March 2023 TEC

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FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT FOR ACTIONGLOW Thumb Electric Cooperative March/April 2023 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES Power Grid Update Lineworker Appreciation Pet Photo Contest

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#micoopcommunity Instagram contest winner

Where the shoreline meets the rainbow @morel_momma (Sherrie Sanville)

Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives


EDITOR: Christine Dorr


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey

COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha


PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association

Michigan Country Lines, USPS-591-710, is published monthly, except August and December, with periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Mich., and additional offices. It is the official publication of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933.

Subscriptions are authorized for members of Alger Delta, Cherryland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks Tri-County, Midwest Energy & Communications, Ontonagon, Presque Isle, and Thumb electric cooperatives by their boards of directors.

Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS.

Association Officers: Tom Sobeck, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, chairman; Gabe Schneider, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Chris O’Neill, HomeWorks TriCounty Cooperative, secretary-treasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

CONTACT US/LETTERS TO EDITOR: Michigan Country Lines 201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933 248-534-7358

CHANGE OF ADDRESS: Please notify your electric cooperative. See page 4 for contact information.

The appearance of advertising does not constitute an endorsement of the products or services advertised.


Counting 25,000 ducks is all in a day’s work for the Straits Area Audubon Society.

10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Seafood Recipes: Healthy options from

14 THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT FOR ACTIONGLOW At first they didn’t succeed ... but then the Porter brothers tried, tried, and tried again with great success!


For one HomeWorks member, tending his garden is a spiritual experience that conjures memories of his father.

MI Co-op Community

To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit

Instagram Contest

Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account. Win $100 for photos published!

Recipe Contest

See details on page 10. Polish Favorites due April 1; One-Pan Meals due May 1 Win a $100 bill credit!

Guest Column

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $200 for stories published. Visit to submit. Win $200 for stories published!

Mystery Photo

See details on page 18. Win a $100 bill credit!

Contents March 2023 Vol. 43, No. 3 /michigancountrylines /michigancountrylines
under the sea.


2231 Main Street

Ubly, MI 48475-0157

1-800-327-0166 or 989-658-8571




Randall Dhyse, Treasurer

District 1 • 989-658-6013

Craig Osentoski, Director

District 2 • 989-658-6003

Erica Peruski, Director

District 3 • 989-658-6004


Kim Nunn, Vice President

District 1 • 989-658-6005

Mike Briolat, Secretary

District 2 • 989-658-6006

Duane Kursinsky, Director

District 3 • 989-658-6007


Louis Wenzlaff, Director

District 1 • 989-658-6008

Jonathan Findlay, President

District 2 • 989-658-6010

Matt Sommer, Director District 3 • 989-658-6012

Brad Essenmacher, General Manager


Huron County Bad Axe—Northstar Bank

Pigeon—Northstar Bank

Tuscola County

Akron—Northstar Bank

Caro—Northstar Bank

Mayville—Mayville State Bank

Millington—Mayville State Bank

Thumb Electric Cooperative is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Christmas Eve Storm & the Power Grid

Winter Storm Elliott was a nightmare for millions, causing delayed flights and widespread power outages. Behind the scenes, the energy industry faced an even bigger issue threatening to bring down the power grid: a lack of energy supply.

Since last summer, we have highlighted the growing risk of rolling blackouts in Michigan. As electric demands continue to grow and the industry continues to retire many of its workhorse power plants, the electric grid is less able to ride through extreme weather. Winter Storm Elliott was yet another warning of just how vulnerable the grid is becoming.

Winter Storm Elliott, although not particularly cold by Michigan’s standards, resulted in record energy demand and caused severe strain on the eastern power grid, particularly in parts of Tennessee and the Carolinas. Regional power grid operators called on customers to voluntarily conserve energy, and in some areas they needed to initiate rolling blackouts on Christmas Eve.

Back home in Michigan, our energy supply also was threatened due to the interconnected nature of the electric grid.

