Bright Magazine: People 2021

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Proud to


Energizing Yellowstone Support and hope around the clock Decades of safety excellence Gingerbread recipe


Together we are working to deliver a bright future.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE is published four times a year by NorthWestern Energy. The publication is free with postage paid by NorthWestern Corporation d/b/a NorthWestern Energy. It is printed and published by the Communications & Creative Services Department, 11 E. Park St., Butte, MT 59701. Although Bright Magazine is copyrighted, permission to reprint articles is available by writing our office. For address changes or subscription information, call or email: (888) 467-2669 2 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

VOL 1 // ISSUE 2 // PEOPLE Editor in Chief: Bobbi Schroeppel Managing Editor: Erin Madison Creative Director: Brandy Powers Designers: Cassie Scheidecker Jacob Mahan

Production Support: Josh Peck Joanie Powers Gary Robinson Amie Thompson Alissa Byrd

POSTMASTER Send address changes to: Bright Magazine, NorthWestern Energy, 11 E. Park St. Butte, MT 59701 Preferred periodicals postage paid.

Photographers: Contributing Erin Madison Writers: Angie Christiansen Erin Madison Alissa Byrd Brandy Powers Derek Baune Jo Dee Black Amie Thompson Butch Larcombe Hazer Novich Amy Grisak Jo Dee Black Bobbi Schroeppel Alycia Holland Alissa Byrd Mike Cashell Angie Christiansen Kathy Cashell Amie Thompson Cassie Scheidecker Sherwin Distor Printed responsibly

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24 Proud to Power the State Fair

NorthWestern Energy is a proud longtime supporter of the South Dakota State Fair.



Energizing Yellowstone National Park


Celebrating a Half-Century


Meet Our 2021 Summer Interns


Creating Connections, Day and Night


Creating Is Good for Your Soul

A career that spans more than three decades includes close wildlife encounters and lasting friendships. Bobbie Roberts spent 50 years and accomplished many firsts at NorthWestern Energy. Each year, NorthWestern Energy welcomes a new group of interns for the summer. South Dakota’s Helpline Center offers support and hope around the clock. During times of crisis, artists like Kathy Cashell start producing and creating work that reflects the daily struggle of life.

SECTIONS COVER ART by Derek Baune “Capturing rural America is what led me to really love still and motion photography. One of the most iconic summer experiences in small South Dakota communities is the South Dakota State Fair.” Check out @derekbaune with @mileswestcreative on Instagram or Copyright 2021


On A Bright Note


The Bright Side


Bright Spots


Bright Stories


We Are NorthWestern Energy


Bright Idea


NorthWest Corner


Bright Flavors


By The Numbers


Our Roots


Can You Find It? BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 3

\ ON A BRIGHT NOTE We love hearing from our readers. We welcome all your comments, questions and letters to the editor. We’ll edit letters as needed for accuracy, style and length, and we will feature letters in future issues. Write us at: Bright Magazine NorthWestern Energy 11 E. Park St. Butte, MT 59701 Or email us at:

An amazing product that you created. This is something that we all should be proud to share with friends, other businesses and families. You deserve many, many kudos for the excellence you show in this production. - Howard Skjervem, NorthWestern Energy Community Relations Manager, Helena I received a very nice magazine in the mail today. Great work. It looks amazing. A lot of work went into that. - Carson Sweeney, General Manager of Fergus Electric Cooperative, Lewistown


We want to hear from you! In each issue, we’ll pose a question to our readers. Send an email to and let us know your answer.

Next question: What is your favorite outdoor activity? To kick things off, we had our magazine team answer this question:

What is your favorite volunteer activity? My favorite volunteer activity has long been answering gardening questions for people. It’s empowering for everyone to learn how to grow their own food, so it makes me happy to turn novice gardeners into proficient ones. - Amy Grisak Anything that allows me to get outside and get my hands in the dirt is always my favorite! I love when I get the chance later on to drive by trees I’ve helped plant in all the different communities across our service area, and to see them growing and thriving makes me really happy. - Brandy Powers 4 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

I’ve worked on several small trail building projects. It’s incredibly rewarding to see a trail take shape, and it always amazes me how you can transform a bare hillside into a single-track trail over the course of a day (with the help of many volunteers). - Erin Madison I love to coach young athletes and pass my knowledge on to them, even if it isn’t sports related. So many kids just need an extra bit of encouragement and direction in sports and in life/work skills. -Tom Glanzer

I love being involved with outdoor music or live events. Running power and lights. Helping get backline equipment set up. Interacting with the people attending and performing. Watching the performance from backstage. There is an energy that makes it fun and it leaves me filled with excitement and energy for days! - Josh Peck

I’ve been volunteering for years with the Dust to Dazzle Home Tour put on every summer by Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization. I love the historic buildings and houses in Butte, and it’s wonderful to be a part of showing off people’s restoration projects! - Cassie Scheidecker

Correction: The customer growth numbers in the 2021 Community issue of Bright magazine were incorrect. Our graphs showed monthly numbers when they should have been annual numbers. See the updated graphs on Page 34 of the Community issue online at



ur people are our most valuable asset at NorthWestern Energy. When I ask my colleagues what they like best about their job, the answer is almost always, “the people.” I’m lucky to work with 1,530 others who are dedicated to providing our customers with reliable energy. However, our dedication goes far beyond making sure your lights come on and your heater runs. We are also committed to excellent service for our customers, treating everyone with respect, community involvement and conducting our business with the utmost integrity. This issue of Bright magazine focuses on the root of NorthWestern Energy – the hardworking people who make this company a successful organization. Our ability to fulfill our mission and serve our customers depends on employing the best workers. We attract talented employees by offering competitive salaries and benefits, providing a safe work environment, valuing diversity, fostering inclusion and encouraging a healthy work-life balance. Our success comes when employees feel empowered to take initiative, voice their opinions, and build on their experiences within our company and our communities. NorthWestern Energy is proud to employ talented engineers, brave line and gas workers, smart accountants and well-connected community relation managers. And behind every one of our employees and retirees is a story.

Bobbie Roberts spent 50 years at NorthWestern Energy, becoming the first woman to work in numerous positions previously held only by men. Jack Altimus carried bear spray to work and drove a four-wheeler with a bear cage while keeping the lights on in Yellowstone National Park for more than three decades. Outside of her work at NorthWestern, retiree Lisa Cornelius devoted countless hours to the local Humane Society. You’ll meet our next generation of workers through the profiles of this year’s interns. I hope this issue of Bright introduces you to just a few of the members of the NorthWestern Energy family. We’re proud to share their stories with you, and excited to give you a glimpse of the incredible people working behind the scenes, day and night, to serve you with reliable power. Sometimes NorthWestern Energy isn’t portrayed in a positive light on social media and in the news. When things get controversial, we hope we can call on you for support. When others criticize NorthWestern Energy, they’re criticizing our 1,530 dedicated workers and retired workers who are your neighbors, your friends, your fellow community members. We’d like to hear from you on how we can engage our supporters and how we can help your voice be heard when the NorthWestern Energy family is being attacked. Would you like to write a letter to a local newspaper? Or join a community of NorthWestern supporters on Facebook? If you have ideas, please email us at I hope you enjoy this issue of Bright magazine. Our people are the true power behind our company.

Bobbi Schroeppel Vice President of Customer Care, Communications and Human Resources

Connect on Facebook We’ve created a Facebook group for our retirees. We hope this will be a place where you can connect with former colleagues, dust off old memories and share the spirit of NorthWestern Energy. Find the group at, and please invite other retirees in your Facebook network.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 5

\ BRIGHT SPOTS Missoula: When the bucket truck lined up for a community osprey banding event in Missoula fell through at the last minute, Erick Greene, director of the Bird Ecology Lab at the University of Montana, reached out to us. We were able to fill in with a bucket truck and lineman, and the osprey banding continued as planned. There were two big, healthy chicks in the nest at Fort Missoula, atop an osprey platform recently installed by NorthWestern Energy.

There’s so much to celebrate in our region! Here are some highlights from across our service territory (shaded in red).

