Bright Magazine: People 2023

Page 1

VOL 03 PEOPLE MAY 2023 A PUBLICATION OF NORTHWESTERN ENERGY Cultivating Diversity Power Poles & Gold Records NorthWest Corner: Grand Island, Nebraska Almond Fruit Tower Recipe Dedication to Service

Although Bright Magazine is copyrighted, permission to reprint articles is available by contacting our office.

For address changes or subscription information, call or email:

(888) 467-2669

Editor in Chief: Bobbi Schroeppel

Managing Editor: Erin Madison

Creative Director:

Brandy Powers

VOL 3 // ISSUE 1 // PEOPLE 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.

Designers: Cassie Scheidecker


Production Support:

Joanie Powers

Gary Robinson


Jo Dee Black

Alissa Byrd

Amy Grisak

Erin Madison

Brandy Powers

Cassie Scheidecker

Eric Thorsrud



Jo Dee Black

Alissa Byrd

Cyndee Fang

Amy Grisak

Butch Larcombe

Erin Madison

Brandy Powers

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



By Paul Kjellander

Paul Kjellander, former National Association of Regulator Utility Commissioners President, former Idaho Public Utility Commission President and Senior Advisor at Public Utilities Fortnightly, created his painting, “Dedication to Service” at the request of retired NorthWestern Energy CEO Bob Rowe.

12 Dedication to Service

Retired NorthWestern CEO Bob Rowe commissioned a painting by Paul Kjellander as a parting gift for NorthWestern employees.


16 Model Employee

Welder-Fitter Andy Lesiak re-creates NorthWestern Energy vehicles as model cars.

24 Spreading Cheer

Havre employee Terry Leonard spreads joy with his Christmas light display.

32 Safety and Smiles

NorthWestern employee carries on a family tradition by dressing up as Louie the Lightning Bug and Sniffy the Sniffasaurus.

34 Power Poles & Gold Records

NorthWestern Energy ground worker has a gold record.

36 Day of Caring. Day of Doing.

NorthWestern’s Dennis Heinz helps organize volunteers every year for United Way’s Day of Caring.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 3
SECTIONS 4 On a Bright Note 5 The Bright Side 6 Bright Spots 36 We are NorthWestern Energy 38 NorthWestern Cares 42 Our Roots 44 NorthWest Corner 47 Bright Flavors 48 By The Numbers 50 Can You Find It?


A customer from Joliet, Montana, called to thank everyone who had a hand in getting services restored despite the terrible weather. She said she and her family are very grateful and wanted to thank NorthWestern Energy for always providing great service.

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:

A customer sent this note after talking to one of our customer service representatives: “Every time I call NorthWestern Energy, you are all so helpful, kind and patient. It’s always a pleasure to do business with you.”

A South Dakota customer sent this note: “Whoever was in charge or had anything to do with the work during the ice storm before Christmas did a great job!!! Absolutely amazing that we had power during that whole time. You guys are top notch and great at your jobs!! It is an honor to have you guys taking care of our area. Keep up the awesome work. You are all special people and we could never repay you for everything you do for us!”

A customer called to say how much he appreciates how fast the Billings, Montana, crew got his power back on this morning. He is on oxygen, so he appreciates all that we do to get the power back on.

A customer in Billings, Montana, called to change accounts to her name from her husband’s name after he passed away. She said she had been avoiding calling us as this change had been difficult with some other companies. At the end of the phone call, she said, “If I had known that it was so easy and painless, I would have called sooner. Thank you for making such a hard time a little easier.”

We received this note from a customer after calling due to electricity issues: “The crew got here within 20 minutes and went straight to work. Eventually there were three of them. They knew what they were doing, and got right to the problem which was a bad cable buried 5 feet in my yard. They kept me informed about what was going on and showed me their work. They finished up within a few hours and my power was back up and running without issue. Did I mention it was 3 degrees outside? Anyway, I just wanted to commend everyone that was involved. This was the first time dealing directly with NorthWestern Energy and I was blown away by the awesome service.”

We appreciate it when our customers take the time to extend a thank you to our employees. Here’s what some of our customers said recently:

When I moved to Montana in 2021 to take the position of Director of Regulatory Affairs at NorthWestern Energy, I didn’t entirely know what to expect. As an Asian-American woman, I knew I would be a minority at NorthWestern Energy and in Montana. It was such a beautiful surprise to arrive and feel completely welcome. No one seemed to bat an eye at my skin color; everyone seemed more focused on my move from sunny San Diego, California, to snowy Helena, Montana.

I was born in Taiwan, and my family moved to the United States when I was 2 so my father could pursue a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering at a university in Tennessee. After he graduated, we moved to Sacramento, California, and as an adult, I settled in San Diego, where I worked for San Diego Gas and Electric. For my two sons growing up in California, race was not an issue for them, and I’ve been so happy to see that no one treats them differently here in Montana, either.

For my part, I have found NorthWestern Energy to be incredibly inclusive. From my first day on the job, I felt like I had a seat at the table and that my thoughts and opinions were listened to and valued. Diversity is important, but without inclusion – the willingness to listen to diverse views and opinions – diversity doesn’t mean much.

When I first thought about writing this column, I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk about my race. I’ve never been one to raise my hand and call myself out. However, the fact is, whether I point it out or not, I don’t look like most of my colleagues. In Montana, about 1% of the population is Asian, but that doesn’t mean Montana is a hostile environment. In my experience, it’s been just the opposite – an incredibly welcoming place that my family and I are now happy to call home. At NorthWestern, I found colleagues care more about my skills and experience and my fit and willingness to be part of the team.

At NorthWestern, I am lucky to work with an amazing group of 1,530 dedicated employees. It’s thanks to all my hard-working colleagues that we’re able to keep the lights shining and the heat running even in the harshest conditions. The employees here are quick to step in and help a co-worker in need. And while it’s a tight-knit bunch, they’re also incredibly welcoming to new employees. Since joining the company two years ago, I moved into the position of Vice President – Regulatory. At all levels of the company, I have found everyone to be eager to share their knowledge with me and to be interested in what I bring to the table.

I hope you enjoy reading this issue of Bright magazine. In the People issue, we aim to share a glimpse into what makes our employees and retirees so amazing. You’ll read about a South Dakota employee who has led our United Way Day of Caring efforts for more than a decade. You’ll also find a story about a Montana lineman who plays in a band and earned a gold record when one of his songs became a TikTok hit. The stories in this magazine are just a few examples of the incredible people whom I’m proud to work with at NorthWestern Energy.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 5


Thompson Falls – Our Thompson Falls hydro facility celebrated a huge safety milestone in February. It’s been more than 35 years since a team member from Thompson Falls Hydro has missed work due to an on-the-job injury. The five-member crew demonstrates how NorthWestern Energy’s core safety value, “striving to do our jobs safely and securely every day, without fail and without exception,” is an integral part of our mission.

Butte – Dylan Swanson, Real Estate Representative for both the Butte and Bozeman Divisions, was featured in the International Right of Way Association’s Leader’s Edge January newsletter. Dylan is a member of the IRWA and is the treasurer and education coordinator for the state chapter.

Butte – Our Customer Care team hosted an orientation for the new customer service representatives in February. It was great to see them all getting acquainted!

Butte – NorthWestern recently recycled various electronics from the Butte offices. Our e-waste recycling events are held twice a year with the help of recycling company Yellowstone E-Waste.

Butte – NorthWestern sponsored the 2023 annual meeting of the Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society in Butte. Nearly 150 people attended the meeting, and more than 30 fisheries professionals contributed papers and presented.

Bozeman – We were proud to sponsor the Bozeman Public Library’s Children’s Festival of the Book. Our partnership helped bring Newberry Honor-winning author Shannon Hale and author/illustrator Molly Idle to Bozeman for a fun-filled day to get kids excited about reading and self-expression. More than 530 people attended the public event, and 1,330 children attended author/illustrator visits at six different schools.

