Abeln honored with Distinguished Service Award

April Abeln’s job is centered around doing what’s best for her community.

As deputy finance officer for Groton, South Dakota, she helps manage city operations and ensure reliable utility service to residents.

Serving in this capacity, it was an easy decision to find more ways to help others and give back. Her mantra is simple: if you’re working for the city, you might as well WORK for the city.

“When you live and work here, it makes sense to do extra,” she said. “It comes with the job, but it’s also my personality—I try to give one hundred percent.”

In recognition of her outstanding service, selfless attitude and commitment to her community, Abeln is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from Heartland Consumers Power District.

Community focused

Abeln’s adoration for Groton is something that has grown over the past two decades. She’s considered herself a member of the community since 2003 and has enjoyed raising her two sons here.

She dubs herself an “honorary member of anything.” Although not always formally affiliated with a project, she’s not afraid to step up when needed.

“If I’m asked and it works out, I’ll definitely help out where I can,” she said.

She plays a key role in organizing two of the community’s largest annual events: Summer Fest and Pumpkin Fest.

Summer Fest is spearheaded by the local Lions Club. Each year Abeln lines up vendors prior to the event and helps with setup and other tasks during.

Groton annual Pumpkin Fest graphic
Abeln heads up the planning for Groton’s annual Pumpkin Fest.

She is the main planner for Pumpkin Fest and heads up a team of volunteer “pumpkineers.” Now in its sixth year, the event has become a passion project for Abeln.

“It’s my baby,” she says, laughing. “Some people call me the pumpkin queen.”

Held at the city park, the one-day, family-friendly festival draws hundreds of people from the region. It features a lunch plus inflatables, hay rides, face painting, pumpkin decorating and more.

The event is free to the public—a source of pride for organizers. Abeln and her team line up dozens of sponsors to help with expenses. Guests may offer free will donations for the meal.

Money raised is typically used to help cover costs of future events. This year, however, the group plans to raise funds for new bathroom facilities at the park.

“Any time a public event is held there, we have to rent handicap-accessible facilities,” Abeln said. “We desperately need an update, and the entire community could benefit.”

When she’s not planning events, Abeln teaches Sunday School at St. John’s Lutheran Church and serves as secretary of Groton’s Chamber of Commerce.

City role

Abeln grew up in Mansfield, South Dakota, and attended grade school in Warner. She later studied accounting at Northern State University in Aberdeen.

Shortly before graduating she started working part time in the Groton finance office. In May of 2008 she joined the office full time as assistant finance officer.

She’s since moved into the deputy role, where she’s mainly responsible for payroll for thirteen full-time employees. But, she admits, she enjoys helping with other tasks. Her attention to detail and proficiency with numbers proves beneficial for many aspects of the finance office.

Although managing a city can be hectic at times, Abeln relishes her work.

“I don’t think there’s ever a dull moment. We are busy all year long,” she said.

She also appreciates the flexibility and convenience it offers to pursue community projects.

“I don’t think many jobs would let you be this community-oriented,” she said. “We can have meetings here at city hall or use the space to collect and sort items for city rummage and other projects. The mayor and council are very supportive. They understand these events are valuable to the community.”

April Abeln holding an award and standing with co-workers
April Abeln, second from right, was nominated for the award by her coworkers at the Groton finance office. Pictured from left to right, Heartland Customer Relations Manager Kelly Dybdahl, Groton Finance Officer Hope Block, Abeln, and Assistant Finance Officer Kellie Locke.

Distinguished service

Heartland provides wholesale power to municipal electric utilities throughout the region, including Groton. Each year one employee from a customer community is chosen for the Distinguished Service Award, to recognize the exceptional people working behind the power.

Abeln was nominated separately by co-workers Hope Block and Kellie Locke. Both commended her expertise and willingness to help.

Public Power Week 2021 Logo

“I can ask April any question about anything, and she knows it,” Locke said.