Helena: NorthWestern Energy Meter Reader JT Lingenfelter was driving a rural route near Clancy, outside Helena, when he spotted a lightning-caused fire at a customer’s home. JT immediately called 911. The owners were away from their home, which is located on 20 acres of densely forested land. “If he hadn’t been there, I don’t know what would have happened,” Becky, the property owner, said. “It could have been devastating for the whole area.” Gardiner: We were a sponsor of the Western Art Show in the Jardine/ Gardiner area. The show featured our Monte Dolack original painting of O’Dell Creek. Bozeman: We were the “Groupie Sponsor” for the Aug. 5 Music on Main event in Downtown Bozeman, held in conjunction with the 2021 Sweet Pea Festival. Big Sky: We were the “Rainbow Trout Sponsor” for Hooked on the Gallatin in Big Sky. This fundraising event supports Gallatin River Task Force’s work to protect the Gallatin River through habitat restoration, water conservation and community education. 6 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

Bozeman: Bozeman electric foreman JR Karo was chosen by T&D World as the June featured lineman. T&D World’s monthly featured linemen receive a tool package from Milwaukee Tool to thank them for their dedication to the line trade.

Billings: The Balloon Rendezvous in Billings featured 11 hot air balloons from across the United States. As a sponsor of the event, our employees helped launch balloons every morning at 5 a.m., and then took part in the chase crew and helped disassemble the balloon after it landed. We also offered bucket rides during the festival.

Boulder: The City of Boulder was able to purchase and install playground equipment at Centennial Park thanks in part to support from NorthWestern Energy. We contributed financially to the purchase of the equipment, and our employees volunteered alongside Boulder community members to construct the playground.

Great Falls: While waiting in line at SMOKED. American Barbecue restaurant in Great Falls, Community Relations Manager Heidi Hockett noticed the long line of military members waiting for lunch. The popular restaurant offers Military Tuesday Specials. Heidi asked the owners if NorthWestern could purchase lunch that day for military members. They agreed, and it was a great way to support a local business while saying, ‘Thank you for your service,’ to some members of our community. BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 7

\ BRIGHT SPOTS Huron: Our employees volunteered during United Way’s Day of Caring in Huron. Despite very warm temperatures, we helped paint areas of the Senior Center, paint 70 tables for the State Fair, fold and sort clothes for Hope and Blessings and build three library houses, which will be painted and then placed in various Huron parks.

Madison: Our very talented Community Relations Specialist Angie Christiansen created a 3D chalk drawing outside our Madison office as part of Downtown in Madtown and National Night Out.

North Platte: We are in the fifth year of an eight-year project to move gas meters from alleys up to the exterior walls of homes and businesses. The locations of meters in alleys is not ideal, and many of the service lines and other materials are due for replacement. We started with about 3,000 meters and still have 1,500 meters to move. 8 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

Sioux Falls: We donated $6,000 to the Sioux Falls Jazz & Blues Society for the Jazz Diversity Project. This will help bring awareness of jazz and blues to the Sioux Falls community and region through musical events and education.

Brookings: We were a major sponsor of the Downtown at Sundown in Brookings, held in conjunction with South Dakota State University students returning to campus. Our employees constructed a booth out of pipe that included an 811 prize wheel. Each segment on the prize wheel had a different learning topic to discuss prior to the handing out of a prize that coordinated with that segment.

Huron: Several Huron employees participated in the 2021 MS Walk/Run at Lake Byron in July. The event raised awareness for Multiple Sclerosis and proceeds were donated to the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National MS Society and directly to the Huron community to support those with MS. BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 9

Bob Brunson gives journeyman lineman Colby Hagan a toolkit that was given to Bob by Colby’s great-grandfather.

Bob Brunson, who worked for journeyman lineman Colby Hagan’s greatgrandfather, connected with Colby when Colby was repairing a streetlight near Bob’s house. 


East Missoula customer gives lineman family heirloom By Amie Thompson NorthWestern Energy customer Bob Brunson is a friendly guy. You know the type. You start as strangers and before five minutes have passed, he knows your entire life’s story. Bob’s that kind of friendly. So, it won’t surprise you that when our Journeyman Lineman Colby Hagan was working on a street light near his house in East Missoula, Bob figured out he used to work for Colby’s great-grandfather. Bob explained how he came to work for Colby’s greatgrandfather, Lloyd. “I used to always hang around his welding shop because your great-granddad had a stock car – a 1932 Essex, which is the prelude to the Hudson,” Bob told Colby. “He finally said to me, as long as your gonna hang out here, I might as well put you on the payroll.” Bob was about 14. He worked for him until he went into the U.S. Navy, and then again, for two different stints when he came home. Bob became a family friend to the Hagans, and Bob always treasured the small toolkit in a leather case that Lloyd had given him. As Colby worked in his front yard, Bob went into his 10 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

basement and found that little toolkit to give to Lloyd’s great-grandson. “Your great-granddad gave that to me in the late ’50s,” Bob said. “In the back of my mind I’d thought I’d like to give that back to his family someday.” Bob shared several stories with Colby of his days at the Hagan Welding & Repair Shop in Missoula. Lloyd started the shop in 1936. His son, Robert Wayne, and grandsons, Paul (Colby’s dad) and Kelly, who died a few years ago, have also taken their hand at the family business. Colby, too, has worked at the shop, but in 2014, chose to go to line school. He started with NorthWestern Energy in 2016. Bob spoke of a machine he called the “putt-putt.” “Is it still there?” he asked. When Colby responded that the crazy, three-wheeled machine that was a precursor to a forklift was still there, Bob said: “Yeah, I helped build that.” After Bob gave Colby the toolset, Colby showed his dad, Paul. Paul knew exactly who Bob was and knew what house in East Missoula was his. “I showed him and he thought that was really cool,” Colby said.


Fourteen-year-old Conner Weber stepped in to help at our booth at Harrisburg Days when we were short-staffed.

By Angie Christiansen

brothers and explained that Conner’s mother, Erin, was working a nearby raffle booth to create awareness and raise money for a new aquatics center in Harrisburg. Whether it is inherited traits or a special gift, Conner’s extraordinary example taught Angie how to be “in the moment” and “go with the flow.” When her co-pilot, Paul Mantz, returned from his emergency, he asked, “Who is this kid?” and followed with, “He could be an intern!” “This is a kid with a bright future!” Angie responded. On behalf of NorthWestern Energy, a special thanks to Conner Weber for showing up, helping out and representing your community!

While at Harrisburg Days over the summer, Community Relations Specialist Angie Christiansen found herself alone at NorthWestern Energy’s booth after her teammate had to leave unexpectedly due a family emergency. “I didn’t even have time to worry about being alone,” Angie said. Local 14-year-old Conner Weber stopped by the booth with his two younger brothers. Instead of herding his brothers on to the next booth, Conner stayed at the booth and did the remarkable. Within minutes of his initial stop, Conner quickly picked up on the information being shared and began fearlessly interacting with and engaging booth attendees with genuine interest and knowledge. For nearly two hours, Conner shared how to identify the different utility flags by color, locating what is underground for a digging project and alerted younger attendees that if you smell gas to tell someone right away. Without being told, Conner jumped in to help, stayed when he didn’t have to and showed the heart of the Harrisburg community. “During that two hours with Conner, I learned the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, when it comes to serving, courage and personality,” Angie said. Conner’s father Cory, who works for the National Guard, came by the booth to scoop up the younger

This is a kid with a bright future!

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 11

The crew at Thompson Falls Dam has gone more than 34 years without a lost-time accident.



Voluntary is a key part of the VPP process. All employees have to be dedicated to achieving the designation. “You can’t force a program like this on people,” said Chris Magnuson, safety and environmental professional at NorthWestern. Each year, the entire crew at each VPP site gets together and makes a list of safety goals and priorities. “We put a lot of things on that list every year,” Noel said. “And we get the support and resources we need to complete those things.” Over the years, that has meant new LED lighting in areas with no lighting or poor lighting, new decking and catwalks, new access doors and staircases, additional handrails and more. When a team truly adopts the VPP mindset, it can have a big impact. The average VPP worksite has a lost workday incidence rate at least 50% below the average of its industry, according to OSHA. Only 0.02%, or 2 out of every 10,000, workplaces nationwide are VPP certified.