There’s so much to celebrate in our region! Here are some highlights from across our service territory (shaded in maroon).
Butte – NorthWestern Energy is helping power the electric Zamboni at the Butte Community Ice Center.

Helena – Our Leadership NorthWestern Class volunteered at Helena Food Share and packed more than 650 food bags for the community.

Bozeman – NorthWestern sponsored the Women in Engineering Event at Montana State University in February. The event was attended by Brandi Hellwinkel, System Asset Manager; Molly Hirschi, Asset Management Analyst; Alexandria Maruska, Supervisor of Gas Operations; and NorthWestern Energy Board Member Britt Ide.

Boulder – Jeremy Clemens, Human Resources Manager, and Carrie Harris, Hydro Engineering Manager, presented the 2021-2022 Academic Excellence Award to Jefferson High School. The Montana High School Association honors the school in each class with the top average GPA among student athletes. NorthWestern is proud to sponsor all the awards given by MHSA.

Carbon County – A spring snowstorm caused ice buildup on power lines across Carbon County in late March. Snow that followed then stuck to that ice, pulling down more than 50 spans of power lines, breaking 13 power poles, damaging others and causing power outages throughout the area. NorthWestern Energy crews began repairs as outage reports came in on Friday night. Customers in Joliet, population 577, were out of power until Saturday evening. Some rural customers waited until Sunday afternoon to have power restored.

A huge thank you to our crews who worked through the night to restore power and to the local residents who supported our crews!

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 7

NorthWestern Energy earned Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) Emergency Recovery Award for our work following the May derecho in South Dakota and the June flooding in Montana. Presented to EEI member companies twice a year, the Emergency Response Awards recognize recovery and assistance efforts of electric companies following service disruptions caused by extreme weather or other natural events.

We were recognized by Newsweek as one of America’s Most Responsible Companies for 2023. “This recognition honors NorthWestern Energy’s century-long commitment to provide customers with reliable and affordable electric and natural gas service while also being good stewards of the environment,” said NorthWestern Energy President and Chief Executive Officer Brian Bird.

Rapid City – NorthWestern Energy attended the Spring Career Fair at the South Dakota School of Mines.

Mitchell – Our employees visited students at the Power Line and Gas Technician Career Fair at Mitchell Technical Institute. The event was attended by Daren Allerdings, Electric Operations Supervisor; Mike Baumgarn, Electric Operations Supervisor; and Erin Walstead, Human Resources Generalist.

Corsica – NorthWestern Energy employees Chris Punt, Apprentice Line Technician, and Travis Van Dyke, Line Technician, along with their team Rexwinkel Concrete, brought home the championship win for the State Amateur Basketball tournament. Chris received the MVP award!


Brookings – South Dakota State University hosted Montana State University in December to determine which team would advance from the semifinals to the National Championship. We asked our employees to predict the score for a chance to win a $500 donation to the nonprofit of the winner’s choice on behalf of NorthWestern Energy. South Dakota State advanced to the National Championship and beat Montana State, with a final score of 31-17. Kris Palmquist, district superintendent in Clear Lake, had the winning guess, with a predicted score of 30-17. Kris selected the Deuel High School FCA as his nonprofit of choice.

Madison – We’re proud of our community relations specialist in Madison, Angie Christiansen, for her participation in a special project designed to celebrate the achievements of all women.

“Her Vote. Her Voice.” was created by the South Dakota State Historical Society in 2019 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Christiansen created 14 pieces of artwork depicting important figures who fought for women’s right to vote, while her mentee, then-high school student Grace Clark, made six.

The artwork will be featured in a flashcard deck distributed to every fourth-grade classroom in the state. Most South Dakota students learn about state history starting in fourth grade.

Sioux Falls – We enjoyed meeting lots of young scientists at the Women in Science event held at Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls – NorthWestern Energy attended the BIG Career & Internship Fair in Sioux Falls. Read more about Michelle, pictured above, on Pages 18-19.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 9


For the past two years, Jaison Carriger, NorthWestern Energy Supervisor of Gas Control, and his family have organized “Grinch Night” in Butte, Montana. It started with his family trying to have a little fun during the COVID lockdown, and it has grown into a holiday fundraiser the whole community has come to look forward to. For one night only, Jaison transforms into the Grinch and his antics treat onlookers to a fun and easy way to view the Grinch from the comfort of their car.

To top things off, neighborhood kids set up and operate a hot cocoa stand, where passersby can make donations. In 2021, they raised close to $800 for Reece and Kotie Dunmire’s Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In 2022, they raised $2,067 for the Ramsey Keller Memorial, in honor of Grace Ann Ueland. The Ramsey Keller Memorial is a nonprofit foundation that supports families who have endured infant loss. For more information on the memorial, please visit

 “The Grinch” is pictured here with his family.


NorthWestern Energy was privileged to assist with the renovation of the Montana Veterans Memorial in Great Falls, Montana, which honors more than 8,000 veterans.

NorthWestern Energy Journeyman Lineman Rick Hedstrom oversaw the installation of three new flag poles at the memorial. In addition to Rick’s time, NorthWestern Energy provided a line truck for the installation.

Montana Veterans Memorial Association President Star Darko and Maintenance Supervisor Herb Gilmour presented Rick and NorthWestern Energy with a Certificate of Appreciation.

The Montana Veterans Memorial is “A Place of Honor,” and we thank all those who dedicated their time and resources to the memorial and to all who serve our nation.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 11

About the Cover Art: Dedication to Service by Paul Kjellander

Paul Kjellander is an impressive artist whose paintings are on display throughout the Gem State, including in the Idaho State Capitol. His work is often featured in Public Utilities Fortnightly Magazine. Bob Rowe is a connoisseur and strong supporter of the arts community. So naturally he requested Paul craft a painting for NorthWestern Energy. It was intended to be a parting gift for employees to thank them for their dedication to service As Bob stated in an employee letter, “It has been an honor to work with you, to meet our customers’ most essential energy needs. As a NorthWestern customer, I am still counting on you!”

When Bob asked Paul for the piece, Paul’s response was absolutely – it would be a lot of fun. At the time, Paul was doing a series of paintings of linemen and various work crews at utilities in part for a book he is illustrating for author Steve Mitnick. He started this piece by diving through a library of NorthWestern photos and the “snowy men out there in the dead of winter, trying to restore a line,” quickly caught his attention.

“To me, it just spoke volumes to the environment these linemen and work crews are faced with all the time. There are no ‘snow days’ for linemen.” In Paul’s words, “The painting represents the hardy nature of trying to provide energy during all the extreme challenges throughout vast territories with smaller, rural populations, which means a lot of infrastructure that needs to be maintained and the potential for all the natural events that make providing that service really difficult. It is a beautiful illustration to share how much work and dedication to service it takes to keep the power and the lights on.”

In addition, Paul expertly paired the integration of the infrastructure to the landscape and environment.

“I know NorthWestern has a huge environmental desire to be good stewards of the land across their service area, so I wanted to work in some wildlife to the background,” he said.

A talented and accomplished artist, he was cognizant of the repetition of the elk and put intricate detail into the overall composition.

The painting is on display in the Butte General Office located at 11 E. Park St. Prints are available at the office and by request by emailing:

A lifelong learner, Paul is still active across the energy sector. He served as President of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC), having been appointed to four six-year terms beginning in 1999. He was the longest serving president of the IPUC. He recently retired from state service, yet he is still very active in the industry, now working as a consultant. His new work through the Idaho National Laboratory focuses on advanced energy resource development. You can follow Paul’s work through Public Fortnightly and a soon-to-be developed website that will make his art more widely available.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 13

Bob Rowe is the retired CEO of NorthWestern Energy, and also former Montana Public Service Commission Chair. Former National Association of Regulator Utility Commissioners President Paul Kjellander, also former Idaho Public Utility Commission President, is Senior Advisor at Public Utilities Fortnightly.

This article was originally published with permission to reprint by Fortnightly Magazine - February 2023.

