Be the light March-April 2017

Joe Neumiller

Joe Neumiller, employee featured in Basin Electric's "Be the light" series.

How Basin Electric employees shine in their work.

There’s a good chance you know someone who makes you smile. They might look at things a little differently, or make you laugh at unexpected times. Maybe they light up the room when they walk in.

Basin Electric’s “Be the light” ad campaign has been running for about a year now. The ads show how Basin Electric and its members can be the light in communities and homes like only a cooperative can. Along with the ads, Basin Electric: Live Wire has featured stories focused on employees.

Take some time to learn about the people of Basin Electric in a more personal way.

Joe Neumiller, Dakota Gas shift maintenance supervisor

Once a year, the Stanton, ND, park busts at the seams. The aroma of grilling brats and hot dogs drifts up amongst the hundreds-of-year-old cottonwood trees, mingling with the tang of fried fish.

It’s all because one family decided people need to do things together.

Joe Neumiller, Dakota Gasification Company supervisor of shift maintenance, runs the Ed McLain Memorial Old Man and Kid Fishing Derby, taking over a tradition that started 22 years ago by Neumiller’s uncle Ed and aunt Julie McLain. The McLains owned the Stanton Super Valu for many years until their retirement.

The fishing derby is free, meant to be a day of togetherness for families. Trophies are awarded for the biggest fish and most unique fish, which usually isn’t a fish at all. “We’ve had small sand toads, a turtle. Once we even had a gar,” Neumiller says. “All the kids get prizes, and we award trophies for first through fourth place.”

A community potluck follows, with businesses supplying the meat to grill. “Last year, one family donated 100 pounds of fish to fry,” Neumiller says.

In the first year of the derby, a couple dozen people showed up. Today, nearly 500 people take part in the fishing and eating.

When McLain died, aunt Julie and her friends took over the planning for several years until handing the work to Neumiller. “I didn’t want to see it die. Kids were a big thing for Ed and Julie. They couldn’t have any of their own,” Neumiller says. “My wife’s little brother started coming to the derby when he was two years old. Now he’s 22 years old, working at Dakota Gas, and he’s helping me out.”

Neumiller says the derby is something the kids look forward to every year. Several Basin Electric retirees serve as cooks during the meal. “A major portion of the co-op shows up to fish and help me run the derby,” Neumiller says. “It’s been that way for years. My dad worked for Basin TSM (transmission system maintenance) for 36 years. I just knew Basin Electric was where I wanted to be.”

Erica Petrowitz, Dakota Gas Human Resources manager

When Erica Petrowitz is heading home for the day, she thinks back on whether she met her daily goal. If she was able to help at least one person that day, she calls it a good day.

In Human Resources, that might come in the form of helping an employee understand a policy or find a way to excel in their position.
She has known Basin Electric was a great place to work since her childhood. Her stepdad worked at Dakota Gas in the ammonia plant, often talking about how well the employees are treated and how good the benefits are.

Years later, while serving as Dakota Gas Human Resources manager, Petrowitz’s life was saved by using one of the cooperative’s most unique benefits, the cooperative’s own Dr. Tom Kaspari.

“I cannot stress more strongly the value of having Dr. Kaspari,” Petrowitz says. “He was the one who first diagnosed my breast cancer.”

Petrowitz says after she discovered a lump, she was able to get an appointment with Dr. Kaspari on a late Friday afternoon. “He got me in for a 3D mammogram and ultrasound on the following Monday. … I used to work in the medical field, and I know a five- to six-day turnaround is good to get those appointments. What he was able to do was unheard of.”

Petrowitz is in remission today following surgery, 16 weeks of chemotherapy, and a year of clean tests. These days, she’s been making the hour-and-a-half long drive to Basin Electric Headquarters more often. She says it’s peaceful.

“As a cooperative, we’re told everything we do is to benefit the members,” Petrowitz says. “I feel like I’m lucky in Human Resources. That same mentality of being a helper spills over into helping employees. As cheesy as it sounds, it feels like I’m working with family. It’s not just an employment relationship.”

R. D. Reimers, Basin Electric manager of income tax

Spending an evening in the sky is a way of life for Robert “R. D.” Reimers since he got his pilot’s license in 2012. But for about a year now, his flights sometimes carry very precious cargo.

The Basin Electric manager of income tax joined up with Angel Flight Central, an organization that coordinates people who need a flight with pilots who are willing to fly them somewhere, usually for health reasons.

Reimers says often his passengers are children fighting cancer. “So often, these families need to go as far as Rochester or Minneapolis, MN, for treatments. The kids are already uncomfortable because they’re sick, so the drive feels that much worse,” Reimers says. “They want to minimize disruption in their lives, and I can fly them in just a fraction of the time. I’ll take them as far as Fargo, ND, or Brookings, SD, for example, and a volunteer pilot out of Minnesota will take them the rest of the way.”

Reimers says the trips are usually well scheduled out, and the entire trip usually takes about five hours, with pilots donating the fuel they use. He says he does about four or five trips a year and Angel Flight Central could use more volunteer pilots.

Reimers says working for Basin Electric, he appreciates that the culture helps him feel like what he’s doing is nothing out of place. “I’m just doing something I like, and doing it for somebody who needs the help,” he says. “The kids sometimes get excited about the flight, which is fun. I am so proud I can make their lives a little bit easier.”