When entering the powerhouse at Thompson Falls Dam, one of the first things you’ll see is a large digital sign showing the number of days without a lost-time accident. As of Aug. 31, 2021, that number was 12,541, or about 34 years and four months. Our hydro crew at Thompson Falls Dam recently received the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Decades of Excellence Award, as did our crews at Hauser, Holter and Madison dams OSHA’s VPP recognizes work sites committed to effective employee protection beyond the requirements of OSHA standards. VPP-designated sites are required to comply with all OSHA and NorthWestern Energy safety rules, and are also required to go above and beyond in terms of safety. In return, VPP sites are removed from OSHA’s programmed inspection list. The Decades of Excellence award honors 10 years in that program. Joining VPP has made a huge difference, said Noel Jacobson, foreman at Thompson Falls Dam. “It really has improved safety and continues to improve safety,” Noel said.

You can’t force a program like this on people

Visit our newly designed website! Community Relations Specialist Angie Christiansen inflates a balloon during Downtown at Sundown in Brookings. 


For the Downtown at Sundown event in Brookings, South Dakota, we were a “Powered Up” level sponsor. So we decided to base our booth on the Disney movie “Up,” about an elderly man and a young boy who embark on an adventure by tying thousands of balloons to the man’s house. Rolls of yellow piping made the base of our hot air balloon, a gas meter display attached to the base gave the illusion that the hot air balloon was being powered by gas and a large bunch of balloons made for a unique booth that was easily seen in a crowd of people. The lines of people at the booth proved that bubbles, balloons and a bit of humor was a perfect way to evoke a smile while leaving a memorable impression.

Scan this QR code with your phone’s camera to check out our newly designed website.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 13




Jack Altimus, left, works alongside Paul Griffis and Gabe Webster in Yellowstone National Park.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 15

Old Faithful Lodge is illuminated at night. 

Jack leans against a backup diesel generator at Old Faithful in 2006. 

Three-plus-decade career includes close wildlife encounters and lasting friendships Jack Altimus spent more than three decades energizing Yellowstone National Park, an accomplishment NorthWestern recognized and celebrated as Jack prepared to begin his first summer off since the 1980s. “The millions of visitors who come from all over the world each year (to Yellowstone National Park) couldn’t have that experience without the service our employees help provide,” NorthWestern Energy Chief Executive Officer Bob Rowe said. “It is a privilege to serve the park, and Jack sets the tone for the interactions we have with the visitors and people who work here. He loves this place.” It’s a love story that began when a young Jack visited his father, a lineman in Yellowstone National Park, at work in the winter. “I decided then this is where I wanted to work, and it was made possible by my 35-year career with this company,” said Jack, who spent 33 of those years as a lineman and the town manager for Yellowstone National Park. He retired from NorthWestern Energy in June. 16 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

NorthWestern Energy employees gathered to celebrate Jack’s retirement. 

Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Mike Tranel presents Jack Altimus with the Superintendent’s Challenge Coin. 

The Superintendent’s Challenge Coin depicts 23 bison at the Roosevelt Arch, representing the 23 bison present when Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872. 

Yellowstone National Park contracts with NorthWestern Energy for electric service. Our system in the park is uniquely designed to minimize the footprint of our infrastructure. Repairs tackled with bucket trucks elsewhere require linemen in Yellowstone to climb a lot of poles, said NorthWestern Energy Division Manager Pat Patterson. The work also requires unique equipment, such as a four-wheeler with a bear cage. Keeping an eye out for wildlife is just part of the job, Jack said.

So are strong relationships. “My people in Yellowstone National Park, they are like family,” he said. “I could not ask for a better career.” Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Mike Tranel presented Jack with the Superintendent’s Challenge Coin, which recognizes exemplary service and support of the park. The coin features 23 bison at the Roosevelt Arch. “It represents the 23 bison present when the park was established in 1872,” Mike said. Today there are more than 5,000 bison living in the park. “We couldn’t have done that without partners,” he said. For more than three decades, Jack’s dedication was key in a very successful partnership with NorthWestern Energy. Retirement means summers off and nights, weekends and family time without the interruption of calls about power outages. “I am looking forward to spending a lot of time with our grandson,” Jack said. Although not unexpected or unplanned, Jack’s final day on the job was a surreal experience for all. “People always ask me ‘Do you know Jack?’ when they find out where I work,” said NorthWestern Energy Foreman Jeremy Peterson. “Everyone in the park knows Jack.” “They might not look like it, but these shoes are a lot bigger than they look,” said NorthWestern Energy Journeyman Lineman Josh Edwards, pointing at Jack. “They will be hard to fill.” BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 17

The West Thumb Microgrid is completely isolated from the power grid. A solar array charges supercapacitors that supply power to the area.

In remote areas of Yellowstone National Park, microgrid technology is helping us keep the lights on 18 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

By Erin Madison

West Thumb has worked as expected, and we have learned things that will be helpful for us when we deploy more microgrid systems in the future.

Bright Magazine: The Environmental Issue Our next issue of Bright magazine will focus on the work done by our Environmental Team. We know having the privilege to be your energy provider comes with both a profound obligation and wonderful opportunity to be good stewards of the environment. Subscribe to Bright on our website at

As the electric provider for Yellowstone National Park, NorthWestern Energy once had a substation to serve West Thumb, which was the site of a large campground, cabins, a photo shop, a cafeteria and a gas station. “This used to be a pretty big place,” said Jack Altimus, who worked as a lineman in Yellowstone for 33 years. In the 1980s, the National Park Service removed most of the services at West Thumb, including the substation, in an effort to protect the geyser basin. A small bookstore, housed in a historic ranger cabin, remains. Until last year, it was powered by a small generator. In late May 2020, we installed a microgrid in West Thumb. The microgrid is completely isolated from the power grid. A solar array charges supercapacitors that supply power to the bookstore. West Thumb was a perfect spot to pilot our new microgrid technology – it’s an easily accessible location, and the electric load of the bookstore is relatively small. With the success of the West Thumb Microgrid, we recently installed a second microgrid to power the Bechler Ranger Station in the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. “West Thumb has worked as expected, and we have learned things that will be helpful for us when we deploy more microgrid systems,” said Pat Patterson, manager of the NorthWestern Energy Bozeman Division. At the Bechler Microgrid, solar panels charge lithium iron phosphate batteries, which store energy to be used at night or when it’s cloudy. The Bechler Microgrid has a 39.6 kilowatt solar array and 192 kilowatt hours of battery storage. The Bechler Microgrid powers four historic Park Service buildings and three new employee homes. The microgrid at West Thumb is a similar design, but uses supercapacitors, which store electrical energy in the form of an electrical charge, instead of lithium batteries. It has about 200 kilowatt hours of storage capacity. The bookstore needs about 30 kilowatt hours per day, so the microgrid could run for four to six days without the sun shining. Since the store is only open spring through fall, the storage should be more than adequate. Yellowstone does present some unique challenges for installing microgrids. Crews had to be extra careful when boring holes that they didn’t run into thermal features. The solar panels had to be high enough that elk couldn’t rub against them, and the wiring was installed in a way that would prevent elk from snagging their antlers on it. BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 19

HALF-CENTURY Bobbie Roberts spent 50 years at NorthWestern Energy and was the first woman to hold several positions in the company By Erin Madison When Bobbie Roberts started with NorthWestern Energy, then Montana Power Company, 50 years ago, there were no female meter readers in the company, no female dispatchers, and no women working in hydro plants.


Bobbie held all of those positions during her 50year career, and was the first woman to do so, paving the way for many women who followed. She’s also the first employee to serve 50 years with NorthWestern Energy.

In 1971, Bobbie was hired to work on the service desk in Bozeman. At the time, each division had its own service desk to answer customer outage calls and dispatch field crews. She worked in that position for two years, and mentioned that if the company would ever consider having a female meter reader, she’d be interested in the position. “Next thing I knew, I was reading meters,” Bobbie said. “There was no reason not to have a woman do it.” The job didn’t require lifting or carrying anything heavy. “All you were doing was walking around reading meters and dealing with dogs,” Bobbie said. At that time, meter readers didn’t have cellphones or radios in their trucks, which meant if Bobbie got stuck on snowy, rural roads, she was on her own.

“If I got stuck, I pretty much had to walk to find a place where I could call,” she said. “I learned to put chains on.” Bobbie enjoyed her time as a meter reader, being outside, walking and driving backroads. “I got to be outside, and I was pretty much on my own,” Bobbie said. Five years after starting with the company, a position opened at the Colstrip Power Plant. Bobbie and another woman both applied for it. Bobbie got cold feet, and the other woman took the job, becoming the first woman to work at Colstrip. Shortly after, Bobbie applied for a position at Thompson Falls and got the job. “I took care of wiping down the generators, wiping down oil and keeping the floors clean,” Bobbie said.