Public Utilities Fortnightly is a forum for key stakeholders to contribute to the conversations surrounding regulatory policies and issues that impact the energy industry. It includes about 250 utilities, industry organizations, utility regulatory bodies, other governmental agencies, vendors, professional firms and advocacy groups.

Bob retired as CEO of NorthWestern Energy at the end of 2022. He led the energy company during a 14-year period, an amazing length of time for any CEO. Bob sat down for a chat with Paul.Here is a snippet of their conversation. To read the full article, visit (February 2023 Magazine).

Paul Kjellander: Your history with NorthWestern Energy involves deregulation, bankruptcy and being a commissioner at the Montana Public Service Commission.

Bob Rowe: I started with the Montana Commission in ’93.

Montana Power was successfully diversified into a range of adjacent businesses. Unfortunately, rather than managing risks, they doubled down on telecommunications investment and, at the same time, decided



to support complete restructuring at the supply level.

That led to divestiture of the entire generating fleet in one sale and redeploying the proceeds in telecommunications, which was potentially the highest growth of their competitive businesses, but also the riskiest. At the Commission, we were challenged with managing through that, focused on customer protection, creating rules, and trying to engage in the western market.

The challenge was that the state and Montana Power made a betthe-farm choice on divestiture rather than a more gradual approach to market opening.

Dealing with supply restructuring was challenge enough, but as Montana Power transitioned into being a telco, which ended up in a liquidation bankruptcy, Northwestern Public Service came in, committed to the utility operation, and acquired the distribution system. I, at the time, was delighted to have a company come in that wanted to be in the utility business.

Ultimately, NorthWestern had its own challenges as a result of its aggressive diversification out of the regulated utility business that led them to doing the right thing, going into a reorganization bankruptcy in order to shed all of the nonregulated businesses. I helped lead the State of Montana’s participation in that bankruptcy, with a focus on what kind of company we wanted to serve the State of Montana.

The people in the utility operation were always committed to providing good utility service, and that was key.




Paul: You took the reins of NorthWestern Energy 14 years ago, when it was a troubled utility. What were the biggest issues you had to resolve?

Bob: There are the soft issues and there are hard issues. On the soft side, I spent a lot of time inside the company and outside asking questions, listening to people.

My focus was on rebuilding trust with employees, whether they were originally with Montana Power Company or Northwestern Public Service, and especially with the senior management team, many of whom are still serving today. Rebuilding trust outside the company involved working with customers, policymakers and community leaders.

In the financial area, we needed to move our credit ratings up and to improve the nature of equity ownership.

There was a lot of work to do on the financial side. I want to highlight Brian Bird who was then CFO, and is now CEO. He joined the company during the bankruptcy, to help lead the company out of bankruptcy.

Paul: With the Montana service territory, you had to end deregulation, not something that had been done before. You had to acquire generation and turn it back into a vertically integrated utility.

Bob: There was important legislation in Montana before I joined NorthWestern that allowed for approval of generation additions, either construction or purchase, and that was a key to restoring the ability to serve Montana.

On the generation side, the only nonutility asset that NorthWestern owned by the time they managed to exit everything else through bank-

ruptcy was 222 megawatts in Colstrip Unit 4 that had never been in rate base in Montana. Ultimately, the Montana Commission decided to put that portion of Colstrip Unit 4 into rate base. That was the first generation asset we owned in Montana, dedicated to serving our customers.

We next built a gas plant intended to keep the system stable, integrating all the wind that was coming on to the system. That was a key addition in 2011.

Then, we acquired the hydro system of 11 dams that had been sold by Montana Power to PPL. That is the crown jewel of our Montana supply portfolio.

Paul: Your board of directors renamed one of the company’s dams the Rowe Dam at Mystic Lake. What’s next for you?

Bob: I was beyond shocked that happened. Our board chair made the joke that he’s used to saying, “damn Rowe,” not “Rowe Dam.”

In terms of what’s next, I love this industry and I believe in its mission, so I want to stay involved. I don’t know in what capacity. Both my wife, Melanie, and I are involved in a number of nonprofits, and we’re going to be putting a lot of time into that.

What I’m going to miss is the day-to-day working with people on things that matter. That was why I was eager to join NorthWestern to begin with, working with good people in a part of the country I love on things that matter.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 15

Model Employee

When Andy Lesiak started at NorthWestern Energy in 2007 as a welder-fitter in Grand Island, Nebraska, he was assigned a 1996 Ford welding truck.

“That was the truck I drove when I first started here 15 years ago, and it was old then,” Andy said.

The truck left an impression on Andy, enough so that he decided to re-create it as a model car. Andy went to great lengths to capture every detail of that first welding truck. He started with a model car kit, which included the cab, interior and chassis. The back of the truck he built from scratch, with storage bins, spools of pipe and welding equipment. He added the NorthWestern Energy logo to the door. Andy captured every last detail to make the model truck look just like the real thing.

Andy got his first model car kit when he was about 9, and made many model cars as a kid before putting the hobby aside as a teen.

“You get your license, and then there’s girls and life,” he said.

Andy decided to start making model vehicles again a few years ago after he got a 3D printer. He estimates he has made about 200 model cars.

“I’ve got like another 250 model kits I haven’t built yet,” he said.

Andy takes his cars to shows and has won awards for his work.

Andy has made two other NorthWestern Energy vehicles – a 1992

service truck and a 1965 service truck.

In the ’60s, Northwestern Public Service vehicles were painted a greenish-blue. A now-retired co-worker used to paint the service trucks and told Andy what color to use. Andy found the correct automotive paint and used it on the model truck.

“That is the exact color Northwestern Public Service used to use,” Andy said.

Andy has also tracked down old Northwestern Public Service logos and made them into decals to use on his model cars.

For the 1992 truck, Andy built an air compressor trailer completely from scratch and found the old NorthWestern Energy logo in use at the time.

Andy uses spare parts from other kits to customize his vehicles. He also uses his 3D printer to create hard hats, traffic cones, meters, pipe wrenches and other details.

“I have a miniature lathe too, so I can turn my own parts,” he said. He’s in the process of making a 1994 Ford F150 service truck that a meter reader drove when he first started.

“All I have left on it is the final details,” Andy said.

Andy also plans to make a 1995 Ford service van modeled after a van one of his co-workers used to drive.


Welder-Fitter Andy Lesiak re-creates NorthWestern Energy vehicles as model cars.

“They don’t make that in a kit,” Andy said. Instead, he found a 1970s service van kit and will tweak it to make it look like the NorthWestern Energy van.

It’s hard to estimate how much time he puts into each vehicle. He might spend about 20 hours pondering what he’s going to do, and them sometimes a model car can come together in a weekend. Most take about 40 hours to build.

Andy recently got a new, larger 3D printer that allows him to print a complete car, so he’s less reliant on finding an exact kit.

“I’m going to redo this one someday,” Andy said of the 1996 service truck. “My skills have vastly improved.”

He also plans to build his current welding truck, a 2012 F550.

“I’m a car guy,” he said. “I can’t afford the real thing, so I make a miniature replica of it.”

 (top-bottom) Grand Island Welder-Fitter Andy Lesiak holds his model of a 1992 NorthWestern Energy service truck. The 1996 Ford welding truck model. The 1965 service truck model, which is painted the same color of blue as Northwestern Public Service vehicles were painted in the ’60s The model of a 1992 service truck with a welding trailer.



NorthWestern Energy employee Michelle Black leads the diversity outreach program initiative in the Huron community, providing students with more real-world learning opportunities.

When NorthWestern Energy first began talking with Huron High School about diversity in the workforce, it was during a time when many businesses were unable to do much in person. But Michelle Black, NorthWestern Energy Human Resources Generalist, knew this was the perfect opportunity to start building relationships with community members — and it paid off!

diversity outreach program initiative in the South Dakota communities. Huron High School’s diverse student population makes it ideal for this initiative.

