Had a chance this week to visit the Granite Falls Municipal Utilities. Driving home, I had a few thoughts.

One was thankfulness for work that allows me to visit utilities like this and with the people who make them go. If you ever get a chance to visit a municipal power plant, especially a municipal hydroelectric plant, take it. They are fascinating places.

There is a real pride of place. Granite Falls has also done a good job of documenting its history, particularly of the utility, and it is truly fascinating. You are also left with a notion that there are a lot of smart, talented people at these utilities, who know what makes things work and how to keep them running.

I was talking with Don Reznechek, the long-time superintendent. Retirement is maybe not so far away. It came out that he is from Sauk Centre (John Egan of Sauk Centre Public Utilities is his cousin!). Reznechek went to line school and got a job in Granite Falls. He said he didn’t know Sauk Centre was a municipal utility until he ran into Egan at a municipal utility meeting!

It’s a funny story, but one with a serious side. Sauk Centre has done a great job of educating its customers about the utility in the years since then. Granite Falls has also done a good job of educating its citizens. The high school sports teams were known as the ‘Kilowatts’ up until the district merged with Clarkfield. The Kilowatt Community Center is a real community asset.

But a lot of municipal utility communities do little to educate their customers about public power and its benefits. This is a weakness. (Contact me if you think you need help with this.)

Another common weak spot is preparing for change, particularly in key personnel. When you consider the wealth of knowledge in the head of a person who has worked with a fairly unique set of assets over decades, it is obvious bringing a (potential) successor on board well in advance would be a wise decision.

Changes in key personnel are crucial times. Without leadership, a utility can quickly founder. Time, effort, and money spent on ensuring a smooth transition will be well spent.