Bobbie, in her iconic orange hard hat, walks into the sunset after five decades with NorthWestern Energy.

Photo by Alycia Holland Photography @alyciahollandphotography BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 21


I have the old Montana Power hard hat. When they see that orange hat, they know it’s me.

She also did yard work in the summer around company housing. She ran the crane on the dam to pull boards for high water and to remove trash from the dam. And she trained to be a hydro plant operator to cover when other workers were on vacation. To Bobbie’s knowledge, she was the first woman in Montana to work in a hydro facility. Bobbie loved her time in Thompson Falls. She picked huckleberries and made close friends. However, she wasn’t able to do some of the physical labor required in her job, and had to ask for help from her male co-workers. “It wasn’t fair to the guys to have to do that on top of their own stuff,” she said. A position opened in the dispatch center in Butte, and Bobbie took the job – once again the first woman in the position. “That was another opportunity for a woman, being in the right place in the right time,” she said. Bobbie worked in the control center for the rest of her career. “It’s what I’ve been doing for the last 40 years,” she said. “The industry has changed a great deal, but basically what I do now is what I started with in Bozeman.” As an electric transmission operator, Bobbie controls transmission lines, taking them out of service when crews need to work on them, and keeping the grid in balance. “It’s very safety-conscious work,” Bobbie said. It’s also very intricate and

An undated photo of Bobbie with her colleagues. 

complex work. Bobbie found the best way to understand what goes on in the control center is to see what happens in the field. Bobbie has spent many of her days off going to visit crews working on transmission lines. It’s helped her understand the intricate workings of our power lines. “I like working with the guys in the field,” Bobbie said. “I have the old Montana Power hard hat. When they see that orange hat, they know it’s me.” These days NorthWestern Energy hard hats are white, so Bobbie’s bright orange hard hat, a holdover from the old Montana Power Company, which was purchased by NorthWestern Energy, stands out. Spending much of her career as the only woman in a male-dominated field was never an issue for Bobbie. “The guys have been good to me,” she said. Bobbie’s hard work and dedication clearly played a role in advancing her career, but Bobbie also credits timing for some of her success. Traditionally male positions

Bobbie, who spent 50 years with NorthWestern Energy, works at her desk in the control center.

Bobbie spent 40 years working in the Control Center. 

opened up to women as more and more women worked outside of the home. “It was always the man who did the work; it was always the husband who provided for the family,” Bobbie said. “That has changed a lot.” “I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time for three of the positions I worked,” she added. Bobbie retired from NorthWestern Energy in July 2021, but she doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon. Her retirement plans include volunteering, driving back roads and traveling. “That’s why I stayed working for so long, because I needed something to do,” she said.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 23

For more than 10 years, NorthWestern has been the namesake of the NorthWestern Energy Freedom Stage.



NorthWestern Energy is a proud longtime supporter of the South Dakota State Fair. For more than 10 years, NorthWestern has been the namesake of the NorthWestern Energy Freedom Stage. In 2019, we gave the stage a “touch” of a facelift with the amazing help and vision of NorthWestern Energy Creative Services. During the initial planning 24 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

Photos by Derek Baune

of the redesign, we lost a big part of our NorthWestern Energy family and legacy when Warren Lotsberg passed away. Warren was a State Fair commissioner and worked for NorthWestern Energy for 25 years. He was vice president of public affairs and government affairs, he was our chief lobbyist and most people knew him as the voice and face of NorthWestern.

NorthWestern Energy Community Relations Manager Tom Glanzer hands out prizes at our booth.

A 4-H goat gives the camera a curious look.

Rides light up the night at the fair.

Community Relations Specialist Angie Christiansen, Community Relations Manager Tom Glanzer and Communications Intern Alissa Byrd enjoy some food on a stick.

NorthWestern Energy District Superintendent Ricky Nelson enjoys the fair with his grandson.

In remembrance of Warren’s legacy, we held a ribbon cutting with the State Fair Board and our NorthWestern staff to officially open the “Warren Lotsberg NorthWestern Energy Freedom Stage.” The South Dakota community looks forward to the state fair every year and so does NorthWestern Energy. The fair is more than just an annual event. It is

an experience that brings the community together, and we are very fortunate to have the role in powering the South Dakota State Fair.

Scan this QR code with your phone‘s camera to watch a video of the South Dakota State Fair.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 25

Meet our 2021 Summer Interns Each year, NorthWestern Energy welcomes a new group of interns for the summer. From researching electric vehicle chargers to designing and creating brochures for customers, our interns have the unique opportunity to learn the behind the scenes of working in the utility industry. 26 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

Sherwin Distor Title: Marketing and Communications Intern School: University of Nebraska Hometown: Sioux Falls, South Dakota Major: Marketing Favorite task during your internship? My favorite task has been working with developers and community members around Sioux Falls, Tea and Harrisburg. We do a lot of work in these areas, so it’s nice to meet the people living there. Favorite thing about NorthWestern: The people and the culture is fantastic. Everyone is so kind and welcoming that I felt right at home on my first day on the job. Future plans: I’m going into my junior year this fall, so for the next two years, I plan to focus on college. After graduation, I plan to further my education through a master’s program or pursue my interest by working in the energy industry. Before that, however, I want to travel around and experience different cultures. I think it would be really cool to visit Japan.

Matthew Leners Title: Intern Financial Analyst School: Iowa State University Hometown: Ames, Iowa Major: Actuarial Science Favorite task during your internship? I really enjoyed the variety of things I’ve been given to work on. A few that stand out are researching ESG (environmental, social and governance) and presenting my findings, as well as looking into electric vehicle chargers, brands, and the electrical requirements of them. Favorite thing about NorthWestern: My favorite thing about NorthWestern is the people who work here. All of the people I worked with were happy to help me with any questions I had, and they went out of their way to make me feel welcome, whether I was in the office or working from home. Future plans: I’m planning to graduate in the spring. After graduation I plan to work in finance or insurance. I am also considering grad school for finance or economics.

Benjamin Pond Title: Data Science Intern School: South Dakota State University Hometown: Ipswich, South Dakota Major: Mathematics Favorite task during your internship? Learning to use Tableau and build dashboards for reports. Favorite thing about NorthWestern: Everyone has been very helpful during my internship. It’s been nice to get support while getting situated. Future plans: Return to South Dakota State for a graduate degree in statistics.

Tanner Kump Title: Meter Upgrade Communications Intern School: Montana Tech Hometown: Butte, Montana Major: Business and Information Technology

Riley Walsh Title: Electrical Engineering Intern School: Montana Tech Hometown: Butte, Montana Major: Electrical Engineering

Favorite task during your internship? Assisting in the creation and design of the Montana meter upgrade webpage and brochure. Favorite thing about NorthWestern: The people. I have met so many great workers at this company who have brought me in and treated me like an adult, not an intern. Future plans: Finish up both degrees in December, hopefully continue to work for NorthWestern Energy.

ft, m le in o r f njam e rns, nte ers, Be e Butt i y erg w Len de th i e n En ern Matth se outs t s Hydro Licens We stor, po fice h t d r i r e Complianc f No win D a By al O Intern Joseph e s r r s Hagengrube i e n e m She nd Al a r collects croinvertebr G a ates in a M ontana cree Pond k.

Favorite task during your internship? My favorite task working as an intern would have to be learning the net metering process. Favorite thing about NorthWestern: NorthWestern Energy has to be my favorite company of all time. The way they give back to the community and their employees is unmatched. Future plans: I plan to graduate from Montana Tech with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. After I graduate, I would love to work in my hometown of Butte, Montana, for NorthWestern Energy.

Joseph Intern ngside e c n a alo pli fson e Com ples water n Tolle Licens m Hydro ber, left, sa sional Jorda fes gru na. Hagen pliance Pro m in Monta m a o D C stic Hydro at My BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 27

Alissa Byrd Title: Internal and External Communication Intern School: University of South Dakota Hometown: Huron, South Dakota Major: Media and Journalism: Strategic Communication Favorite task during your internship? I have worked on various projects since I have started this internship, but my favorite project was assisting with creating the new company website. It’s always amazing to see the transformation process of an old website to a new website! Favorite thing about NorthWestern: The people I work with within my department. I love seeing what other people visualize creatively because everyone sees things in a different light, and that is something I have always found fascinating. Teamwork makes the dream work, right?! Future plans: I graduated from college in May and recently moved to Sioux Falls. So, right now, you could say I am adjusting to “adulting” life. My plans involve growing my career in the marketing and communications world, as well as traveling as often as possible!


