March 2019 CEO Message

Daniel Carlisle

There is a lot happening in the electric business right now. From Washington, D.C. to St. Paul to the TWEC service territory, it seems that a witch’s brew of issues are being vetted. I had the opportunity to attend the Minnesota Rural Electric Association’s (MREA) Annual Meeting in St. Paul in February and, together with several board members, visited with numerous elected officials. Three main issues were brought to the attention of our senators and representatives. 

First, we emphasized the need to update our State Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) requirements to more accurately reflect the current status of our industry. The existing CIP requirements have not changed in over 10 years. They do not adequately consider efficient electrification, electric vehicles, and the fact that current ways to spend our mandated CIP funds are saturated and no longer present viable options to achieve the desired objective. 

Second, we expressed our concern with mandated Renewable Energy Standards (RES) and the stated objective to be 100% carbon free in Minnesota by the year 2050. Our generation supplier, Great River Energy, has already surpassed the renewable standard of having a portfolio consisting of 25% renewables by year 2025. This was achieved by listening to members and allowing market forces to create smart, efficient opportunities to add renewable energy sources to GRE’s portfolio. Mandating renewables, we believe, will alter natural market forces and result in higher electric costs for all of our members. 

Finally, we discussed the concept of third-party sales, which is tantamount to creating an exception to the exclusive service territory law that we have operated under in Minnesota since the early 1970’s. With low population density on rural electric cooperative distribution lines, the possibility of losing members to third party “cherry picking” would result in higher costs to the members who remain.

Closer to home, we are preparing for our Annual Meeting on April 16th. We will be holding an information session before the Annual Meeting begins. We are calling this a “Deep Dive” session. Our inaugural Deep Dive session will feature electric vehicles (EVs). We will explain our EV charging rate, discuss strengths, weaknesses and practical applications for EVs, and will even have several EVs brought in for the event by Tesla and Chevrolet. Plan to join us to learn more about EVs.

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative staff works hard to stay informed in this fast-paced industry. If you have questions about any of the issues facing our cooperative, please give us a call or stop by to visit. We’d love to see you.

Back Row: Dan Carlisle, Gene Kern, Tom Brichacek, Michael Thorson, Miles Kuschel

Front Row: Kristine Spadgenske, Marie Katterhagen, Abby Rogge, Representative John Poston

Business Spotlight: AgReliant Genetics

As the third largest corn seed company in the United States, AgReliant Genetics has established itself as a leader in seed research, production, and quality, becoming one of the fastest growing independent seed companies in the agriculture industry. The company’s three seed brands (LG, AgriGold, and Pride) bring some of the market’s most competitive products to farmers in the United States and Canada. 

AgReliant’s LG Seeds Western Division sales and distribution offices are located in Wadena. This local production facility conditions approximately 160,000 units of corn and 450,000 units of soybeans each year, employing 60-70 full and part-time people. 

Jon Wensman

“Here in Wadena, our employees have an average of around 18 years of experience per person,” explains Jon Wensman, NW production supervisor at AgReliant. “The people who work here are extremely valuable. We are so fortunate to have such a quality workforce.”

To support AgReliant’s efforts to run as efficiently as possible, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative helped the company secure several power grants for LED retrofits. This change resulted in better lighting around the machinery and throughout the warehouse. Wensman estimates the company now saves approximately 40 percent on its lighting costs because of the switch to LED lights.

Once a year, Todd-Wadena also assists AgReliant by using thermal imaging to detect potential wiring and mechanical issues. The thermal imaging highlights heat levels. This technology is useful for determining if equipment is over the heat threshold it should be at. As a result of this annual inspection, the company has replaced bearings, wires, and other components that could potentially become a fire hazard or could shut the operation down for a period of time.

“We really value what Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative does for us and for the community,” Wensman says. “We are very grateful for the important relationship with Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative.”

The Cooperative Difference — CEO Message

Daniel Carlisle

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members. As a member of Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, this means you have the ability to actively participate in how the cooperative is operated – setting policies and making decisions.

Todd-Wadena is both owned and democratically controlled by its membership. If you receive power from TWEC, you are a cooperative member. Governing the cooperative is a seven-member board of directors, elected by the membership at TWEC’s Annual Meeting. These seven directors are accountable to and serve as representatives of the members of our cooperative.

I would like to encourage all of our members to attend TWEC’s Annual Meeting coming up on Tuesday, April 16th, 2019 at the Maslowski Wellness & Research Center in Wadena. Members attending the meeting will have an opportunity to actively participate in the governance of our cooperative. By taking part in the democratic election process, you help determine the future of the cooperative.

Another way rural electric cooperatives differ from other types of businesses is that we operate as not-for-profit entities. Here at TWEC, we’ve built out the necessary infrastructure and continue to bring electricity to people in primarily rural areas. In many cases, we are delivering electricity to areas that municipal and investor-owned utilities have determined are not cost-effective to serve. As a result, our revenue per mile of line is substantially lower. Despite this challenge, we are committed to serving our rural population, providing people with both affordable and reliable power.