Block agrees, saying that if Abeln doesn’t know an answer, she will find it.

“She’s resourceful and will figure it out,” she said. “April’s also reliable, dependable and always eager to help. She’s the most wonderful person I’ve ever worked with.”

Abeln received her award in conjunction with Public Power Week. The annual event celebrates the distinct advantages public power utilities offer, including local control, community-focus, public input and dedicated employees. “People like April make public power exceptional,” said Heartland Chief Communications Officer Ann Hyland. “She tirelessly and selflessly serves her community in many ways, both on and off the clock. April is a shining example of the people behind public power: individuals committed to moving communities forward.”

Adams honored with Distinguished Service Award

Longtime Sioux Falls Electric Light employee recognized for dedication and vision

Adequate street lighting prevents accidents and promotes security. It increases safety and quality of life in communities.

Nobody knows this better than Terry Adams.

Adams designs or reviews every streetlight installation in the city of Sioux Falls. He has served as their engineering tech for 26 years. The job is meticulous, often complicated, and extremely important for public safety.

“People feel safer at night if their surroundings are well lit,” he said. “It’s my job to make sure our streetlights remain bright and constant after the sun goes down.”

In the past three decades, the number of streetlights in Sioux Falls has nearly tripled. The city credits Adams with developing and implementing the entire transition.

“When he started, we had around 7,300 lights. Now we have over 20,000,” said Sioux Falls Traffic, Light and Power Superintendent Jerry Jongeling. “We have not added a staff member for more than thirty years due to his work ethic. That says a lot about his character.”

For his outstanding service, Adams is Heartland’s Distinguished Service Award recipient.

Heartland Customer Relations Manager Kelly Dybdahl, far left, presents Terry Adams with his award. Joining him were Sioux Falls Light Superintendent Jerry Jongeling and Heartland Director of Economic Development Casey Crabtree.

Ensuring neighborhood safety

Streetlights are an essential aspect of modern life. They help alert drivers and pedestrians of oncoming traffic and possible hazards. They can also deter criminal activity and create safe, welcoming environments.

Street lighting increases quality of life by allowing activity after dark.

When citizens report streetlight outages, Adams handles resolving each issue.

“Terry answers every call and looks for the best way to solve their concerns,” Jongeling said. “He communicates well with citizens and oversees projects from start to finish.”

Adams meets with citizen groups after hours to discuss local lighting concerns. He also surveys neighborhoods with residents, community development employees and police officers.

Together they determine and check dark areas and brainstorm possible solutions. Adams uses this information to develop a project map.

“This map is our blueprint to lighting up neighborhoods and creating safer environments,” Jongeling said.

Reliable project leader

Adams’ work speaks for itself. He is thorough and an invaluable member of the team.

“Each project is well documented with no detail left out,” said Jongeling. “He’s always willing to educate anyone on a project or procedure and help in any way.”

Adams takes the lead on department projects, contracts and working with local developers.

“Terry gives 100% at his job every day. His performance and attitude are key to our operations,” Jongeling added.

Outside of work, Adams is a long-time, dedicated member of the Sioux Falls Shriners Club. He marches with the Shriners band in parades and works at the annual Sioux Falls Shrine Circus.

“He gives his time and heart to help kids in need. He is a public servant in the truest sense.”

Distinguished service

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes exceptional employees at Heartland customer utilities.

Adams received his award in conjunction with Public Power Week. The annual event celebrates the distinct advantages public power utilities offer.

“Public power employees are essential workers who care about their communities. Adams is a shining example,” said Heartland Chief Communications Officer Ann Hyland. “He goes the extra mile to ensure public safety. We are proud to recognize individuals like Adams who make public power exceptional.”

Not only does Adams go above and beyond in his job, he is an inspiration to others.

“He has been a mentor to me and countless others who work in our industry,” Jongeling said. “Sioux Falls is strong and progressive because of people like him.”

Jongeling nominated Adams for the award.