Joseph Hagengruber Title: Hydro License Compliance Intern School: Carroll College Hometown: Helena, Montana Major: Environmental Science

Lucas Gibb Title: Engineer Intern School: Duke University Hometown: Billings, Montana Major: Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science

Favorite task during your internship? Performing fish surgeries on trout species in the Clark Fork River near Thompson Falls. NorthWestern Energy is conducting a fish utilization study to see how fish use the fish ladder. I helped with the collection of fish, and implanting radio telemetry tags to monitor and track the fish. Favorite thing about NorthWestern: The resources and funding the company puts into maintaining a healthy and safe environment. NorthWestern Energy prides itself in creating a clean and sustainable energy source. The company is committed to supporting fisheries, habitat and wildlife monitoring projects around the state of Montana. I feel very fortunate to work and represent NorthWestern Energy. Future plans: I hope to move on and get my master’s degree in fisheries biology or fisheries management.

Favorite task during your internship? Designing my own projects because I have more freedom and that is also when I feel like I am applying my engineering knowledge the most. Favorite thing about NorthWestern: The co-workers! The Bozeman division is very welcoming and a great place to learn and work. Future plans: Graduate from Duke in 2023 and either pursue a job where I’m using both of my majors or continue my education and get some sort of master’s in engineering.

By The Numbers: Our Internship Program

2015 Year the intership program was relaunched

60 Number of interns who Nick Clawson Title: Grid Operations Engineer Intern School: Montana Tech Hometown: Billings, Montana Major: Electrical Engineering Favorite task during your internship? Next day studies. Favorite thing about NorthWestern: A great learning environment to get me introduced into the world of power systems to determine what the correct path for my future career is. Future plans: To graduate from college with my degree in electrical engineering and pursue a career in power systems.

have gone through the program

16 Number of interns who have been hired for permanent positions

Scan this QR code with your phone’s camera to meet some of our 2021 interns.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 29

As part of her internship, Alissa Byrd visited Thompson Falls Dam and created a virtual video tour of the facility.

The Connections We Whenever I am asked why I chose a career in communications, I jokingly answer that I have always loved talking. No. But, really. That’s how I discovered my passion for working in the communication industry. For my final paper in my Strategic Communication course my senior year of college, we had to interview someone who worked in 30 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

the communication industry. I chose NorthWestern Energy’s Community Relations Manager Tom Glanzer who is a family friend. I knew Tom personally, but I knew very little about his work at NorthWestern Energy. While interviewing Tom about his work, I realized how alike we are. Tom mentioned in high school, his English teacher commented that he

was socially gifted. “Which means I probably talk too much,” Tom said. “It’s one of those things that you probably don’t get a pat on the back for until later on in life when you’re able to translate that into your career.” Similar to Tom, I was told by one of my English teachers that I was a “social butterfly,” but I don’t recall that it was intended as a compliment.

Angie Christiansen, Alissa Byrd and Tom Glanzer play a game at the state fair during a photo shoot that Alissa spearheaded. 

Alissa Byrd shares her experience as a NorthWestern Energy intern

Create When I was younger, I took the comment more negatively, but now I see how my love of talking is actually a strength. The “social butterfly” in me has helped me naturally have confidence in communicating throughout my life and professional career. The interview with Tom brought me to this internship, which has been a great opportunity to learn

the behind the scenes of operating NorthWestern’s Creative Services department. In college, you take the courses and learn as much as possible. It isn’t until you apply that knowledge in the real world that true learning begins. In the first month of my internship, I directly applied the knowledge from a previous course toward a video editing project and was able to further enhance my skills and confidence. Adaptability is a crucial strength to have in life. While volunteering for NorthWestern Energy at the state fair this year, I was entrusted with executing a photo shoot for this same magazine issue you are reading. The idea for the photo shoot came at the last minute, so I had to be adaptable to make it happen. The photographer, Derek Baune, was phenomenal, and everything turned out perfectly. We captured the majority of the shots in 20 minutes. One of those photos happens to be this magazine’s cover photo. Communication is so much more than just simply talking. The impact of your message is what someone remembers. A vast amount of creativity and thought-process goes into every single communication

piece. It’s like a puzzle to me, and I enjoy putting the puzzle together piece by piece. My advice to all young 20-somethings is to never be afraid to be who you are. Sometimes that very thing someone else views as “different” might be your greatest strength. Apply yourself and show the world what you have to offer. Apply for that job you’ve been eyeing. Apply for that internship you’re interested in. Network with everyone you meet, and more than anything, gain as much experience as possible along the way. We all start somewhere and your dreams are always achievable, but first, you have to believe in yourself enough to chase them.

Scan this QR code with your phone’s camera to check out a video produced by Alissa during her internship. BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 31

Creating Connections, Day & Night South Dakota’s Helpline Center offers support and hope around the clock By Erin Madison In 2020, the phones at South Dakota’s Helpline Center were ringing off the hook. The Helpline Center, which offers information, referrals and crisis support by answering calls to 211 South Dakota, received more calls, emails and text messages in 2020 than in any previous year. “2020 was a difficult year that brought an abundance of uncertainty with a global pandemic that impacted everyone in some way,” Helpline Center CEO Janet Kittams wrote in the organization’s annual report. “With a grateful heart, I’d like to personally thank the Helpline Center staff for their dedication and compassion working long hours as we answered a record number of calls from people looking for answers and support.” Helpline Center staff responded to 80,309 calls, emails and texts in 2020, compared with 48,920 in 2019. NorthWestern Energy is a proud sponsor of the Helpline Center and 211 South Dakota. In 2020, we were one of the top donors, giving more than $10,000 to the organization, nearly $6,000 of which was donated by our South Dakota employees. 32 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

The Helpline Center offers crisis support 24 hours a day, seven days a week to those who dial 211 in South Dakota. It’s the state’s only accredited suicide prevention, intervention and aftercare organization. Each state operates 211 a little differently. In many states it’s run through a United Way with the focus on providing support and referrals to non-profit and government entities for people who need help with basic needs, financial concerns and disaster support. In South Dakota, 211 doubles as a suicide prevention line. “Because 211 is so much easier to remember, we’ve promoted it as a number to call for mental health concerns because getting people the help they need is most important,” said Wendy Dooley, Marketing Director at the Helpline Center. NorthWestern Energy understands the importance of suicide prevention. Our service territory has some of the highest rates of suicide in the United States. Montana had the third highest rate of suicide in 2019, and South Dakota had the seventh highest. Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in South Dakota and Nebraska, and seventh in Montana.

Like many things in 2020, the Helpline Center had to shift its prevention work and training to virtual opportunities. The organization continued to offer mental health trainings, while redesigning how those trainings are delivered in an online learning environment. One program that had to move to a virtual platform was the Helpline’s Suicide Survivor Support Program. This program is critical to many as the grief experienced by suicide loss survivors is unique and those left behind often struggle with guilt, shame and confusion, which can lead to a sense of isolation, depression and suicidal thoughts. “We knew that our survivor support programs and prevention trainings were necessary so our staff worked to develop virtual options,” Janet wrote. “They have been well received not only for the convenience but also for the ability for us to reach people across South Dakota.” In addition to mental health support, the Helpline Center provides information to anyone seeking help – whether it’s financial, family, health or disaster-related. For example, a woman called 211 and said she was behind on her rent and utilities because she was laid off. She shared that it had been a very hard year with the pandemic. Her son who lived in California passed away, and she wasn’t able to grieve his loss in the ways that she wanted. Helpline staff was able to provide her with a listening and supportive ear, and referred her to options for financial assistance to help with her rent and utilities. In 2020, the Helpline Center assisted 10,249 South Dakotans with utility service payment assistance. No matter how simple or complicated their request, the Helpline Center is there to give South Dakotans the help they need.

You are not alone If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. Help is available. In South Dakota: Dial or text 211, or download the 211 Helpline app.

