“I think there was probably three or four of the directors that were along; I remember that day real well. We drove to Bismarck and back,” Schecher said. “… There were a lot of people there from all over: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and I think Iowa.”

“… I know we drove home that day in the daylight and so, no, I don’t think it was real long (meeting).” He said a smaller planning group met a number of times before that day.

In the years since Basin Electric’s incorporation, Schecher served as general manager of both Grand Electric and West River Cooperative Telephone Company until January 1984.

From January 1984 until March 1986, he was involved in private business. In March of 1986 he became general manager of Minnesota Valley Cooperative Light and Power Association in Montevideo, MN. He held that position until he retired on Jan. 5, 1996. He took an interim job as manager of FEM Electric Cooperative, Ipswich, SD, from September 1999 to January 2000. He also helped incorporate the former North Central Data Cooperative (now National Information Solutions Cooperative) in Mandan, ND, and the Cooperative Response Center in Austin, MN.

Schecher lives in Rapid City, SD, with his wife Carol. For the work he’s done for cooperatives throughout more than half a century, Schecher was inducted into the South Dakota Cooperative Hall of Fame on Sept. 11, 2007.

Schecher said Basin Electric has grown beyond his wildest imagination “But, you know, I … was pretty new to these kinds of challenges that it just seemed to me that it was a good way to do it and probably the only way. There just didn’t seem to be anything else and so we just sort of put our shoulder to the wheel, I guess, and decided we were going to see it through.”