Michelle was looking for ways to improve diversity in the workplace. After COVID, she knew she wanted to start the initiative quickly.

“It took probably a good six to nine months with everything else that we had going on to get clued into who the right people were to talk to,”

most beneficial for students, Michelle found an opportunity.

It all started with a phone call.

Once Michelle found someone she could work with within the school system — a career advisor through the Department of Labor who is embedded in the Huron area — things began falling into place quickly.

“And that’s when we started talking,” Michelle recalls with a smile. “What could we do?”

Michelle said she wanted to educate students about what careers in energy involve so they could make informed decisions about their education. “We talked about what they were looking for, what we were looking for, and it seemed like a perfect fit.”

The two discussed a potential scholarship program for students pursuing careers in the energy industry. They also discussed sponsoring students interested in energy-based programs such as welding, gas technicians, or electrical engineering and eventually getting them into NorthWestern Energy’s job pipeline — and ultimately hired!

From there, Michelle developed meaningful connections between NorthWestern Energy and the Huron community. For example, NorthWestern representatives have attended career day visits to high schools, educated students about the energy industry and provided behindthe-scenes job shadowing.

Last October, two Huron High School students got a behind-the-scenes look at life as a lineman with NorthWestern Energy.

The students arrived around 8 a.m. at the Huron Operations Center, where they were given personal protective equipment and a brief overview of the type of work they would witness during their job shadow.

The group then traveled down to LSI (Jack Link’s) in Alpena to shadow linemen crews working on-site. “They were able to see a lot of the equipment and tools the guys work with daily,” Michael Baumgarn, Electric Operations Supervisor, said. “Both individuals seemed engaged and were asking questions.”

The biggest takeaway from this experience was the students see-

ing what a lineman does on the job. They came up with questions about the tools, equipment, and other things the linemen work with daily.

They got to try on special gear and saw lots of high-voltage equipment and tools the line workers use daily. The line workers were happy to share their thoughts and answer questions.

“A couple of the younger line techs were able to share some expeareas also,” Michael said. “I’m grateful our younger line techs were willing to share thoughts,” Michelle added.

“The most important part was that they saw an opportunity for themselves,” Michelle said. “Seeing the job firsthand helps them to understand how they can get there.”

Field experience is an excellent way for students to learn about a particular job. Learning about something you might want to do in the future can make future decisions more meaningful.

But, Michelle believes that the overall goal of getting diversity in the workforce is more critical than individual gains. “I think getting students job-prepared is more important,” she said. She continued to emphasize that the key is that students in the community know they can go to any of the trade schools and have a chance to be hired.

Ultimately, NorthWestern is looking to provide students with more real-world learning opportunities. This program is a step in the right direction, and its success showed us that we need to be responsible for creating this type of experience for high school students.

“We are proud of all we have accomplished in educating students of diverse backgrounds on energy careers and utilizing our employees as mentors and resources to connect with those who would not otherwise hear about careers at NorthWestern Energy,” Michelle said.

The future looks promising for this program as it continues to grow, and the relationships between the Huron community and our team continue to grow stronger.

“Diversity is a cornerstone of our business, and by embracing diversity, we can reach our full potential as a company,” Michelle said.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 19
 Top: Michelle Black, NorthWestern Energy Human Resources Generalist, attends a career fair in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Michelle leads our diversity outreach initiative. Bottom: Students from Huron High School participated in a job shadow with NorthWestern Energy employees as part of our diversity outreach program.

Four Decades of


The gas transmission control center bears a new name to honor Tom Vivian’s 41 years of service. NorthWestern Energy’s gas transmission control center was renamed The Tom Vivian Gas Transmission Control Center to honor Tom’s 41-year career with NorthWestern.

From Tom Vivian’s perspective, in his 41 years at NorthWestern Energy, there wasn’t a single project he accomplished on his own.

“I can’t think of one single thing that I can say, ‘I did that.’ It was, ‘We did that,’” Tom said. “We worked as a team with work ethic and loyalty to one another.”

Tom retired in February as NorthWestern’s Director of Gas Transmission and Storage. At his retirement party, Mike Cashell, Vice President – Transmission, presented him with a special surprise – the gas transmission control center will now be known as The Tom Vivian Gas Transmission Control Center, marked with a plaque outside the door.

“First I was stunned,” Tom said about the surprise. “Then, I was like, why me? There are so many incredible people in the company and in

gas transmission.”

“It was flattering and humbling at the same time,” he added. “I don’t think of this as my award but ours for everyone in gas transmission.”

From Mike’s perspective, Tom left a lasting mark on the company during his 41 years of service, and much of that was due to Tom’s leadership abilities. Mike is also not surprised that Tom views the award as being “for everyone in gas transmission.”

“That is one of Tom’s most valuable beliefs: the effectiveness and value of teamwork,” Mike said. “There is not a challenge or problem related to our business that Tom, and his great team, can’t solve, normally done by gathering members of his team to brainstorm, encourage creativity and to plan solutions.”

During his career, Tom worked almost everywhere within Gas Trans-

Crews work to build the Butte to Morel gas transmission line.

mission and Storage and was involved in every aspect of the division, including operations, maintenance, control room activity and capital work.

Tom joined the company in 1982, fresh out of college with a petroleum engineering degree from Montana Tech. His first position was in Butte, and soon after he moved to Cut Bank to work as a field engineer. Tom jokes he spent three years, three months and three days in Cut Bank, a small town in northern Montana with a population of about 3,300 in 1985.

“Actually, Cut Bank was a wonderful town, and the work was fun,” he said. “I learned a ton about the gas department and what makes it tick.”

After his stint in Cut Bank, Tom returned to Butte to work in gas measurement, keeping track of where natural gas is coming from and going to.

From 1989 to about 2000, Tom worked to implement our new supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, system, which upgraded natural gas controls to be a system that could be operated from a central location rather than being manually controlled.

“Arguably, that was one of the best things I did,” Tom said.

Before you can hook things up to be controlled and monitored, you have to have a deep understanding of how they work, Tom explained.

“I learned a lot about how the system functions,” he said.

Tom became Manager of Operations and then Director of Gas Transmission and Storage.

“Tom is one of the most technically competent engineers that I have worked with in my nearly 37 years in the electric and gas utility industry,” Mike said. “Tom is the special type of person that combines his competency with extremely effective leadership skills, natural

teaching ability, compassion for people and passion for his job.”

For Tom, his 41 years at NorthWestern flew by.

“That’s what happens when you like what you do and you like the people you work with,” he said.

Tom’s favorite thing about his job was his co-workers and mentors, who worked together as a tight-knit team.

“People couldn’t wait to teach you what they knew,” he said. “We all supported one another. If you’re falling down, we’re going to pick you up.”

Tom has deep roots at NorthWestern. Tom’s grandfather Mel Vivian and father, Bob Vivian, were Montana Power employees. Tom’s son Rob Vivian is an engineer with NorthWestern Energy, and his son in-law Brian Berger is a gas transmission technician, meaning four generations of the Vivian family have served our customers.

Now in his retirement, Tom is focusing on the next generation of potential NorthWestern employees. For the next three or four years, he’ll be spending lots time with his seven grand kids, helping with daycare while their parents are at work. After that, he plans to travel the country with his wife, Sandy.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 23
 Mike Cashell, Vice President – Transmission, presents Tom Vivian with a plaque renaming NorthWestern Energy’s gas transmission control center as the The Tom Vivian Gas Transmission Control Center.  Tom Vivian, far left, poses with other gas transmission employees in the mid-2000s.  This map shows NorthWestern Energy’s gas transmission lines in Montana. During his career, Tom Vivian worked almost everywhere within Gas Transmission and Storage and was involved in every aspect of the division.

Havre employee spreads joy with his Christmas light display.

Each fall, Terry Leonard, Journeyman Telecom Technician in Havre, Montana, spends weeks decorating his house and yard with Christmas lights. He has about 35,000 to 40,000 lights, all set to music that is broadcast on an FM radio channel.