In Montana and Nebraska: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Starting July 2022: Dial 988 anywhere in the U.S. to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

How we offer assistance to our employees One of my favorite memes reads: The three hardest things to say are: I was wrong, I need help, Worcestershire Sauce. It’s hard to ask for help (almost as hard as pronouncing Worcestershire). But in the spring of 2020, I realized I had no choice but to reach out for assistance. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I moved from Great Falls, Montana, where I had lived for 13 years, to Helena. It was a move I was excited about, but I wasn’t expecting to be isolated at home in a new town where I only knew a few people. Just before the pandemic changed all of our lives, my Grandma died. The memorial service we had planned had to be canceled. All of that, plus the uncertainty of what was going on in the world was too much. One morning, before I even got out of bed, I found myself in tears. I knew I needed to take the hard step of asking for help. I called NorthWestern Energy’s Employee Assistance Program and they were happy to pair me with a local counselor. My counselor turned out to be amazing. She supported me through my COVID anxiety and so much more. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stigma around seeking mental health treatment. But there shouldn’t be. Seeing a counselor isn’t a sign of weakness and it doesn’t mean you’re “crazy.” It’s easy to feel like what you’re going through shouldn’t be a big deal, but no problem is too small to be helped by counseling. Asking for help is hard and it takes courage. But being able to talk to someone who will listen to me without judgment has made this trying time so much easier.

Employee Assistance Program NorthWestern offers a no-cost benefit available to employees and their dependents to assist when facing difficult life challenges. • Up to six counseling sessions per issue per person per year. • 24/7 telephone and online access. • Telehealth services are available, including video counseling, telephone counseling and online chat. BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 33

Mike and Kathy Cashell built a sanitation station for their daughter’s classroom to get her students excited about cleaning their hands.


is good for the By Brandy Powers

During times of crisis, artists start producing and creating work that reflects the daily struggle of life. Kathy Cashell’s art tells a story – of challenge and triumph. Moments that are captured and shared through multiple media. Kathy teaches us – in any discipline, shape, with any material, with physical or emotional challenges, no matter who sees it or if it is only for your eyes – creating is good for your soul. Spend five minutes with Kathy Cashell and you instantly realize you are in the presence of an immense talent. Her passion to make the world a better place is contagious. She puts her heart and soul into all her endeavors to weave beautiful stories delivered through the multiple media she practices from her Sand Creek Studio in Butte, Montana. While art has always been a presence throughout Kathy’s life, her career took twists and turns that converged during the pandemic. As a licensed practical nurse, Kathy treated patients with many viruses. She stays connected to her medical profession, even as her career evolved through the years to other forms of service work. After working in nursing at a long-term care facility, Kathy moved into public service and worked for the State of Montana for 23 years in four different agencies, most recently with Child and Family Services Division. Kathy also went back to college and became a certified paralegal and worked in the field of law for 10 years. As a wildlife artist, she began

traveling to art shows with her work more than 25 years ago. When COVID hit, it was her art that she put to work. Kathy has always enjoyed creating art. Her mother was an artist, and she says it was in her DNA. With her medical background, Kathy understood the potential impact of a pandemic. She wanted to help, and her artistic talents provided her an avenue to create something to keep people safe. “I’m a person that is always thinking ahead of the plan,” Kathy said. “As we were all watching this unfold on the television in January, I started thinking about our family. I had a nephew that was in the epicenter studying at Shanghai University in China, which is only about two hours from Wuhan.” As it became apparent the virus spreads through the air, masks became scarce. So Kathy did what she does best. She got creative and gathered supplies to make masks. BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 35

Captions clockwise from top left: Mike Cashell cuts holes in the sanitation station. The sanitation station holds hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. A swell of sunflowers, a symbol of resilience, whimsical colors and hidden messages invite students to clean their hands. Photos by: Mike and Kathy Cashell


“I found a mask-making Having both art and tutorial from the Great engineering as a family Falls Clinic, and because dynamic comes in handy at I like to tailor things to best times. represent people’s interest, “I’m no masterI ordered special cotton carpenter, but Mike is always material with many different supporting my ventures. patterns and kept evolving He was willing to step right my filter supplies to make in when it came time to cut sure what I was sending holes for the mason jars out was premium quality that hold hand sanitizer and and something my family wipes with exact precision.” and friends would find Together, they created comfortable, safe and would an embellished handlike to wear. sanitation station that “I think one of my represents the dispensation favorite masks was the of creativity and thoughts of Smokey the Bear one I made positivity as motivation for a for Mike.” Kathy said. She is task that seems so mundane married to Mike Cashell, vice at this point. A swell of president of transmission sunflowers, a symbol of at NorthWestern Energy, so resilience, whimsical colors she knew how the company and hidden messages was transitioning through the invite students to clean their pandemic – as he, like so hands. many others, started working When asked to reflect from home. on the past couple years, Over the course of Kathy responded, “When the pandemic, Kathy has we think about hope, we produced more than 500 have to think about a whole masks that she gave to picture of hope. It’s a family, family, teachers, health community, business that  Standing outside her studio, Kathy displays a quilt she care professionals, energy help each other.” made using scraps from the 500 masks she made during the pandemic. workers and more. As word She explains, “I have spread about how unique such admiration for Bobbi the masks were, representing school colors and special Schroeppel,” Mike’s colleague and the vice president of interests — like her brother’s love of fly fishing — the customer care, communications and human resources, requests flooded in. who leads NorthWestern Energy’s COVID response “When I walked in to my doctor’s office recently and incident command team. “I would hear her voice trail saw my doctor wearing the mask I made, my heart swelled downstairs sometimes when Mike would be on a call from a little bit,” Kathy said. his home office, and to have someone that was leading When the Cashells’ daughter Courtney, a teacher, the charge that wasn’t afraid to stand up for what was right brought home an idea to build a sanitization station to get and what needed to happen during such a challenging her students excited about cleaning their hands, Kathy time – that leadership and guidance at a time when transitioned her medium from cloth to wood, recruited her everyone was struggling – is a charge to be admired. husband and rolled up her sleeves. “Seeing our leadership rise up – that gives me hope “We call our daughter the Pinterest princess. She against anything that might happen next. I know this is always pitching these crazy ideas she comes across company will do what is right and throughout it all they and she knows her mom is up for a challenge. When she were willing to stand up for each other, alongside their showed me her idea and told me I had artistic freedom – community.” of course I couldn’t resist.” BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 37



ANIMALS NorthWestern Energy retiree Lisa Cornelius has spent 29 years volunteering with the Humane Society By Erin Madison


Ever since she can remember, Lisa Cornelius has had a deep love of animals and a concern for their welfare. Growing up, everyone in her neighborhood knew to contact Lisa if a dog or cat was missing, since she took on the unofficial role of animal control. “My parents never knew what animal I was going to bring home next,” she said. As an adult, Lisa shifted her passion for animals into volunteering with the Humane Society. Lisa has volunteered with the organization for almost three decades and has spent 14 years as president of the Board of Directors for the Beadle County Humane Society in Huron, South Dakota. “I am dedicated to promoting respect for all animals and to the prevention of suffering and neglect through education, public service, adoptions and animal owner responsibility,” Lisa said. She got her start in 1992 when a friend invited her to a Humane Society meeting in Aberdeen, South Dakota. “From that point on I have been involved in any and all aspects of a humane society,” Lisa said. She volunteered and served on the board of directors in Aberdeen until 1999, when she started her career with NorthWestern Energy and moved to Huron. She began volunteering there and then joined the board. She took on the position of president in 2007, and has served in that role ever since. In Beadle County, the Humane Society is also animal control. Lisa and her husband recently purchased and donated a van for that purpose. She’s also helped organize fundraisers, revamp the website and launch a presence on social media. Lisa spends about 300 hours a year volunteering with the organization. “Lisa is a driving force behind the shelter’s success,” said Kimberly Krueger, executive director of the Beadle County Humane Society. “Lisa shares our passion to make sure all animals are heard whether that be from spearheading shelter fundraisers to help with the care for the critters or being a voice in the board room.” Lisa recently retired after 22 years with NorthWestern Energy where she worked in Business Technology as a customer solutions technologist. NorthWestern Energy always supported Lisa’s volunteer work, even contributing hours of work and grants. “NorthWestern Energy has been an extraordinary longtime supporter for the Beadle County Humane Society by providing funds for everything from fundraising events to grants for construction and remodel projects,” Lisa said. One of Lisa’s favorite events she’s helped with as

