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News & Press: Member Co-op News

PKM’s new CEO is a familiar face

Thursday, February 22, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Shari Wormwood
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The new CEO at PKM Electric Cooperative is a familiar face to many long-time members.

Mike Schmidt was selected by the board of directors in January to take the reins at the Warren, Minnesota based cooperative. A 34-year employee at PKM, Schmidt previously served as Assistant Manager, where he focused on finance and business operations. He replaces Charles Riesen, who retired at the end of January after 45 years of service. Riesen will continue to manage Cavalier Rural Electric Cooperative in Langdon, N.D.

Schmidt is no stranger to the area. He grew up in the center of PKM’s service territory on a potato and grain farm between Karlstad and Stephen, Minn. He moved back to the area in 1982 after graduating from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., where he majored in accounting and business administration. He is a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) and a graduate of the NRECA Management Internship Program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  For the last decade, Schmidt has been closely involved with the management of the cooperative, which serves about 3,800 members in the northwest corner of Minnesota.

“I have good experience with the day-to-day operations of PKM from my previous role as assistant manager,” Schmidt said. “The past two years have been really good years for the coop by all industry benchmarks. That’s obviously something we’d like to keep going.”

As for service, Schmidt said members shouldn’t expect major changes. The cooperative has performed well in the areas of safety and system reliability, while also maintaining stable electric rates. Schmidt said he will focus on keeping the cooperative financially healthy, while holding the line on rates.

“The biggest challenge we have is with energy sales and our density,” Schmidt said. “PKM has 1.6 customers per mile of line. There are only 27 co-ops in the nation out of 850 that have less than that. When you have a low density, it’s difficult to recover your fixed costs.”

As CEO, Schmidt said he plans to focus on long-term workforce planning at the co-op, which currently has 15 employees. PKM has experienced several retirements in recent years, and more are anticipated in the not-too-distant future.  “We have good people here at PKM,” Schmidt said. “In a small co-op, when people retire they take a lot of knowledge with them.

Schmidt and his wife, Deb, have three grown children, Katie, Kelsey and Danny, and one grandchild. In addition to spending time with family, Schmidt has a cabin at Lake of the Woods and enjoys hunting and fishing.

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