“It brings color to the dreariness of winter,” Terry said.

Terry first started decorating in 1986, shortly after he got out of the Army and moved back to his home town of Havre. One day he was at the lumber yard, saw some Christmas lights and thought it could be fun to put them up.

“I started out small with four or five strands of lights, and it’s grown every year since,” Terry said.

Terry’s display now includes Santa and Mrs. Claus on the roof, along with all nine reindeer. Rope lights run along the ridgelines of the roof and icicle lights hang from the eaves. In his yard are gingerbread houses, a cat and dog, a yeti, deer and presents, all surrounding a large tree made of Christmas lights. There’s also a Nativity scene with five angels. He has a red and white archway over his driveway and a multi-colored archway over his walkway. Another Santa stands atop his garage.


Driving by Terry’s house is a tradition for many in Havre. Terry often goes outside to greet visitors and hand out candy canes. When he’s not there, he keeps a small gingerbread house stocked with candy canes.

Terry recently met a man who came and looked at the lights as a kid; now he brings his kids to see Terry’s lights. Terry also spoke to a woman on her way home from cancer treatment who said the lights brought her joy.

“A lot of people enjoy the lights,” Terry said.

Terry has converted nearly all his lights to LEDs over the years. He runs all the lights off two outlets and checks the amps to make sure it’s safe to do so.

“LED lights are great,” he said. “You can’t do that with incandescent.”

To set his lights to music, Terry uses a program that looks somewhat like a spreadsheet. It breaks down songs to 1/10 of a second. Each section of lights is on a different channel, and Terry can select which channels should turn on and off throughout the song. He commissioned a radio personality to record spoof commercial spots to run after every few songs.

Terry has spent much of his life in Havre, and he knows the winters can be long and cold. His Christmas display gives him a wintertime hobby, while also spreading joy to others.

“It brings some color to the season,” Terry said.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 27
 Terry Leonard, Journeyman Telecom Technician in Havre, Montana, decorates his house and yard with about 35,000 to 40,000 lights, all set to music that is broadcast on an FM radio channel.

of the

NorthWestern Energy Patrolman/Operator Josh Bebee of Havre, Montana, is Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 497 Firefighter of the Year.

Josh, who joined NorthWestern Energy nine years ago when Devon Energy was purchased, has served as chief of the Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department for 10 years.

Born and raised in Havre, Josh said he joined the volunteer fire department to contribute to his hometown.

“It’s a small town, and when there is an emergency, everyone shows up to help,” Josh said. “I knew most of the members of the fire department and decided to join.”

The Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department, which has 30 rostered members along with other volunteers, responds to fires in a 200,000acre district in south Hill County. The rural area includes rugged terrain, and the department’s forte is wildland firefighting.

The Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department led the way in September 2022 in fighting the more than 7,200-acre Eagle Creek Fire in the Bear Paw Mountains. The department spent a week out on the line fighting the fire with Josh leading the way. He coordinated with county, state and federal fire teams to ensure the fire was properly contained and the han-

dover process of the fire management followed protocols.

Josh’s experience and training with the fire department is an asset at NorthWestern Energy, said Havre Gas Production Superintendent Ralph Broadhead.

“Josh is really good in the role of emergency training, he steps up and takes over and does an awesome job,” Ralph said. “It makes a difference you can see when you watch him in action. He brings that very good training with him to his job here at NorthWestern.”

Josh’s commitment to the volunteer fire department is admirable, Ralph added.

“Both Josh and his wife spend a lot of time on projects to improve the department,” he said.

Under Josh’s leadership as chief, the Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department obtained a new fire hall and made advancements in training and equipment.

“Josh and the department continue to develop and implement better ways to keep the Hi-Line safe from wildland fires,” said VFW Post 497’s Dale Herd.

The Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department responds to more than a

By Jo Dee Black

NorthWestern’s Josh Bebee is recognized by VFW Post 497 as Firefighter of the Year.

dozen fires each year. Established in the 1970s, the department’s funding is exclusively from donations and grants.

The volunteer fire department also helps at community events, including the Bear Paw Marathon, the annual Fill the Boot fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Trunk or Treat at the fairgrounds at Halloween.

“The department is a second family for all of us and an opportunity to give back to our community,” Josh said. “The commitment and dedication of the members is what makes Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department work. And the support for this community for the department is incredible.”

After attending Montana State University - Northern in Havre, Josh went to work for a construction company that did pipeline and compressor installations. That job eventually lead to an offer from Devon Energy, which was then purchased by NorthWestern Energy.

“In the winter, I operate (natural gas) wells in Havre and in the summer, I do line patrols all across the state,” Josh said. “I like to be outside. This job has a lot of different aspects to it. It’s different every day, and that is one thing I really like about it.”

Employer support of Montana’s volunteer fire responders and firefighters is a critical component to saving lives and property, said Montana Volunteer Firefighters Board Member Steve Lauer, who is the chief of the Libby Volunteer Fire Department.

“Most of these volunteers have full-time jobs and depend on their employers to allow them to respond to emergencies during work,” Steve said. “Emergencies don’t just happen after working hours. Without employers willing to support these volunteers, many emergency requests could not be answered with an adequate response.”

People Edition | 29
 NorthWestern Energy Patrolman/Operator Josh Bebee, Chief of the Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department, was recognized by the VFW Post 497 as Firefighter of the Year.

‘I RACE WITH Gratitude’

Electric Perspectives, a magazine published by Edison Electric Institute, spoke with former NorthWestern Energy General Counsel and Vice President of Regulatory and Federal Government Affairs

Heather Grahame, who retired on Jan. 1, 2023. In addition to her regulatory and legal expertise, Heather is a champion triathlete and IRONMAN® racer.

Electric Perspectives (EP): What are some of your proudest accomplishments from your tenure at NorthWestern Energy?

Heather Grahame (HG): One is participating in NorthWestern Energy’s acquisition of 11 hydroelectric facilities in 2013 and 2014. I was heavily involved in the transactional phase. After that came the regulatory side, and I was a leader in getting the deal approved. That transaction was transformative for NorthWestern Energy and for our customers. It was so important to NorthWestern Energy and to me that I stepped out of the triathlon world for a good year and a half while the negotiations and then the regulatory processes went forward, because obtaining these hydroelectric facilities meant everything to NorthWestern Energy and its customers.

Second, I’m proud of building our legal department into what it is today. When I joined NorthWestern Energy, almost all the legal work was being outsourced to outside counsel. I quickly realized that we could save millions by bringing attorneys in-house and by building legal expertise internally. The Legal Department also includes Regulatory Affairs, Federal Government Affairs, and Risk Management, and these professionals are terrific. I am so proud of the legal team that I built. They are outstanding lawyers and paralegals, and we have saved NorthWestern Energy millions of dollars.

EP: Legal and regulatory affairs are critically important to our industry. How did you come to pursue a career in this field?

HG: Up until my time with NorthWestern Energy, I was a lawyer in private practice. I started as a commercial litigator. I then had an opportunity to represent a telecom company before the Alaska Public Utilities Commission, and my public utility practice expanded from telecom to also include water, wastewater, waste hauling and energy. I loved the public utility world. My practice quickly focused entirely on public utility representation.

I quickly learned to truly appreciate the role and mission of public utilities. Too often, their role is simply assumed and isn’t appreciated until the power goes out, the water stops or your phone doesn’t work.

EP: How did you decide to join NorthWestern Energy and to relocate from Alaska to Montana?

HG: (laughing) If anyone thinks it was to get warmer, they are wrong.

I spent 27 years in Alaska, and, because of my work in the

NorthWestern Energy retiree Heather Grahame on respect, credibility, trust and triathlons

telecom industry, I got to know now-retired NorthWestern Energy CEO Bob Rowe in the 2000s when he was chair of the Montana Public Service Commission, and he was regarded as the nation’s expert on rural telephone policy issues.