By The Numbers: Our Volunteer Programs NorthWestern Energy encourages employee volunteerism by offering paid time off for volunteer activities.


up to donated to each nonprofit organization our employees serve through our Employee Volunteer Program

$100 donated for each

employee who volunteers at an event through our Team Grants

$35,400 awarded to 79 nonprofits

through the Employee Volunteer Program and Team Grant Program in 2020

a volunteer was a two-week-long challenge between NorthWestern Energy’s offices in Huron and Sioux Falls. The event was to see which office could raise the most money for dogs in honor of National Take Your Dog to Work Day. Fundraisers were held at both locations – root beer float days, silent auctions, hot dog lunches and more. Canine members of the greater NorthWestern family got to come into the office a few times during the challenge as well. Lisa is now retired from NorthWestern Energy, but she’s not cutting back on her time at the Beadle County Humane Society. “My love for animals is my motivation to rescue, protect and help provide care for and be a voice for those who cannot speak,” she said. Now she’ll also have more time to spend on her farm outside Huron and with her animals – horses, cattle and her rescue dogs – three Yorkies and a golden Lab. BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 39



t of r A the

Gardening By Amy Grisak

Editor’s note: In each issue, gardener and writer Amy Grisak will share a Bright Idea that readers can try at home. Passing on gardening wisdom, whether it’s mastering the basics or growing the perfect tomato, is all part of the rich tradition in the Master Gardener Program found throughout the country. With a goal of educating home gardeners, as well as creating a knowledgeable volunteer organization to assist local Extension offices, these are the folks in-the-know when it comes to horticulture. Originating in King and Pierce counties near Seattle, Washington, in 1973, the Master Gardener Program grew out of necessity. With the rise of home gardening during that period, the Extension office was inundated with horticulture questions. Because many of the Extension agents were agriculturally focused, the thought was to train members of the public to be able to assist the agents and answer questions from home gardeners. The result is the program we know and love today that educates avid growers to learn horticulture from the ground up, encompassing soil health to the art of pruning trees and everything in between. At a most basic level,

A basket of Copra onions, Amy’s favorite variety.


participants take classes, either in person or now online, to gain a solid foundation of gardening principles, as well as developing a deeper understanding of more complex issues. What these classes look like varies from state to state. In most states, such as South Dakota and Nebraska, there is a single Master Gardener class. Once the participants pass the final exam, they are required to fulfill 40 hours of volunteer time. After they complete these requirements during the first year, to maintain their qualifications they need to continue with between 20 to 40 hours of volunteer time each year, along with 10 hours of additional training every season. It is a thorough and rigorous program, and as a result, is amply rewarding in both the knowledge base and ability to help others. In Montana, which is a little different, there are three levels of Master Gardener courses. Dara Palmer, Montana Master Gardener coordinator for Montana State University Extension, said level one is for those who are beginners or those who haven’t  A mailbox gardened for a while. Level in River City Harvest’s two is a bit more advanced, delving into Community soil health and more technical aspects Garden in Great of gardening. And level three is “the top Falls allows echelon of the program,” as Dara called gardeners to leave questions it. It is an intensive hands-on course. for master gardeners.

Students study diseases and insects under the microscope. They also tour the Montana State University orchard, pollination garden and CSA garden, along with practicing the art of pruning during a workshop. This is what gardeners call a seriously good time. The result from any of these programs is an expert volunteer with the well-earned title of Master Gardener. “I think it’s a really good way to give back to your community doing something you love to do,” Dara said. “We are one of the largest volunteer organizations in the United States.” The beauty of the Master Gardener program is there is something for everyone. Even for a person who has never put a seed in the ground, he or she will walk away having the confidence to grow their own food or flower garden. And for those who have grown plants for years, there is always something new to learn. Kari Aguayo of Great Falls, Montana, decided to jump into the level one course to boost her Young gardening chops. cabbage plants grow “I’ve been gardening for 10 years, but in a garden. nothing ever did very well,” Kari said. “I started out watching a bunch of videos on YouTube to up my intimidated by the amount of volunteer hours required, the garden game.” But she still wasn’t satisfied. After reality is when you’re doing something you love, time is focusing on specifics for each kind of crop or plant, she fleeting. It’s an absolute joy for most. thought it would be better to take a more comprehensive For novices and experienced gardeners alike, the course to give her a view of the bigger picture. Master Gardener program offers a wealth of experience This thought, coupled with the COVID situation, from decades of science-based gardening wisdom. So inspired her to take the level one Master Gardener course whether it’s the quest for the perfect tomato, or wanting to from the Montana State University Extension office. The learn how to raise a garden like your grandmother, it is an level one course was offered as an online option for the excellent foundation for a lifelong passion. first time in 2020. Kari felt the COVID situation was a wake-up call. For more information on the Master Gardener Program: “We just need to be sustainable,” she said. “My greatMontana: grandparents gardened. They had bees and trees and Nebraska: veggies and we kind of lost that. Maybe we should get South Dakota: back.” yard/master-gardener-volunteer-program Kari spent her volunteer hours working at a kids’ garden that works closely with the Boys & Girls’ Club to teach the kids how their food grows. It was a perfect fit. Besides Amy Grisak is an avid gardener and writer. Her writing the on-the-ground experience, Kari appears in everything from the Farmers’ Almanac to appreciates being able to bring her own Popular Mechanics, and her first book, “Nature Guide children to help so they can learn right to Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks,” is now along with her. Plus, she’s working side available. Amy lives in Great Falls, Montana, with her by side with other gardeners. two sons and her husband, Grant, who is a biologist Although many people are initially with NorthWestern Energy.


BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 41

NORTHWEST CORNER If you’re looking for a historic pit stop while traveling through eastern South Dakota, consider stopping in De Smet during your next road trip. Founded in 1880, this “little town on the prairie” is a must-see for any Midwesterner or lover of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Known as the “Home of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” De Smet offers visitors a place to witness her legacy. The Ingalls family arrived in 1879 and spent their first winter at the Original Surveyors House, the oldest building in the town. This small town offers several things to do from visiting historical sites to enjoying covered wagon rides on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead. Spend just an afternoon or an entire day in De Smet witnessing the historic charm for yourself. Rise and Shine. Live like a local and enjoy breakfast at the Oxbow Restaurant. After all, nothing quite compares to a freshly cooked meal made in a small-town


South Dakota

restaurant. If you arrive early enough, make sure to order a delicious homemade caramel roll (or two). “The Sizzler” is a hearty meal to start your day off right. It includes two eggs, two slices of bacon, hash browns and two slices of your choice of toast. Don’t worry if you can’t make it in time for breakfast. They are open all day long, so you are sure to find another delicious option on the menu. Enjoy Your Stay. Relax and experience the town’s nostalgia during your stay. The Heritage House Bed and Breakfast offers a place to rest your head and enjoy freshly served breakfast, while the experiencing the historic charm of De Smet. Originally built in 1888, this historic corner building is close to local shops and only a couple blocks from the Original Ingalls Home that Pa built. Learn About De Smet’s History. De Smet is historically remembered for being the home of the famous Laura Ingalls Wilder. Visitors can take a guided tour at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, located in the heart of De Smet, 105 Olivet

Ave. The tour includes the Original Surveyors’ House, the Original Ingalls Home built by Charles “Pa” Ingalls and the Original First School of De Smet attended by Laura and her sister, Carrie. During the tour, you will see exactly how life looked for Laura. These historic buildings are filled with memorabilia that makes the tour feel like you’re living just like Laura did. Arrive early to spend some time looking through the gift shop before your tour. The tour lasts around an hour and 15 minutes, so plan your day accordingly. They kindly ask visitors to call ahead and schedule a tour. Hours of operation and tour times change depending on the season. If you aren’t visiting De Smet soon, but you’re still interested in learning all about Laura’s heritage, visit to purchase a virtual tour that brings Laura’s story to life from the convenience of your mobile device. The little town on the prairie offers another option for visitors to get the full experience of life during the 1800s. Visit Laura Ingalls Homestead and take a covered wagon ride across the prairie. During your tour, you can expect several fun-filled activities along the way, including learning how to twist hay, wash clothes on a washboard, making a jump rope and more. Visitors can complete the tour in two hours, but they welcome you to stay as long as you like. Visit to learn more. BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 43