At Thumb Electric Cooperative, we were aware that the regional grid operator was one step away from requiring utilities to ask users to reduce their energy consumption through measures such as turning down the heat, turning off unnecessary lights, and taking other conservation measures in order to prevent rolling blackouts. Fortunately, we didn’t have to call on you, but we were uncomfortably close to needing to take this step. This is why we continue to advocate for time, transmission, and technology to ensure reliability through the clean energy transition.

I wanted to share this information with our members so that you can understand the current state of the grid and the challenges it is facing. If we do have to ask you to conserve electricity in a tight supply situation in the future, I hope this will provide some context and help you understand why it is important. We, as a co-op, will continue to work towards a sustainable and reliable energy future for all our members.

/thumbelectric HURON TUSCOLA SANILAC @thumbelectric
4 MARCH 2023
To understand how a cold front can impact electric supply in Michigan, you have to understand how connected our power grid is. Our state is a part of the Eastern Interconnect grid, where electricity may flow from one region to another to balance supply and demand.

TEC Scholarship

This year, the Thumb Electric Cooperative Board of Directors has once again decided to offer a $1,500 scholarship to a qualifying 2023 graduate in each of TEC’s three served counties. If you are a high school senior going into an electric cooperative-related field of study, please consider applying.

To apply, please visit Applicants will then submit either a short written story or a short video presentation on their career choice and why it would work in the electric cooperative world.

The deadline to apply is April 30.

Redhead Ducks

Flock To The Straits Of Mackinac

When a large mass of black suddenly appeared in the Straits of Mackinac, motorists on the bridge called the Mackinac Bridge Authority to report a potential oil spill. But to the bridge personnel and bird lovers who follow such things, they knew it wasn’t an environmental disaster, but rather a natural wonder.

Every winter, masses of birds flock from their northern habitats to seek warmer weather for the cold season ahead. Many of them take a rest in the Straits of Mackinac, including the redhead duck. What is normally a floating group, or raft, of about 7,000 made a bigger splash by topping out at about 25,000 during this year’s annual Christmas bird count.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Straits Area Audubon Society member Steve Baker. “We certainly see peaks some years, but this was an explosion that was really remarkable to witness.”

Redheads are a species of diving duck known for massing in groups that reach thousands to tens of thousands during their early winter migration. Large redhead flocks aren’t necessarily uncommon in the region this time of year, but the shining cinnamon red heads of the males in the sun were a remarkable sight to see.

The numbers collected during the Christmas season are a part of a nationwide effort by conservation groups who identify an area about 15 miles across, congregate into teams for a day, and compile numbers. Baker was in the group escorted across the Mackinac bridge and permitted to count and photograph the ducks for the Christmas Bird Count.

“This goes back to the 1900s when we started seeing birds, like the passenger pigeon, disappear,” said Baker. “Beyond it being a valuable activity that tracks numbers and migration patterns, it’s great fun to be outdoors with people who share your passion.”

The Straits Area Audubon Society actually takes a much broader approach to its interests and activities. While bird lovers flock to the organization, the breadth of what they are involved in reaches beyond their feathered friends.

6 MARCH 2023

The focus of the Straits Area Audubon Society is to “educate the community, including its children, about conservation and enjoyment of the natural world with emphasis on the local natural communities of wildlife,” per its mission statement.

A retired veterinarian, Baker came to the organization as many do. “I was a birder who loved being outdoors and really enjoyed being around a good core group of people. But there’s a lot more to the Audubon Society than just birds,” he said.

The society also spawned the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, a monarch butterfly banding program, and an extensive educational arm.

“Kathy Bricker was a dynamic leader and member of our group who really kicked off the educational part of our programming,” said Baker. “She brought so much energy and information to our schools and community.”

