Dybdahl serves up expertise, engagement and support

February 5, 2024

Customer Relations Manager marks five years with Heartland

As Customer Relations Manager, Kelly Dybdahl’s job is multi-faceted.

While he most enjoys the people he works with, whether it be colleagues at Heartland, staff or governing boards at electric utilities or other industry professionals, he also relishes putting his engineering background to work.

“I really enjoy examining electric rates and evaluating the value and financial impact an electric utility can have on its own community,” he said.

He also looks forward to working with customers to administer the various programs Heartland offers, whether it be economic development, energy efficiency or workforce development.

“As someone who was born and raised in a rural Heartland community, there is nothing better than seeing a community growing and thriving.”

Dybdahl’s various skills have been benefiting Heartland Energy customers and staff since 2019. The Tyler, Minnesota native relocated to Madison after working as an electrical engineer for a rural cooperative.

As he marks five years with Heartland, Dybdahl reflects on his role with the company, his relationship with customers and the future of the electric utility industry.

Heartland Energy CEO Russell Olson presents a 5-year award to Customer Relations Manager Kelly Dybdahl.

Making connections is key

Dybdahl is often the first point of contact for Heartland Energy customers. His role brings with it a wide range of responsibilities and expertise.

Building and strengthening relationships between Heartland and municipal employees, governing boards, and consumers is one of his top priorities.

“Often times administering Heartland programs allows me to interact with community champions in our customer communities who do everything they can to make their communities better,” he said.

His job description also includes providing utility expertise as needed.

This includes looking at electric system line losses, or the quantity of energy lost on its distribution path to consumers.

In 2022, Dybdahl was evaluating city-wide line losses for a customer and discovered a metering error.

“Their level of loss was significantly higher than what’s considered normal, and it was costing them a significant amount of revenue,” he said. “After a more thorough examination, I helped them identify and resolve the error. It’s fulfilling to know I was able to assist and make a difference.”

Dybdahl also leads and participates in customer meetings and activities and works with consultants and contractors in support of the utilities. He also represents Heartland in electric utility organizations such as serving on the Legislative and Communications Committee for the South Dakota Municipal Electric Association.

Dybdahl represents Heartland in its membership of state industry associations. Pictured, he presents at South Dakota Municipal League’s Annual Conference in 2023.

Extensive expertise benefits customers

Although he meets many different people, a lot of Dybdahl’s day-to-day work remains consistent. However, an ever-evolving utility industry can introduce new concerns or matters of interest on a much grander scale. Dybdahl stays well versed to help customers where he can.

“I’ve always had a keen interest in emerging technologies,” he said. “I can help utilities interconnect solar and battery storage projects or plan and set rates for EV charging stations.”

Dybdahl has even evaluated whether an electric bus was economical for a customer community’s school district.

“Innovation is driving the industry and it’s important to be informed.”

Dybdahl also keeps tabs on industry standards, ensuring utilities maintain best practices in areas such as safety.

Most recently, he managed the rollout of a flame-resistant (FR) clothing program for Heartland customers. The initiative offered custom FR apparel to utility employees who regularly work on or in the vicinity of energized electrical equipment.

“FR clothing is essential when working with energized equipment. I’m really proud that our management team and board have recognized the importance of this program and are willing to invest in the safety of the people who power our communities,” he said.

Community driven

Dybdahl’s passion for safeguarding and supporting others extends beyond his career at Heartland. He has actively engaged himself in several local organizations and actively pursues strengthening his leadership skills.

He’s a long-time volunteer fireman, including five years in Madison after twelve years in Tyler. He’s also a member of Lake County 9-1-1 Communications board as well as the Local Emergency Planning Committee.

In 2021 he was elected to the Madison City Commission, serving as the Public Safety Commissioner, and plans to run for re-election this spring. He serves as the commission’s liaison to the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce (GMACC) and is also a member of the Madison Public Library board.

Dybdahl will graduate from Leadership South Dakota later this year and is a graduate of both GMACC’s Leadership Madison program and MMUA’s Leadership Academy.

Dybdahl is a member of the 2024 class of Leadership South Dakota. He recently hosted a session at Heartland, during which he interviewed CEO Russell Olson.

Valued team member

Hiring a customer relations manager wasn’t an easy task, according to Heartland Energy CEO Russell Olson.

“We needed someone who could not only build relationships with customers, but also assist with utility matters and have a presence in the industry,” he said. “Kelly checked all the boxes and easily transitioned into his new role.”

Dybdahl has become a valued member of the Heartland Energy team, according to Olson.

“Customers trust him and his colleagues respect him,” Olson said. “We are fortunate he and his family made the move to Madison five years ago to join us.”

As Dybdahl looks to the future, he sees both challenges and opportunities ahead.

“The utility industry is always changing,” he said. “New technologies are always emerging and I look forward to navigating those changes as well as the challenges that lie ahead.”