#pictureyourselfhere Take a selfie with the angel wings

Shop Like Laura. The Loftus Store is a must-see while visiting this historic town. If you’re familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books, you may recall reading about Mr. Loftus and the Loftus Store. The store is located in the same original building from the 1800s that Laura wrote about, 205 Calumet Ave. SW. If you’re looking for Laura Ingalls Wilder souvenirs, The Loftus Store is the perfect place. The store offers a variety of options and every tourist is destined to find something to remember this little town on the prairie, including T-shirts, books, décor and more. Or if you have a green thumb, check out the flower shop connected to the store and browse the house plants and flowers. Capture the Moment. Pictures are always a must, but especially when visiting a new place. While you are adventuring in the town of De Smet, make your way down to the corner of 2nd Street and Calumet Avenue. You will find a mural of angel wings painted against a historic 44 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 1

brick wall. Strike a pose with all of your new souvenirs or if you’re with company, take a fun group picture to remember your De Smet trip! Iced Coffee and a Read Please. While walking through the shops of De Smet, stop into De Smet Mercantile & Coffeehouse, 213 Calumet Ave. SW, to continue your shopping and grab a coffee while you’re there. Options are far from limited when stopping here for a refreshment or a treat. They offer everything from espresso drinks and chai tea to frozen lemonade. Not only do they serve a variety of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverage options, but they also serve delicious local SDSU ice cream. This family-owned store has a little something for everyone. You can find just about anything on their shelves. Shop from a variety of book selections to children’s toys, home décor or scented candles. Sit Back and Relax. Take a moment to sit down and enjoy your coffee at the local Ingalls Wilder Park, located right across from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. This small park is the perfect place to take a break, enjoy the scenery and relax during your historicfilled day.



Gingerbread has a long history. According to some accounts, it can be traced back to ancient Greece and Egypt. It was a favorite treat in medieval Europe, and then was brought to the new world by English colonists. Although Laura Ingalls Wilder never wrote about gingerbread in her “Little House on the Prairie” books, she was known to bring gingerbread cake to socials and parties in her adult life, according to PBS. This recipe is based on Laura’s handwritten gingerbread recipe. She typically served her gingerbread with chocolate frosting, the recipe for which has been lost.

INGREDIENTS 1 cup packed brown sugar ½ cup shortening 1 cup molasses 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 cup boiling water 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ginger 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon clove ½ teaspoon salt 2 large eggs, slightly beaten


1 2 3 4 5 6

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Blend sugar and shortening in a large bowl; stir in the molasses. Measure 1 cup of boiling water in a 2-cup measuring cup. Add the baking soda and mix well. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and the spices. Mix eggs into molasses mixture and then alternate adding flour mixture and baking soda water. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until cake is done. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Total employees: 1,530 Total employees over time:

Montana employees:


2020 – 1,530 2019 – 1,533 2018 – 1,532 2017 – 1,560 2016 – 1,559

South Dakota employees:


(As of Dec. 31 for each year)

Nebraska employees:

Average tenure:

13 years


Employees represented by


of Montana employees are represented by a union



of South Dakota/ Nebraska employees are represented by a union

Employee gross payroll: $164.1

Montana gross payroll:

$132.6 million


South Dakota gross payroll:

$28.8 milion


Nebraska gross payroll:

$2.7 million

Workforce diversity: Total employees


Executive team

Minority group








of total employees

Retired Workforce: Montana


total retirees Annual retiree payroll in Montana:

South Dakota/Nebraska



total retirees



$2.5 million

Annual pension plan benefit payments:



50/50 Women on Boards™ recognizes NorthWestern Energy for gender diversity on our Board of Directors 50/50 Women on Boards™, the leading global education and advocacy campaign driving the movement toward gender balance and diversity on corporate boards, recently commended NorthWestern Energy as a “3+” company, for having three or more women on its corporate board of directors. With three female directors — Britt Ide, Linda Sullivan and Mahvash Yazdi — representing 37% of our corporate board seats, we have made a purposeful business decision aligning with independent research

that demonstrates when three or more women serve on a board, profitability, productivity and workplace engagement increase. “Our experience is that board members who bring different perspectives, who challenge one another constructively and who ultimately come together to support a direction, help both the board and management make better decisions,” NorthWestern Energy Chief Executive Officer Bob Rowe said.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 47

The Story



Behind the Book

Deep in the bowels of the former NorthWestern Energy/ Montana Power Company building at 40 E. Broadway in Butte were rooms filled with filing cabinets and banker’s boxes chock-full of the work of accountants, lawyers, engineers and others. This subterranean repository was also home to decades of history, much of it tied to Montana Power, which was formed in 1912 and eventually became part of NorthWestern Energy. Within that historical trove were hundreds of photos from the construction of hydroelectric dams across Montana over the first half of the 20th century. Those images, many of them faded or wrinkled, tell the story of a growing state and its thirst for electricity to meet the needs of mines, railroads, lumber mills, street cars, businesses and homes. I find them fascinating. While some of the photos found use in historical fact sheets tied to centennial celebrations at a few of the dams, fueled by the belief the photos should be more fully shared and preserved, I landed on a bigger idea: How about a book that could capture some of the history of the dams and display the photos in more cohesive, public fashion? But as is the case with so many grand ideas, the grind of day-today work and life sapped that early enthusiasm. Those riveting photos spent several years in a box in my office, shoved aside but not forgotten. When I retired from NorthWestern Energy early in 2019, the box of photos made the trip from my office in Kalispell to the company’s new General Office on East Park Street in Butte. I suspected

those photos, which a few years earlier had been liberated from the East Broadway catacombs, would soon be reburied with nary a tear being shed. But on a whim, not long after I had completed work on another long-term project, the idea of a book about the dams was rekindled. I emailed a Hail-Mary pitch to the folks at NorthWestern. A few months later, the company graciously signed on. The result is “Golden Kilowatts: Water Power and the Early Growth of Montana.” Along with an overview, an attempt to put some historical context around the halfcentury of dam construction, the book includes brief accounts of each of the 11 dams currently in operation in the NorthWestern hydro system. There are also accounts of others once owned or constructed by Montana Power, including Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ (formerly Kerr) near Polson, Flint Creek near Philipsburg, Milltown near Missoula and the original Canyon Ferry Dam outside Helena. While none of the dams were constructed by NorthWestern Energy, there is strong sentiment tied to the dams among current and former employees. When the purchase of the dams from PPL Montana was announced in 2014, the email inbox of CEO Bob Rowe was quickly loaded with messages from one-time “river rats” hailing the news.

The “hydro deal,” in addition to securing valuable renewable generation to serve NorthWestern’s customers, also provided a jolt of new energy to the company and its employees, past and present. It’s an honor to capture a little bit of the history in “Golden Kilowatts.”

“Golden Kilowatts: Water Power and the Early Growth of Montana,” researched and written by Butch Larcombe and published by NorthWestern Energy, is priced at $20 and is available at: Montana Historical Society, 225 N. Roberts, Helena, MT, 406-444-2694 The History Museum, Cascade County Historical Society, 422 2nd St. S., Great Falls, MT, 406-452-3462 Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, 17 W. Quartz, Butte, MT 406-782-3280. All proceeds benefit historical societies statewide. Scan this QR code to purchase online.

Butch Larcombe worked as a newspaper reporter and editor in Montana for nearly 30 years and was also the editor and general manager of Montana Magazine. He worked in corporate communications at NorthWestern Energy for six years before leaving the company in 2019. Originally from Malta, Montana, he now lives near Bigfork. BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 49


DO YOU RECOGNIZE THE LOCATION OF THESE PHOTOS? Send us your guesses to be placed in the drawing for a prize. Guesses should be specific such as naming a feature in the photo or giving the exact location. Send your guesses to Be sure to include your name, mailing address and phone number so we can contact you if you’re a winner.


MONTANA Answers from the Community issue Montana: The bridge pictured crosses the Missouri River at Toston. We had two correct answers and selected Sean D. of Townsend as our winner. Nebraska: This statue stands outside the courthouse in Grand Island. No one correctly identified that location.


South Dakota: This railroad crossing is located on the northeast side of Huron near Ravine Park. We did not receive any correct guesses. Better luck next time! BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 51

A publication of: NorthWestern Energy 11 E. Park St. Butte, MT 59701

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