The cooperative’s rates are set to bring in enough money to pay operating costs, make payments on any loans, provide reserves, and pay back capital credits. At the end of each calendar year, operating expenses are subtracted from total revenue. Net margin is then allocated to each member as capital credits, paid out over time.

I am thankful to be a part of Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, bringing electricity to our community. The way we operate our business is different, and that difference allows us to best serve you – our member-owners.

Director Candidates Selected

The 2019 Nominating Committee met on January 15th to select candidates for the 2019 director elections. 

The terms of office of two directors expire at the Annual Meeting on April 16th, 2019 and the following persons were selected as candidates for such offices in terms expiring in 2022:

Mike Thorson (I)
Brad Swenson
Marie Katterhagen (I)
Steve Meech


The office of Norman Krause’s term will expire in 2020 (due to his retirement). The following persons were selected as candidates for such office in the term expiring in 2020:

Kristine Spadgenske (I)
Steve Riewer


Profiles of each of the candidates will be printed in the March issue of Pine to Prairie. They will also be enclosed in ballot packets that will be sent to all members. Ballot packets with voting instructions will be mailed to members in March from Survey and Ballot Systems based out of Eden Prairie. Survey and Ballot Systems will also receive, scan, and tabulate ballots that members complete and return using the pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelopes provided. Alternative options will include electronic voting and on-site voting at the Annual Meeting on April 16th.

How to Vote Online

Using SmartHub

  • You will need a SmartHub account.
  • Log in to your SmartHub account.
  • Look for a button in the upper right corner labeled  “Vote Now.”

Using Directvote

  • There will be a link to the DirectVote site on the paper ballot and passcodes to access the voting website directly.

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative appoints Spadgenske to Board of Directors

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s (TWEC) Board of Directors has appointed Kristine Spadgenske to its board, effective January 1, 2019. Spadgenske was appointed to fill Director Norman Krause’s seat due to his retirement.

Kristine Spadgenske

“Kristine brings a lot of experience in leadership roles in her community as well as in the dairy industry.  She has experience on cooperative boards and is excited to learn about the electric utility business,” said Mike Thorson, TWEC Board Chair.

“I am very humbled and excited to serve and work alongside the TWEC Board of Directors.  My goals as a new board member is to maintain and preserve the coop principles and values as a grass roots organization while representing the best interest of the members,” said Kristine Spadgenske.

Spadgenske and her husband, Mark are active on the Becker County American Dairy Association Board and she serves as clerk for the Runeberg Township. Spadgenske currently serves as a Director for the DFA Central Area Council, Director on the Minnesota Division Board and Corporate Board for Midwest Dairy, and Director for Minnesota Milk Producers Association.

Spadgenske and her husband, Mark live West of Menahga where they dairy farm in a partnership with Mark’s brother, Mike. Kristine and Mark have four children, Ryan, Kate, Adam, and Seth.

Catholic Charities Foster Grandparent Program Wins Award

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC) names Catholic Charities Foster Grandparent Program as the winner of the 2018 Touchstone Energy Community Award.

Left to Right: Jon Knopik, Foster Grandparent Program Area Supervisor, Helen Bartle, Foster Grandparent Volunteer, Dan Carlisle, TWEC President/CEO.


Todd-Wadena’s President/CEO, Dan Carlisle presented the award to Foster Grandparent Program Supervisor, Jon Knopik and foster grandparent volunteer, Helen Bartle. The Foster Grandparent Program also received $500 to be used towards their program in Todd and Wadena counties.

“The Foster Grandparent Program demonstrates a strong commitment to community and to the youth that we at TWEC value highly,” said Dan Carlisle. “We are very pleased to recognize their contributions to our local communities and schools.”

The Foster Grandparent Program was started nationally in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. One of the original 21 pilot programs was in Minnesota, the Children’s Home in St. Cloud. Foster grandparents have been volunteering in the Todd and Wadena county’s schools since the 1980’s. There are currently 43 foster grandparents serving 18 volunteer sites in eight different cities in Todd and Wadena counties. Area foster grandparents volunteer in local classrooms helping area student in their classes, such as areas in reading and math.

Catholic Charities Foster Grandparent Program award application has been submitted for consideration in the statewide Minnesota Touchstone Energy Community Award. The statewide award recipient will be selected from local award winners from around Minnesota. The winning organization will receive $1,000 to go toward their community cause. The Minnesota Touchstone Energy Community Award will be presented to the award recipient in February, during the Minnesota Rural Electric Association’s annual meeting in St. Paul.



Local Projects Receive Grants

Giving back to the community we serve is a core cooperative principal.  The Operation Round Up Program from Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is a great way for the co-op and its members to give back.

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s Community Trust Board recently met and awarded 11 Operation Round Up grants to local non-profit organizations, totaling $7,500.