Bricker, who passed away from ovarian cancer last spring, was a former president of the Straits Area Audubon Society, the founder of Earth Week Plus programs, and the creator of the Snakes Alive program that educated kids throughout Northern Michigan about the outdoors. Bricker’s passion and purpose still resonates in the environmental and wildlife community in Michigan. Her efforts show that a single person can impact how generations to come will see, interact, and potentially fall in love with nature.

“Being part of the Audubon Society and seeing new people join for the same reasons I did when I started is encouraging,” said Baker. “We’re one of the largest citizen science programs out there that hope to keep the outdoors an amazing place for exploration and discovery.”

For more information, visit:


“We’ve never seen anything like this. We certainly see peaks some years, but this was an explosion that was really remarkable to witness.”


Lineworker Appreciation Day is April 18

You’ve likely noticed Thumb Electric’s crews out and about, working on power lines and other electrical equipment in our community. It’s no secret that a lineworker’s job is tough—but it’s a job that’s essential and must be done, often in challenging conditions. As we celebrate Lineworker Appreciation Day on April 18, we thought we’d share some interesting facts about electric lineworkers.

The work can be heavy, in more ways than one. Did you know the equipment and tools a lineworker carries while climbing a utility pole can weigh up to 50 pounds? That’s the same as carrying six gallons of water. Regarding utility poles, lineworkers must climb poles— some over 80 feet tall. Needless to say, if you have a fear of heights, this likely isn’t the career path for you.

Lineworkers must be committed to their career—because it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. The long hours and ever-present danger can truly take a toll. Being a lineworker is listed in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S. Lineworkers often work nontraditional hours, outdoors under challenging conditions. While the job does not require a college degree, it does require technical skills, years of training, and hands-on learning.

Did you know that becoming a journeyman lineworker can take more than 7,000 hours of training (or about four years)? That’s because working with high-voltage equipment requires specialized skills, experience, and ongoing mental toughness. Shortcuts are not an option; there is no room for error in this line of work.

“They must be ready to leave the comfort of their home and families unexpectedly, and they don’t return until the job is done, sometimes not until days later. That’s why the lineworker’s family is also dedicated to service.”

Despite the many challenges, TEC’s lineworkers are committed to powering our local community. During severe weather events that bring major power outages, lineworkers are among the first ones called. They must be ready to leave the comfort of their home and families unexpectedly, and they don’t return until the job is done, sometimes not until days later. That’s why the lineworker’s family is also dedicated to service. They understand the importance of the job to the community.

Nationwide, there are approximately 120,000 electric lineworkers. Here in the Thumb, TEC has 12 lineworkers and two apprentice lineworkers responsible for keeping power flowing 24/7, 365 days a year. To do this, they maintain 16 substations interconnected by 140 miles of transmission lines, 2,150 miles of distribution lines, and over 12,300 meters providing service to the threecounty area of the Thumb.

TEC line crews also work safely. We proudly announce that Oct. 30, 2022, marked four years without a lost-time incident. TEC would like to recognize the extra measures our lineworkers have taken to remain safe.

Being a lineworker may not seem like a glamorous job, but it is essential to our community’s life. Without the exceptional dedication and commitment of our hardworking crews, we would not have the reliable electricity that we need for everyday life.

So, the next time you see a TEC lineworker (pictured on the back cover), please thank them for their work to keep power flowing, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions. After all, lineworkers are the power behind your power. Please join us as we recognize them on April 18 for Lineworker Appreciation Day.

8 MARCH 2023

Enter for a chance to win a $50 energy bill credit!

Submit Your “Bikes” Photos by March 20!

Submit your “Bikes” photos by March 20 for the May/June issue! Submit your best photo and encourage your friends to vote! The photo receiving the most votes will be printed in an issue of Country Lines along with some of our other favorites.

Enter Your Photos And Win A Bill Credit!

To enter the contest, visit Enter your picture, cast your vote, and encourage others to vote for you as well. If your photo is printed in Country Lines during 2023, you will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win one of four $50 credits on your December 2023 bill.


