New Wave Agriculture Opportunities – April 2019 CEO Message

Daniel Carlisle

Our Member Services team has been busy pursuing an interesting opportunity this month. Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s power supplier, Great River Energy (GRE), and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have teamed up to solicit applications for a two-year indoor agriculture growing experiment. The project will utilize a modified shipping container pod that will be fully equipped with heat growing lights and a hydroponic system. The successful rural electric cooperative that is awarded the project will need a local partner to pay for a portion of the project costs and to provide labor to monitor and harvest the produce that is grown. TWEC is interested in the project not only because it will provide a nice additional electric load for our system, but also because it will help us to better understand how our electric distribution system could function if this type of load becomes accepted and is more common in the future.

Central Lakes College (CLC) has agreed to be involved in the project and to provide a site for the self-contained agricultural pod to be located. The site must have water and electricity available. The college has a pod-ready site available that meets this requirement. Lakewood Health System of Staples has also joined in as a partner in this application. Lakewood has an established outreach program for food nutrition in the area and its cafeteria facility will provide an end-use consumption point.

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s Member Services staff has devoted numerous hours to refining the application submission to GRE. The final product will include a written application, video testimonials from our project partners, and many sound reasons why our cooperative should be selected to host this exciting project. We expect the winning cooperative to be announced in early April. We are hopeful that you will be seeing a new wave, high-tech, agriculture produce-growing pod in our service territory by mid-summer. Wish us luck!

Daniel Carlisle

Right-of-Way and Spraying

When you become a member of Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC), you are agreeing to abide by all co-op policies. TWEC’s tree trimming policy is: primary lines (other than those in yards) will be maintained a minimum of 20 feet horizontal clearance on each side of the pole line from the ground up. Overhead primary lines located in members’ yards are maintained 10 feet minimum horizontal right-of-way on each side of the pole line. On three-phase power lines located in members’ yards, the right-of-way must be maintained 10 feet from outside lines and 10 feet below the neutral line.

With this policy, TWEC can responsibly provide safe and reliable energy to our members. Outside of the right-of-way we also look for “danger trees”. These are dead or leaning trees that will touch the line if they fall, causing an outage or blinking lights.

This year, TWEC plans on mowing and spraying three substations: Compton, Aldrich, and Leaf River. TWEC has contracted this service out to Central Applicators. Central Applicators will notify the members in those areas on the timeline of the spraying via mail.

TWEC Arborist, Joe Sworski, is responsible for lining up work for both TWEC crews and Carr’s Tree Service, which consists of side trimming, removals, and mowing.

Our goal is to reach all areas of our system once every 10 years, without going from spot to spot. With this schedule, we are able to keep the lights on and the blink count minimal.

Thanks for your cooperation in the ongoing quest for a clear right-of-way.

Todd Miller
Operations Manager

Right-of-way Clearances

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

2019 Director Candidates

Cooperatives are democratic entities, owned by those they serve and governed by elected representatives. Click here for more information on voting options.

Board Candidates for a three-year term ending in 2022

Marie Katterhagen (Incumbent)


Steve Meech


Bradley Swenson


Michael Thorson (Incumbent)



Board Candidates for a one-year term ending in 2020


Steve Riewer


Kristine Spadgenske (Incumbent)

2019 Director Candidate Voting Options

Cooperatives are democratic entities, owned by those they serve and governed by elected representatives. New this year, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is offering multiple ways to vote to underscore this basic, but important, cooperative principle: your right to vote.


Vote by Mail 
Election ballots are scheduled to be mailed to all Todd-Wadena members on March 11th. The order of candidate names will be rotated among ballots. After marking your votes, you will be instruction to insert your completed ballot into a confidential envelope, and then to seal and place that envelope into a pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelope to return by mail.

The return envelopes are pre-addressed to Survey & Ballot Systems (SBS) in Eden Prairie where the ballots will be secured, scanned, and tallied. SBS is a professional election management company that oversees the balloting process for the cooperative.

Please Note: Mailing Envelopes
There are two envelopes to be returned with each ballot. One is the pre-addressed envelope to Survey & Ballot Systems, the other is the confidential envelope. It is very important that the ballot is first placed into the confidential envelope, and then that envelope is placed into the preaddressed envelope to be mailed. If the ballots are not in a confidential envelope they cannot be counted as a valid vote.

Vote Online via DirectVote
There will be instructions with the ballots you receive the mail on how you can vote online using DirectVote. You will not need a SmartHub account in order to vote this way. Once you’ve authenticated through the DirectVote page, follow the directions to cast your vote.

Vote Oneline via SmartHub
Log into your SmartHub account and look for the “Vote Now” button in the upper right corner. Follow the instructions to finish casting your vote.

Vote at the Annual Meeting
As always, there will be an opportunity to cast your vote at the Annual Meeting on April 16th. Votes cast at the Annual Meeting will be scanned and tallied on site by SBS and added to the mailed and electronic ballot tally. Results of the balloting will be announced at the close of the Annual Meeting on April 16th and printed in the May issue of the Pine to Prairie News.

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 nine Operation Round Up grants to local non-profit organizations, totaling $9,500

The recipient organizations and their awards are as follows: Bertha Ambulance Service, $550; Bluffton Fire & Rescue, $600; Central Minnesota Boys Choir, $500; LSS Senior Nutrition Program, $1,000; Sebeka School- Special Education Dept., $1,500; Cooking Matters-Go Fresh Wadena, $450; Verndale Fire Department, $1,500; Wadena County 4H Horse Project, $1,400; Wadena County Agricultural Society, $2,000.

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 $510,000 for more than 685 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 May 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.


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.