 The recipient organizations and their awards are as follows:

Bertha-Hewitt 6th Grade, $925; Wadena County 4-H Dog Project, $500; Firefighter Suicide Awareness, $500; Womenade Helping Hearts, Inc., $500; Todd County 4-H, $1,500; Bertha Community Food Shelf, $400; Verndale Area Food Shelf, $500; Menahga Area Food Shelf, $500; Lakes Area Pregnancy Support Center, $575; Ruby’s Pantry, $1,000; Verndale Public School, $600.  


Funds for the Operation Round Up program come from participating Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative members who allow their monthly electric bills to be rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the change allocated to a Community Trust Fund. The average donation is less than 50 cents a month, yet together, members raise and donate about $29,000 annually to community service projects in the two-county area.

Since the program’s inception in 2002, Todd-Wadena members have raised and donated more than $500,000 for more than 675 local community projects.

Todd-Wadena’s Operation Round Up grant applications are reviewed and recipients selected three times a year by a seven-member volunteer Community Trust board.  The next application deadline is January 15.

Local, nonprofit community service groups may apply for Operation Round Up grants by stopping by or calling the Cooperative office at 800-321-8932 or by downloading a copy of the application form and guidelines from the Todd-Wadena website,  and clicking the ‘Our Community’ tab.



Safety tips for when the power goes out

When the lights go out, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC) crews are hard at work finding ways to restore power for their members.GRE_Be Safe_Power Lines Summer 2016_Color

“Their first priority is always safety,” said Kallie Van De Venter, Communications Specialist for TWEC. “Crews give immediate attention to dangerous situations, such as power lines down on roadways or streets. Typically local police or fire station personnel are called to secure the area until our crews can restore power to the area. Sometimes tree crews must clear tree branches or limbs from the area before repairs can be made.”

TWEC crews work with employees from Great River Energy, our wholesale electric supplier, to restore power quickly and safely.

While they’re working to restore your power, consider the five following tips:

  1. Stay away from downed power lines.
  2. Treat all power lines as though they’re energized.
  3. If you run over a downed power line, stay in your vehicle and call 911.
  4. If you use a backup generator, follow the instructions in the owner’s manual for safe operation.
  5. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain a cool temperature.

“We want all of our members to be safe during an outage, which involves taking time to ensure you know how to use your backup generator and avoid downs power lines,” Van De Venter said.

Visit to watch short videos on generator safety, food safety, how to prepare an emergency kit and more. Click on the playlist icon in the upper left-hand corner of the video box.

What should YOU do when the power goes out?

When the lights go out, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative crews are hard at work finding ways to restore power for their members.

“Their first priority is always safety,” said Kallie Van De Venter, the Communications Specialist for Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative. “We always start with the more dangerous situations, such as power lines down on homes, roadways or streets.” Typically local police or fire station personnel are called to secure the area until TWEC crews can restore power to the area. Sometimes tree crews must clear tree branches or limbs from the area before repairs can be made. Todd-Wadena crews work with employees from Great River Energy, our wholesale electric supplier, to restore power quickly and safely.

“We want everyone to be safe during an outage, which means members should take time to make sure you know how to use your backup generator, and to avoid downed power lines,” Van De Venter said.
Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s website, which now has an easy-to-use mobile site ( contains many resources regarding safety during and after storms.

Click on the Outage Information button on the main page. You’ll find a link to the ‘Be Red Cross Ready’ Power Outage Checklist and a checklist for emergency preparedness. You can also view short videos about

• Food Safety During an Outage
• How to Prepare an Emergency Kit
• Automatic Garage Doors during an Outage.

You can also visit to watch short videos on generator safety, food safety, how to prepare an emergency kit, and more. Click on the ‘playlist’ icon in the upper left-hand corner of the video box.

While we’re working to restore your power, consider the following tips:

• Stay away from downed power lines.
• Treat all power lines as though they’re energized.
• If you run over a downed power line, stay in your vehicle and call 911.
• If you use a backup generator, follow the instructions in the owner’s manual for safe operation.
• Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain a cool temperature.

Click HERE for information on how TWEC restores your power after an outage

Plan Before You Plant

Planting the right tree in the right place can save you energy, and save your co-op additional expenses


Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is always looking for ways to reduce costs. Tree trimming is one expense that has a potential for savings if members work with us to minimize the number of places we need to trim trees, and how often they need to be trimmed.
Our members can help reduce tree trimming costs, help minimize tree-related outages and ensure reliable electric service for the future, by choosing the right types of trees to plant, and where to plant them.

Where to Plant
Please use the above chart to determine where trees should be planted in relation to power lines and meters.
•10-25 feet – its best not to plant in this area. If you do, only plant low growing trees and shrubs.
• 25-50 feet – Tree’s in this zone should be less than 35-feet high at full maturity.
• 50+ feet – Any large tree’s that reach 35 or more feet high at full maturity should be planted at least this far away from power lines.

Energy Conservationenergy-tree-1
Save energy by planting trees that shade your house on the east and west sides in the summer, and then shed their leaves in the fall to allow heat gain from the winter sun.
Evergreens, or coniferous trees (that keep their “leaves” all year long) planted on theenergy-tree-2 north and northwest side can provide a windbreak in cooler climates.