1. Major’s a silly dog! Jessica Flikkie

2. Our sweet Bella girl loves the snow! Brandi Krug

3. Meet and greet. Sue Hale

4. Big brother in training. Lori Cowley

5. Too cute. Shellie Reece

6. “This is TOADally ridiculous”—Stripes. Jan Adler

7. Max, a 4-year-old goldendoodle. Kelly Durr

8. Duke. Matthew Booms

9. Sheep!? I thought you said “sleep!” Lauren Siver

10. Untitled. Debra Burns

5 9 10 3 8 1 4 2


Recipe Contest

Win a $100 energy bill credit!

Polish Favorites due April 1; One-Pan Meals due May 1

Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Submit your recipe at , or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to



Ronald Andres, Great Lakes Energy

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound smoked steelhead trout (or smoked salmon), skin and bones removed, flaked into ½ -inch pieces

2 (15.5-ounce) cans great northern beans (use liquid)

2 (15.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed

1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth

2 Anaheim peppers (braised, then seeds and skin removed), diced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning

1 quart heavy whipping cream

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in the hot oil until tender. Add smoked steelhead, great northern beans, cannellini beans, chicken broth, Anaheim peppers, cumin, coriander, oregano, and lemon pepper into the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors have blended, about 30 minutes. Stir in the whipping cream. Simmer until the whipping cream is hot, but do not boil.

Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at

|| Recipes submitted by MCL readers and tested by recipe
MI CO-OP Recipes
Photos by Robert Bruce Photography
from under the sea. 10 MARCH 2023
Healthy options


Kathy Shoemaker, Great Lakes Energy

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 medium sweet onions, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped

8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced

½ green bell pepper, chopped

1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

½ cup dry white wine

1 cup vegetable broth

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1–2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 pound cod or haddock fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound uncooked shrimp (41–50 per pound), peeled and deveined

1 (6-ounce) can chopped clams, undrained

1 (6-ounce) can lump crabmeat, drained

1 pound scallops, optional

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

• sourdough bread slices

• garlic aioli mustard

In a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker, combine the first 16 ingredients (do not add seafood yet). Cook, covered, on low for 4–5 hours. Stir in seafood. Cook, covered, 20–30 minutes longer or until fi sh just begins to flake easily with a fork and shrimp turns pink. Remove bay leaf. Add parsley and stir. Toast slices of sourdough bread. Spread garlic aioli mustard over toasted slices of bread and place in a bowl. Spoon seafood cioppino over the bread. Bon appétit!


Dave Neitzke, Great Lakes Energy

1 bag salad greens

• thinly sliced red onion rings

1 (4-ounce) can sockeye (red)


1 sliced hardboiled egg

1 tablespoon capers (salt dried, if possible)

Vinaigrette Dressing:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

(1 large)

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Layer the lettuce on a plate. To the bed of lettuce, add slices of red onion, salmon pieces, egg slices, and capers. To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients and whisk to emulsify. Drizzle salad with dressing. Best served with warm crusty garlic bread and a cold lager.


Sherry Cole, HomeWorks Tri-County

¹⁄ ³ cup table salt

¹⁄ ³ cup paprika

¼ cup garlic powder

¼ cup freshly ground white or black pepper

3 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons cayenne pepper, or to taste

2 tablespoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons dried basil

2 tablespoons dried oregano or winter savory

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a blender, food processor, or mixing bowl, and pour the mixture into an airtight container. This spice mix will keep for years. Makes 2 cups. When preparing seafood, liberally sprinkle the seasoning on the entire piece of fi sh, on both sides, and gently rub into fi sh. Then bake at 350 F, broil, or fry in a pan until fi sh is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.


