CEO’s Report: Customer Connections Committee provides meaningful interaction, feedback

May 4, 2023

The Customer Connections Committee (CCC) was originally formed in 2011 to provide the customers’ perspective and offer feedback to Heartland Energy’s staff and board regarding Heartland’s operations.

Heartland Energy was formed as a consumers power district. Board members are publicly elected, representing designated subdivisions within the district. Several municipalities served by Heartland Energy have elected to be annexed into the district.

Because of how a consumers power district is structured, customers don’t have a direct seat on the board. But the CCC gives them the opportunity to provide their opinions and perspectives.


New faces join committee

The by-laws of the CCC state that the committee can have up to nine members who are elected to three-year terms. Elections to fill expiring terms are held at Heartland Energy’s Annual Meeting.

While no more than three positions should expire each year, we had four open seats this year due to various circumstances including former committee members leaving their positions with their utility or choosing not to continue with their membership on the CCC.

Matt Jaquet from Volga, SD was the only member up for re-election.

We had exactly enough new nominations that we didn’t have to hold an election. New CCC members include:

  • Sean Kramer, Langford, SD
  • Nathan Zimmerman, Madison, SD
  • Angela Grafstrom, Lake Crystal, MN

The remaining committee members are:

  • Jerry Jongeling, Sioux Falls, SD, chair
  • Adam Jans, Parker, SD
  • Paul Kosel, Groton, SD
  • Kris Manderfeld, New Ulm, MN
  • Tammy Nuckolls, Auburn, IA


Idea Exchange

The CCC met on April 13 before the start of our Annual Meeting. Several topics were discussed including funding available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

One of the great things about the CCC is it gives customers the opportunity to visit with each other about potential opportunities or challenges they may be facing. While sometimes a formal agenda is followed, often the best conversation comes from off-script topics.

One challenge discussed was the availability of transformers. The American Public Power Association has done a great job of advocating on behalf of utilities during this transformer crisis.

Unfortunately, utilities across the country are facing the same issues of availability and lead time.

The idea was expressed of utilities joining together to order a larger quantity of transformers, in hopes of speeding up the lead time.

Be on the lookout for a survey in your Inbox to determine if this is something that is needed and desired among Heartland Energy customers. We would be willing to facilitate if there is enough interest among customers.

If this is a topic that interests you, I encourage you to check out the Power Hungry podcast. In this March 28th episode, Matt Brandrup, President and CEO of Rural Electric Supply Cooperative discusses the staggering increase in the cost of transformers and other utility products as well as the transformer shortage facing the industry. It is definitely worth a listen.


Expanding role

Jerry Jongeling, who currently serves as chair of the CCC, presented the idea to the group to expand the committee’s role.

While they have always served as a valuable asset to Heartland Energy, the committee is looking to further engage the rest of the Heartland Energy customer base.

Several ideas were discussed on how to achieve this. Two that can be implemented right away are creating a listserv and including committee updates in our newsletter.

The listserv will be a means for all customers to ask questions of each other and share ideas. While listservs are available through other organizations, the advantage of Heartland Energy listserv is having only our customers on it. Not only do you all share a power supplier, but operate in the same region, are mostly rural communities with similar populations. Therefore, you are more likely to share in the same challenges.


Soliciting feedback

We are always looking for ways to strengthen relationships with our customers and are always here to listen to ideas and suggestions.

We look forward to continuing to work with the CCC, but also encourage all customers to reach out should you have suggestions. We strive to offer the best programs and service possible, in addition to reliable power supply. Your feedback ensures we do just that.