Alaska, of course, is exceedingly rural. I represented many of the telecom companies in Alaska.

In 2005, I had a client that faced a rural telecom policy issue that either was going to make or break the company. Because of Bob’s expertise and reputation on rural telecom policy, I hired him as one of eight expert witnesses. My team and I were simultaneously advising the client on bankruptcy and on all of the regulatory work, because the outcome was either regulatory success or bankruptcy.

The case took weeks to hear. Ultimately, we won the regulatory case, and, when the other side appealed the decision to court, we won that appeal and the court required the other side to pay a portion of our attorney’s fees for the job we had done.

I quickly got to know Bob during that process. Everything I’d heard about him is true: he is honest, ethical, smart, measured, thoughtful and policy-oriented. He did a great job as a witness. Ultimately, when the general counsel position opened up at NorthWestern Energy, I applied.

EP: You are renowned within our industry for your success in triathlons. What led you to compete in that arena, and do you find that you apply lessons from that to your work?

HG: I’ve always been an athlete: I played field hockey, then soccer, then I was a bicycle racer, and then a sled dog racer — I spent years sled dog racing, as did my family. We had 31 sled dogs. What led me to triathlons was the fact that triathlons include bicycle racing. When I moved to Montana, the friends I made were triathletes, and triathlons were a logical extension of my bicycle racing.

In addition, I’ve always loved the outdoors, I’ve always loved challenges, and most of my friends have always come from the athletic world. However, I took a break from triathlons and athletics completely in the 2018-2019 timeframe. My brother, who lived in Washington, D.C., had ALS. I spent as much time as possible commuting to D.C. to spend time with him. After he passed away, it was time for me to return to taking care of myself and to getting back into shape.

2022 was amazing. In November, I won my age group in IRONMAN® Arizona, which was shocking to me because my running speed typically doesn’t compete with the speed of the fast women in my age group. By winning my age group, I automatically qualified for the IRONMAN® World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, this year.

I also won a World Triathlon championship in Slovakia in August. I also won my age group in two IRONMAN® 70.3 races (half the regular distance). Last year was a miracle.

The elements of success in both my triathlon racing and my roles at NorthWestern have a lot in common: hard work, consistency, a lot of planning, time management, a commitment to excellence, and a great team and community.

Gratitude also is a key component of both. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the demands of each day. I try and step back and appreciate my opportunities, the fact that I had a job I loved, and the health and ability to

race triathlons. Good health is a gift, not a given, and I race with gratitude.

EP: People — and leaders — are known by the company they keep. Are there any particularly valuable lessons you have learned from other leaders in our industry? What should the leaders who follow in your footsteps take to heart?

HG: Having an unquestionable moral compass is critical for all leaders. I think that’s a wonderful place to start. If leaders have unwavering moral values, it helps the team put in the extra effort, and it garners customer and community respect. Bob Rowe exemplifies this.

EP: Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” How have you learned from past mistakes?

HG: The best way to handle mistakes is to own them immediately. When something goes awry, the best thing to do is to say, “We made a mistake. Here’s what happened. Here’s why, and here’s how it can be avoided in the future.” That enables everyone to put the issue behind them quickly and to move forward constructively. It also facilitates trust, credibility and respect.

EP: Edison also said, “To have a great idea, have a lot of them.” What are the greatest sources of creativity that have inspired you during your career, and how do you use creativity to solve challenges?

HG: Something I have learned is to take time and to think. So often in our industry we need to make decisions very quickly. Yet, the optimal decisions often come when the problem or challenge has had time to simmer. Often on a long training ride on my bike on a weekend, or well into a long swim session, the answer to a question will just appear. It’s because the question or challenge has been in the back of my mind for days, and I didn’t force a response. I didn’t force a strategy. It just comes — just let your mind simmer, think. A great source of creativity is simply to allow ideas and experiences to simmer, and the answer will appear.

Something that’s absolutely true in the triathlon world, as well as in the regulatory world: you’ve got to both nail the basics and have patience.

You need to go through the processes and have patience. Take the time to be thoughtful about strategy, regulatory responses, advocacy and progress. These things take time, as frustrating as that is. Historically, I’ve been a very impatient person, and I realize good work takes time. I’ve learned to respect that.

EP: A recurring theme of our conversation seems to be the importance you place on respect and on building reputation. Why is this so important to success? Does this all stem from being concerned with character?

HG: That’s exactly right. Credibility is everything. No matter what a person’s position is, personal trust, respect, credibility, honesty at all times are essential characteristics.

This is especially true in the regulatory world, where a company is in front of its regulators, regularly, for decades. If you misstate something, or if you shade the facts, no one will forget it: commissioners, staff and interveners.

The need for trust and credibility is essential. This is obviously true in both a person’s professional and personal life.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 31
Louie the Lightning Bug and Sniffy the Sniffasaurus greet visitors outside our Butte General Office.


NorthWestern employee carries on a family tradition by dressing up as Louie the Lightning Bug and Sniffy the Sniffasaurus.

NorthWestern Energy Accountant Jen Stone shifts her attention from balance sheets and cash flow to dance moves and smiles when she assumes her alter egos – Louie the Lightning Bug and Sniffy the Sniffasaurus.

The two NorthWestern Energy mascots help us share important electrical and natural gas safety messages at community events.

“No one knows who you are, so you can be silly,” Jen said.

The chance to go incognito and create smiles and laughter is an experience Jen shares with her parents.

“They worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Deer Lodge, and they both were Smokey Bear in parades and other community events,” Jen said.

Louie the Lightning Bug spreads messages about playing it safe around electricity, and Sniffy the Sniffasaurus says, “Smell gas, leave fast.”

Request a visit from Louie and Sniffy

Do you want Louie the Lightning Bug or Sniffy the Sniffasaurus to visit your next event? They love to get out in the community and meet their fans! Learn more and find a link to the request form at


NorthWestern Energy ground worker says energy and music careers

If you think spouses, kids, new careers or really long distances could easily break up a band, think again.

NorthWestern Energy Electric Ground Worker Grayson Hendren plays bass, percussion and guitar for Coyote Theory, an indie jazz-pop band that started in Orlando, Florida, in 2010.

Grayson and his wife live in Lewistown, Montana. He and his bandmates, who still live in Florida, gathered in Billings, Montana, this year, the first time they’ve physically been in the same place in eight years.

Even though members live more than 2,000 miles apart, Coyote Theory released three songs last year. Their single “This Side of Par-

adise” is in the library for TikTok users and at its peak, had 8 million monthly listens. The song earned a Gold Award from the Recording Industry Association of America in March 2022. They are working on a full album release. The band submitted work for consideration to this year’s Grammy Awards.

Coyote Theory, which includes members Colby Carpinelli, lead vocals and piano, and Jayson Lynn, drums and percussion, reached their audience on Spotify and other online platforms, not through live performances at state fairs or bars.

“In 2013, our single ‘Taking Over the Word’ was used by ESPN during Super Bowl week, which was when things really took off,” Grayson

 NorthWestern Energy Electric Ground Worker Grayson Hendren poses with his Gold Award from the Recording Industry Association of America and his Lewistown crew. Grayson is a member of the band Coyote Theory.


work in balance.

said. “A friend put our music on TikTok and in August 2020, we started getting messages and emails from major music labels.”

Grayson left Florida for Tennessee and a job in construction. That is where he met his wife, who is from Montana. After considering a number of career options, including the culinary industry, he decided to pursue the trades, graduating from line school.

He’s been with NorthWestern Energy in Lewistown, where his wife’s family is, for about a year.

“I used to rock climb, and line school was a good fit,” Grayson said. “I love this career. I enjoy being part of a team. I like having a solid work

schedule, with weekends off to fish and stuff. This really is the job I’ve always wanted.”

So what about the band’s name, Coyote Theory?

“At the time, our drummer came up with it,” Grayson said. “In the cartoon, the coyote runs off a cliff and he can keep going, until he looks down.”