Why Symmetrical Speeds Are Important

At TEC Fiber, we often talk about how both our 250 Mbps and our 1 Gig plans have symmetrical speeds. But what does that mean exactly? Having symmetrical speed means that the download speed is equal to the upload speed, and this can only be achieved with fiber-to-the-home internet. This may seem unnecessary because most high-speed internet providers only offer packages with much higher download speeds than upload speeds. However, you will soon realize why having fast upload speeds is critical in today’s world.

First, let’s explain the difference between downloading and uploading. Downloading is transferring data from the server to the user. Download speeds are important for browsing the web, reading emails, and streaming online content.

Uploading, on the other hand, is just as significant. Uploading is the process of sending data from your device to the internet. Good upload speeds allow you to share photos, post videos on social platforms, and perform presentations from your computer to multiple devices. It is also useful for photo and media backups. Upload speeds have become even more important in recent years with the increased use of video calls. Poor upload speeds can cause your video to lag or have poor quality. Additionally, good upload speeds can enhance performance for online gamers. This is because when gaming, you are constantly sending data to the server,

whether it is in-game actions or messages to other players during a multiplayer game. Finally, upload speed is critical for cameras, notably security cameras. This is especially true when live viewing from a remote location, as poor upload speeds can drastically decrease the video quality.

Whether you are a hardcore gamer, a business professional, or just want to post content on social media more quickly, upload speed is important. The symmetrical packages that TEC Fiber offers will be able to handle all of your internet needs.

250 Mbps for 77 $ per month 1 G i g for 117 $ per month .50 .50 *Pricing based on discounts offered by TEC Fiber to TEC members. All TEC members who are also signed up for paperless billing on their electric accounts will receive a discount of $5 per month. An additional discount of $2.50 per month is offered to any customer who prepays their monthly fees 12 months in advance. Prices before discounts are $85 for 250 Mbps and $125 for 1 Gig. To pre-register, register, or get more information, go to or scan the QR code with your phone’s camera. * *
Your Clear Advantage for Internet Service

Tree Planting Guide

Spring is nearly here, and that means it’s time to plant flowers, gardens, and trees. Please use this guide to plant trees that will not someday interfere with power lines. Trees interfering with power lines can become a hazard that causes injury, raise rates due to the cost of having to be removed, and even cause power outages if they were to fall into power lines.

Thumb Electric has been working with tree issues for many years. As a result, outages are significantly down, as trees and storms are a significant contributor to outages.

Tree Removal Schedule

2023 power line clearance is scheduled in the following townships.

• Bingham

• Chandler

• Colfax

• Dwight

• Hume

• Huron

• Lake

• Lincoln

• Meade

• Sheridan

• Verona

Small Tree Zone: Trees less than 25' tall/spread at least 25' from line

Medium Tree Zone: Trees 25'–40' in height/spread at least 40' from line

Large Tree Zone: Trees larger than 40' in height/spread at least 60' from line

0' 10' 40' 20' 50' 30' 60' 70' 10' 20' 30' 40' 50'



In 2012, Dakota, now 26, and Garret, now 23, Porter shot an application video to appear on ABC’s ”Shark Tank,” a reality TV show that features entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to a panel of potential investors or “sharks.”

The brothers’ product—an aftermarket LED light system for action sports equipment like snowboards, surfboards, and skateboards—ended up beating out the initial 40,000 applicants and they had hopes of ending up on the show with an investment deal. This is where many “small-town dreamers make good” stories begin, but that’s not quite the case for the brothers’ company, ActionGlow.

The Porters’ story actually starts back in 2012 when the two were just 16 and 13 years old. The Cherryland Electric Cooperative members, like many from the Traverse City area, were avid snowboarders and were looking for a way to trick out their boards to stand out on the hill. They imagined an LED light system that could be attached to their boards, making an impact on their evening runs. There wasn’t anything like it on the market, so the Porters ordered parts, tinkered around, and took their lighting systems out for a trial run a couple of weeks later.

“We went to Mt. Holiday for the first run,” said Dakota. “It felt like everyone on the whole mountain stopped to look. When we hit the bottom, a group gathered, asking where they could buy one.”

