MMUA Honors 2022 Award Winners

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MMUA Honors 2022 Award Winners

August 31, 2022

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On August 23, 2022, MMUA once again recognized winners of the association’s annual awards for exemplary supporters of hometown power. Award winners are chosen by MMUA’s Nominations and Awards Committee after nominations are submitted by colleagues and members of the utilities industry. The following individuals were acknowledged at the 2022 MMUA Summer Conference. Please click here for a press release in PDF format. 

Employee Service Award

The MMUA Employee Service Award recognizes MMUA employees for their commitment to promoting hometown utilities and providing excellent service to association members. Recipients are recognized for their service after 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years, and additional 5-year intervals.

The recipients of the 2022 Employee Service Award are Regional Safety Group Coordinator Janet Aultman (5 years of service) and Regional Safety Coordinator Dave Lundberg (10 years of service).

Rising Star Award

MMUA’s Rising Star Award recognizes a future leader who has demonstrated a dedication to the goals and principles of municipal utilities through problem solving, creativity and job knowledge. 

The recipient of the 2022 Rising Star Award is Jason Lee, Electric Superintendent at Saint Peter Municipal Electric Utility. 

Jason came to the City of St. Peter in August 2019 and from that time has shown a real dedication to the city. He has developed the staff through effective succession planning and helped St. Peter achieve RP3 standards.  

Jason has also kept St. Peter’s electrical infrastructure strong through a proactive maintenance program and the implementation of four successful renewable energy projects.  

Jason has presented on the value of hometown power and has been an amazing asset to the City of St. Peter and his region.  

Community Service Award

MMUA’s Community Service Award is given to an individual who has performed long and well in support of a municipal utility at the local level.

The recipients of the 2022 Community Service Award are Jeff Holsen from Elbow Lake and Theresa Slominski from Elk River.  

The first recipient, Jeff Holsen, has served as city administrator of Elbow Lake for 36 years. During his tenure, the city infrastructure of Elbow Lake has been substantially rebuilt. The city’s newest initiative is a new drinking water treatment plant, for which they won a $5.3 million award in 2019. 

Jeff’s work has supported the proactive development of Elbow Lake, including a new hospital in 2014 and the reconstruction of Main Street in 2019. Jeff is a longtime supporter of the Elbow Lake Power Commission and has used his role to support their work and highlight their importance to the community.  

The second recipient, Theresa Slominski, accepted the General Manager position at Elk River Municipal Utilities in early 2020 after sixteen years as a dedicated employee. With COVID and the loss of an experienced leader at Elk River, it was a challenging time to step into the General Manager role.  

Theresa performed admirably, protecting the utility and its employees during a difficult time for the world. She also moved the utility forward by taking on projects including the construction of a new field services structure and a complete relocation of electric and water along three miles of Highway 169. 

Theresa also worked to update Elk River’s human resources structure through progressive initiatives like performance metrics that have made Elk River Municipal Utilities a model for the nation. 

Distinguished Service Award

MMUA’s Distinguished Service Award is given to individuals who perform outstanding service in support of the association and its goals.

The recipients of the 2022 Distinguished Service Award are Chris Schoenherr of the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) and Steve Downer, formerly of MMUA.

The first recipient, Chris Schoenherr, has been an advocate of the energy industry for most of his life, and in his last role he not only continued but built on this legacy. 

Chris joined SMMPA as Director of Agency and Government Relations in 2015. While there, Chris has worked on important legislation that has made things better for public power operators and customers.  

Chris has also been a friend of the environment through SMPPA 2.0, which will transition SMPPA to being 80% renewable by 2030, and through his promotion of a responsible transition to electric vehicles. From helping pollinators to guiding municipals through difficult policy matters, Chris is always there to do the right thing and make things come together.

The second recipient, Steve Downer, spent over 32 years learning about and sharing the story of public power with our members and the industry through MMUA’s newspaper “The Resource” and many other publications. 

Steve tirelessly worked to tell the story of public power by sharing the stories, the innovations, and the people who make up municipal utilities. Steve’s deep knowledge and genuine interest in the industry made him an unmatched advocate for MMUA both internally and externally. 

Public Service Award 

MMUA’s Public Service Award is given to a local, state, or federal elected or appointed official who has been a strong supporter of MMUA and its members.

The recipients of the 2022 Public Service Award are Senator David Senjem and Representative Julie Sandstede. 

The first recipient, Senator David Senjem, first entered the Senate in 2002 with a deep interest in energy and infrastructure matters.  

Senator Senjem knows the importance of municipal utilities and public infrastructure to the state. As such, he has worked on many areas of interest to MMUA, including the recent ECO Act of 2021 and Polar Vortex relief. He is a strong advocate of modernizing our public infrastructure and has always worked with MMUA to make our state a better place. 

The second recipient, Representative Julie Sandstede, has advocated for public power since joining the legislature in 2016.

In 2021, she heard about her local utility’s disappointment that a relief bill for the polar vortex event failed to pass the legislature. Representative Sandstede worked tirelessly to make sure that the 2022 bill included everything needed to address the financial impacts of the polar vortex, and that it would not create more undue burdens on local utilities. Representative Sandstede’s work is a remarkable example of promoting municipal power and local communities.  

Honorary Lifetime Membership Award

The MMUA Honorary Lifetime Membership Award recognizes a long professional life dedicated not only to the advancement of municipal utilities locally but also for the betterment of our industry on a statewide basis.

The recipient of the 2022 Honorary Lifetime Membership Award is Tom Tylutki with Austin Utilities. 

Tom served as Electric Operations Director at Austin Utilities from 1996-2022. During this time, he championed numerous important initiatives at Austin Utilities, including modernizing the City’s electrical system and leading summer community education for kids in grades 4-6. 

Tom has been a constant presence and important presence at MMUA events for decades, including most of MMUA’s schools and workshops. Tom has served as a volunteer instructor and passed his knowledge on to the next generation of professionals in the utilities space. Tom has had a continuous dedication to excellence and has made Austin Utilities a strong and highly regarded municipal utility.  

President’s Award

The MMUA President’s Award, chosen by the MMUA President of the Board of Directors, is MMUA’s highest individual achievement award.  

The recipient of the 2022 President’s Award is Mark Nibaur of Austin Utilities.

Mark Nibaur has been the General Manager at Austin Utilities since 2010 and a member of the MMUA Board of Directors since 2019, serving as the Board President from 2020-21.

During his term as Board President, Mark helped to navigate the association through the pandemic by embarking on a virtual Zoom tour of the state. He then compiled feedback from these meetings that was vital information for the process of creating a new strategic plan for the association.

Mark was a leader in the hiring process of the first new CEO for MMUA since 1993. He is also involved as President of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Municipal Gas Agency. He has provided great insight and direction for the association as it embarks on a new era. Through his many roles, Mark has displayed great dedication to the Board, staff, and members of MMUA.

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