Grayson doesn’t plan to “look down” any time soon. His careers work in parallel, and he will continue to pursue both.

Listen to Coyote Theory’s work and watch their videos at

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 35
 Band Coyote Theory includes NorthWestern Energy Electric Ground Worker Grayson Hendren, left. The band earned a Gold Award from the Recording Industry Association after their single “This Side of Paradise” went viral on TikTok.


Since the beginning, NorthWestern Energy has been committed to providing our communities with the best possible service. United Way’s Day of Caring is a huge undertaking in the Huron community, and 2022’s project was the most significant project Dennis Heinz has participated in since taking over leading employees for the volunteer event.

Dennis, NorthWestern Energy’s Credit Manager of Wholesale Energy Supply, wears many hats. He’s a volunteer, a coach and a painter. But when it comes to the Day of Caring, he’s also an organizer. The 2022 project, painting a two-story house, was more than what he was prepared for, but his team did a great job completing it.

The Day of Caring is a day to unite friends, neighbors, co-workers and the community for one crucial cause — doing good for others. Thanks to everyone’s hard work, volunteers successfully scraped, primed and painted a house all in one day for the 15th annual the United Way’s Day of Caring in Huron.

Dennis has dedicated his time to the United Way’s Day of Caring for more than a decade. He started as a volunteer, helping with painting

and repair projects at local schools and community centers, and now he works closely with our team to ensure each project is a success.

“There’s no question about it, when these projects come into this system, there’s a lot of times they request NorthWestern because they know the quality of work and detail that we do,” Dennis said. “So I always share that with the volunteers — that just shows what kind of people our employees are.”

NorthWestern employees have volunteered their time throughout the years to help with a number of projects in the Huron community.

Past projects have included painting picnic tables, softball fields, basketball courts and guardrails in parks; working at the Girl Scout camp, cleaning up around the area and doing landscaping work; helping with projects at the Huron library; building three little lending libraries that are strategically placed throughout different parks in Huron; and volunteering at the senior center.

Beyond volunteering, we also provide a donation through our employee team grant program and a $250 contribution toward the cost of the Day of Caring T-shirts every year.

NorthWestern’s Dennis Heinz helped organize volunteers every year since 2019 for the United Way’s Day of Caring in Huron, South Dakota.
Dennis Heinz, NorthWestern Energy’s Credit Manager of Wholesale Energy Supply, has dedicated his time to United Way’s Day of Caring for more than a decade.

It’s not just about the time employees spend helping others — it’s about how our employees feel about themselves after doing it. When our employees volunteer with Day of Caring, we know they feel good about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. And if there’s one thing Dennis knows, it’s that feeling good makes us better at what we do every day at work.

One of the things he’s most proud of is the number of volunteers who come back year after year. He loves that most volunteers bring their children to help out. Day of Caring has created a family culture around volunteering at NorthWestern Energy.

The culture and the caring family atmosphere are things Dennis values.

“It’s really encouraging and neat to work for something and somewhere like that,” he said.

Dennis has been with NorthWestern Energy for 25 years and says working for this company is special. He started as a credit collection supervisor and then moved into the role of call center supervisor and billing area manager. Today, he manages wholesale energy supply and other credit exposures within the company.

“I’ve said that time and time again, every year my anniversary comes up, I think that’s my consistent comment: I would’ve never dreamt of being in one place for so many years,” Dennis said.

“But that is entirely attributed to how the company has operated, upper management flexibility, and over the last several years, especially in (retired CEO) Bob Rowe’s tenure, the culture he developed here is remarkable.”

Throughout The Years –Day of Caring Volunteers:

Since 2019, Dennis has led and organized volunteers annually for the United Way’s Day of Caring. NorthWestern Energy has supported the Day of Caring through our employee volunteer program - read more about it on Pages 48-49.

NorthWestern volunteers for Day of Caring 2019 – 19 2020 – 14 2021 – 21 2022 – 17
 NorthWestern Energy employees successfully scraped, primed and painted a house in one day while volunteering at United Way’s 15th annual Day of Caring in Huron.


NorthWestern Energy Engineer Brandt Seitz talks to a group of students at the Montana Science Center in Bozeman.


We all use energy every day – from turning on a light to charging our cellphone – but many of us don’t give much thought to where that energy comes from or how it reaches our homes.

A group of students at the Montana Science Center recently got a chance to learn all about energy thanks to a partnership between the Montana Science Center and NorthWestern Energy. The Montana Science Center is an educational nonprofit museum in Bozeman, Montana. It has an interactive exhibit space and offers STEM programming for all ages. One key program is Homeschool Science, a series of weekly science classes for 8- to 13-year-old homeschool students.

“Our focus for this semester is energy systems,” said Quincy Balius, Education Coordinator at the Montana Science Center.

To help explain energy systems, NorthWestern Energy Engineers Jon Shafer and Brandt Seitz developed a game where students start their own energy company and decide how to power a city and a town in their service area.

Brandt got the idea for the game from games like Sim City and Settlers of Catan. In Brandt’s game, each team is given a set amount of money and has to decide what kind of power generation to build. They can choose from wind, solar, natural gas, coal and hydro. Jon and Brandt taught the students about the importance of a balanced energy portfolio. Wind, for example, is an inexpensive resource, but it only produces power when the wind is blowing.

Once the two teams laid out their energy grid, Brandt used past data from NorthWestern’s own generation portfolio to see how each of the energy companies would have performed in different situations. Sometimes the teams were able to generate enough electricity to meet their customers’ demand, and sometimes they had to buy it off the open market.

“I liked getting to do the game,” student Sara Watling said.

The goal was to paint a broad picture of what energy companies have to think about to deliver reliable, affordable and sustainable energy, Brandt said.

In all of her classes, Quincy focuses on the real-world implications of what students are learning.

“I like to talk about how this works in our local community,” she said. “They can get a sense of what this looks like in real life.”

At the end of the semester, the students will put all their knowledge of energy systems to use by creating a circuit dollhouse. Each room of the dollhouse will have a small-scale circuit that mimics large-scale circuits in an actual home. The house will have working lights, fans and other appliances, as well as solar cells on the roof.

Once the house is complete, it will be on display at the Montana Science Center so other visitors can learn about how electricity flows through a home.

“I’m really passionate about this group,” Quincy said. “They’re a really smart group of kids.”

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 39
NorthWestern Energy partners with the Montana Science Center to teach students about energy systems.
Top: NorthWestern Energy Engineer Jon Shafer helps students at the Montana Science Center in Bozeman with a game that simulates running an electric company. Middle, bottom: Students decide where to place generation facilities while playing a game that simulates running an electric company.


Bring life to your backyard and delicious eggs to your table.

With the price of eggs reaching record levels, backyard

from some of the best producers, such as leghorns, Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rock breeds. Also remember hens will lay well for a couple of years, but afterward, their production wanes, leaving you to choose whether to keep the older girls, who still might lay a couple of eggs a week, or replace them.

Coop basics

gardeners — and beekeepers for that matter — because if you ask a simple question, you’ll receive a dozen different answers. However, there are a few general considerations to keep in mind when you start raising chickens. From there, refine your chicken husbandry to what works best for you and your flock.

Planning egg production

There’s no question the poultry industry took a hit since the outbreak of avian flu that began in 2020. With more than 49 million birds lost to the epidemic so far, it’s no surprise the average cost of a dozen eggs is $4.25. Even a small backyard flock can handle the average family’s egg needs, oftentimes with some to spare.

The first thing to know is egg production takes patience. Chickens begin laying eggs between 18 and 22 weeks of age, as long as they have 14 to 16 hours of daylight and good nutrition. If you buy your chicks in March, expect eggs anywhere from August to the end of September.

It’s also important to know that the egg numbers change as the days shorten. If you want eggs throughout the fall and winter, supplemental light is required. Once the days are shorter than 14 hours, set up a timer with either a 60-watt incandescent bulb or LED light to add light up to 16 hours, preferably starting the light earlier in the day rather than later in the evening. Keep in mind longer light is not better. Studies indicate that more than 16 hours of light actually decreases egg production.