That would have been enough for many teens, just the look of approval and high-fives from their friends, but it wasn’t for the Porters.

“ We tell young people that if they have an idea—to go ahead and do it now. There’s so much to learn and so much less to lose. Take the risk because being young is the perfect time to fail.” —Garret Porter
14 MARCH 2023
Owners of ActionGlow, Dakota (left) and Garret Porter (right).

The former Eagle Scouts took their fundraising skills and raised just enough to apply for an LLC and begin the process of patenting their idea. In 2013, the teens took their revised design online. Within 48 hours, the entire stock they’d built sold out.

In the meantime, ”Shark Tank” was gaining popularity, and the brothers made their first audition tape in 2012 for Season 4. They didn’t make it onto the show, but a year and a half later, a producer checked in on the brothers, who were busy taking their product to trade shows and filling orders. They were asked to apply again for Season 6. The brothers obliged, only to get the call that they wouldn’t be moving forward.

“It was disappointing,” said Garret. “But we knew this wasn’t the end of our business, just this particular opportunity.”

In 2016, a familiar ring from Shark Tank producers came with a request to apply a third time for Season 8. And you know what they say about the third time being the charm?

“We were so excited. We knew this was it. We even took our parents to dinner to celebrate,” Garret said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t.”

This kind of disappointment might plant more than a seed of doubt for many entrepreneurs, let alone two young people getting their feet wet in the business waters, but not the Porters.

“We watched our dad and mom work hard their entire lives,” said Dakota. “We never thought this would be easy. We just knew to keep working.”

As the brothers made connections in the business community and with local investors, their business continued to grow. Their product was being refined, allowing them to network with professional athletes and brand sponsors.

After high school, ActionGlow became the brothers’ full-time focus. But Garret hadn’t forgotten about the Shark Tank dream. In 2022, he filled out the application again without telling his brother. A couple of months later, a familiar email came from the show. Garret had to come clean to Dakota, and the two decided—this would be their last try. But much like the grit that comes with action sports—they gave it one big, final shot. That’s what landed the Porters on Season 14 of Shark Tank, eventually leading to the backing from “shark” Robert Herjavec, who made a $200,000 investment and took a 30% stake in the company. This was 10 years after their first audition tape.

“We don’t know what was different this time. Maybe we paid our dues,” said Garret. “But for sure, we tell young people that if they have an idea—to go ahead and do it now. There’s so much to learn and so much less to lose. Take the risk because being young is the perfect time to fail.”

/ActionGlow /actionglow 15 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES
more products and information, visit

TEC Director Achieves Credential in Today’s Electric Utility Competencies

TEC would like to congratulate Director Matt Sommer for recently receiving the Credentialed Cooperative Director certificate from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

An ever-changing business environment has imposed new demands on electric cooperative directors, requiring increased knowledge of changes in the electric utility business, new governance skills, and a firm understanding of the cooperative principles and business model. TEC has a commitment to work through NRECA to sharpen this body of knowledge for the benefit of our members.

The NRECA Credentialed Cooperative Director program requires attendance and demonstrated understanding of basic competencies contained in five core courses:

• Director Duties and Liabilities

• Understanding the Electric Business

• Board Operations and Process

• Strategic Planning

• Financial Decision Making

Dan Hergenreder Jr.

Dan started as TEC’s electrical engineer on Jan. 30. He is engaged to Jacqueline Leader, and they have a dog named Molly. Dan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Kettering University in May of 2021. Before joining TEC, he also worked at Consumers Energy from April 2018–April 2022 and at Siemens from April 2022-January 2023. Dan enjoys hunting, camping, and spending time with his family.

Eric Rutkowski

Eric started as a journeyman lineman at TEC’s Caro Warehouse on Jan. 30. He and his wife, Sara, have two children, Rhett, age 4, and Ellory, age 2. They are expecting their third child in April. Eric was born and raised in Ubly and worked as part of TEC’s summer help when he was fresh out of high school. In 2010, Eric went to America Line Builders Apprenticeship Training Center, better known as ALBAT, in Clark County, Ohio. He topped out in 2013 and worked for electric contractors in Ohio until moving back to Ubly. In his free time, Eric enjoys hunting, being outside, family time, and house projects, as he always works on remodeling something. Eric says he looks forward to a long and rewarding career at TEC.

Employee Spotlight
16 MARCH 2023

In this example, the customer is being charged for the month of April because the bill was sent out in March.

Because this is the first bill, the customer will be charged for the months of February and March, as this is when they received service. The rest of their bills will only have the charges for the upcoming month.


This is a snapshot of what your first bill will look like. You will receive the actual bill via e-mail the month following your installation, and it will not be due until that time.

All fiber bills are billed a month in advance and are due on the 26th of each month.

Fiber Billing Explained

Potential TEC Fiber customers may be interested in knowing how the billing process works for internet service. To begin, fiber bills are completely paperless. You will receive your bill via email each month. Additionally, fiber internet service is billed in advance. This may look confusing on your first bill because you will be charged for the month you received service and the following month. Rest assured that we are not double charging you, and this will be the only time there will be multiple months charged on one bill.

To the left, you will find an example of what your first bill may include. Here, service was connected on February 2, 2023, and this is what the bill you receive in March would look like. You may choose to make payments on this amount before your first billing or pay the entire amount when your first bill is delivered via email/SmartHub.

If you have any questions, we are available to help you Monday–Friday, 8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Please call 800-327-0166.

Statement Of Nondiscrimination

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA (not all bases apply to all programs). Remedies and complaint filing deadlines vary by program or incident.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the responsible Agency or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program discrimination complaint, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027, found online at http:// and at any USDA office or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

1. mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

2. fax: (202) 690-7442; or

3. email:

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Mystery Photo

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Nature Memories

January 2023 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Jason DeLille, a Midwest Energy & Communications Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as Michigan State University Beaumont Tower in East Lansing. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/ August, September, and November/December.


rowing up, our family always kept a flower garden. It was filled with roses, dahlias, and peonies. The Peace rose was my dad’s favorite. He was a WWII veteran, and that rose was named for the celebration of the war ending.

He often traveled for his job and asked me to be the keeper of the garden. I mixed the soil with peat and fertilizer and sprayed the insecticides. I sang to those plants; a chorus of colors sang back. Dusk stepped up the deep-root water soaking. Birds danced in the mist. This garden gave me inspiration for my studies in art and design.

We lived in central Michigan at the edge of the hardwood tree line made by glacier—glaciers over a thousand feet in height. It is a vast land of smooth stones and forest that stops abruptly and then turns to flat, fertile, sandy lands, where sugar beets and potatoes are grown and processed. Evening breezes send the perfume of the potatoes, the beets, and the sulphur of the oil wells. There is a calming rhythm of a well’s pumping, “haw hee...pap pap pap.” A small sludge pond shimmers with a film of blue-green iridescence. Raccoon tracks a hint of last night’s activities.

Come spring, a few abandoned apple trees open their soft, white blossoms. The summer brings sunflowers, purple thistles, and cattails, and intricate colored geometries to our beloved landscape. These forms were the models for my botanical sketch studies. Memories became companions.

This evening I will be tending my garden. Dusk blends its forms and colors. From the corner of my eye, I might catch a flutter and hear the barred owl high in the pines, “whoo choo ha whoo.” The songbirds and purple martins will flit about in the spray of the sprinklers. Later the bats will take over the landscape. Spiders will reweave their webs in the glistening wet grass. My dad, rest in peace, will have a presence there.

About the Author: John is a retired architect and designed prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan for 12 years in the war. He enjoys painting watercolors and cooking with his wife, Mary Louise.

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