On average, a hen lays an egg every 24 to 26 hours, depending on the variety, so plan on roughly four to six eggs per week, per chicken

Chickens thrive most anywhere, as long as they have the right protection from the weather and potential predators. When my husband, Grant, built our coop, the plan was to move it throughout the yard to allow the chickens to fertilize different areas and not wear down one location. Being the exceptional builder he is, it was too heavy to skid, but at least we knew it was not going to blow away in our notoriously windy Great Falls, Montana, location.

Whether building a moveable coop or a stationary one, plan on between 3 to 4 square feet per chicken. This means a 4-by-8-foot coop can house eight to 10 birds. They also need nesting boxes, which can be as simple as 5-gallon buckets, as well as a perch for them to roost.

It’s also very important to keep your chickens out of drafts, yet it is equally critical to provide adequate ventilation. This is achieved through windows and doors, as well as adjustable vents. Chickens generate a lot of moisture, and when you combine it with the ammonia of their feces and not enough air circulation, it is the perfect recipe for illness.

Chickens also need some sort of bedding to make their coop comfortable and collect the waste. Straw and wood shavings are both popular options, and can be added to a compost pile (never directly to the garden), but there are other methods ranging from using sand to a deep litter method that encourages the chickens to basically aerate their bedding and break it down. The option that works best for you is the one that is cost effective and matches your time commitment.


Winter and summer challenges

Chickens are surprisingly hearty during the winter. As long as they are kept out of drafts and can perch to where they can protect their feet, they don’t often succumb to issues from the cold. When it comes to egg production, they produce best when the temperature is closer to 55 degrees. If you’re going through a prolonged cold spell, you might consider adding a heat lamp. This is also nice because it prevents the eggs from freezing and cracking.

The summer can be more challenging because chickens have difficulties regulating their temperatures in the heat. Be sure they have shaded areas, and, during extreme heat, it’s sometimes helpful to wet down the area or provide a mister. In or out?

Your egg layers thrive when they have room to run. If possible, give them free range of the area, although keep them away from any vegetables or edible plants, as there is a risk of salmonella contamination. Plus, they will eat small plants and can quickly destroy your gardens by scratching while looking for insects. If they are out in the yard, a good way to handle the feces is to take a hose and wash away the small piles.

If you’re going to have an enclosed chicken yard, particularly if predators are an issue, consider burying the fence to prevent skunks from digging underneath it. If raptors are an issue, put a barrier such as chicken wire over the top. At night, lock up your chickens to prevent issues with predators whether your chickens are free range or in the coop.

Even for those chickens who are in a confined yard for most of the year, it’s a benefit to use them to clean up the garden at the

end of the season. Chickens love picking at any leftover vegetables, along with the spent plants, and do a wonderful job turning up the soil.

Food and water

One of the best things about keeping chickens is very few kitchen scraps go to waste. They are mini dinosaurs that eat practically anything, including meat. With that said, it’s a little morbid to feed chickens poultry, and avoid giving them eggs or egg shells as it can trigger egg pecking behavior. But pretty much everything else is fair game, and it’s wonderful not to toss out vegetable trimmings.

Even with feeding them extra produce and even garden waste such as annual weeds, make the basis of their diet a well-rounded feed specific for layers, as well as an insoluble grit to help digestion and oyster shells for additional calcium. You can feed it however it works best for you. Some people fill feeders so they don’t have to worry about feeding daily, while others like the interaction with their chickens as they scatter the feed.

You can also give your chickens treats, such as mealworms, and offer a scratch grain mix to encourage them with natural feeding behavior.

It’s important for the water to remain clean whether you have a simple dish-type waterer or a hanging system with a watering nipple. Scrub out either often during the summer to prevent algae from growing.

Keep an eye open for avian flu

Wild birds carry this viral disease, and a number of backyard poultry owners lost birds within the past couple of years. With our chickens, sparrows take advantage of the outdoor feed making it prudent to place the feeder within the coop to reduce exposure.

If any of your birds appear ill, particularly with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, diarrhea, or neurological issues, separate them from the rest of the flock. When working with sick birds protect yourself with gloves and an N95 mask, and, of course, thoroughly wash your hands afterward. Avoid directly handling any dead birds, as well.

Keeping chickens is a long-standing tradition that brings life to your backyard and delicious eggs to your table. By providing them a draft-free home and good food, abundant eggs will be at your fingertips.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 41
Amy Grisak is an avid gardener and writer. Her writing appears in everything from the Farmers’ Almanac to Popular Mechanics, along with her books, “Nature Guide to Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks” and “Found Photos of Yellowstone.” Amy lives in Great Falls, Montana, with her two sons and her husband, Grant, who is a biologist with NorthWestern Energy.

Reddy Kilowatt

A history of the mascot used for decades by energy companies across the country and around the globe.

Tucked in the corner of the lobby of NorthWestern Energy’s General Office building on East Park Street in Butte, Montana, is a colorful figure that hung around the Mining City for decades.

Aglow in refurbished neon, Reddy Kilowatt, like Butte and many of the communities across the NorthWestern Energy service territory, comes with a story.

This version of Reddy sat for decades on top of the sign that adorned the old Montana Power Company at 40 E. Broadway in Butte. After a lengthy stint in storage, this neon Reddy was resurrected as part of the celebration of the power company’s 100th birthday in 2012. Following a brief stay at the Butte-Silver Bow Archives, Reddy found a permanent home in the lobby of NorthWestern’s building that opened in 2016.

Dubbed “Your Electric Servant,” Reddy got his start as a cartoon figure that made its first public appearance in an advertisement for the Alabama Power Company in 1926. The creation of Ashton B. Collins, an Alabama Power Company employee, Reddy had stylized lightning bolts for limbs, a light bulb for a nose and

wall outlets for ears. The idea was to promote the use of electricity by giving it a “more human face.”

It was the start of a very long career that saw Reddy, through licensing agreements, become a colorful symbol for more than 150 energy companies across the United States and in 12 other nations, Montana Power and Northwestern Public Service included. Along the way, the humble cartoon figure became a cultural icon.

Over the decades, Reddy was used in all sorts of advertising on buildings and vehicles. He had a brief film career as a leading man in an animated film about the history of electricity created by Walter Lantz Productions, the folks that created Woody Woodpecker. (Don’t recognize Woody? Ask a friendly Baby Boomer for details!)

Later in his career, as energy companies began to reduce their efforts to sell electricity in response to customer concern, Reddy found new life in children’s programming, conservation promotion and electrical safety.

The gangly Reddy also had a brief foray into politics. The company

OUR ROOTS \ 1926

largely owned by the family of Reddy’s creator was renowned for espousing conservative political views. In a number of ads, Reddy helped promote free enterprise and the interests of investor-owned energy companies. Some of those ads were subtle jabs at publicly-owned utilities and cooperatives, enterprises clearly “on the road to socialism, the twin brother of communism.”

The jabs didn’t go unnoticed. In 1951, well into Reddy’s career, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association created a rival cartoon figure named Willie Wiredhand. Willie’s mission was to promote electricity as “the never-tiring, always-available hired hand to help the nation’s farmers.”

Willie was also comprised of electrical components: a lightbulb socket for a head and arms of wire, while a two-pronged power plug formed his hips and legs. He looked enough like Reddy that the folks that owned Reddy sued the NRECA, claiming trademark infringement. The courts did not agree, with one judge noting the mascot names were entirely different and the cartoon figures really didn’t look alike.

By the late 1970s, interest in Reddy was fading and many energy companies began to retire the venerable cartoon figure. Just a handful of companies pay to use Reddy these days, although he remained a fixture in popular culture, appearing in parodies of Star Wars films, on Grateful Dead posters and, more recently, madefor-TV shows. Reddy-related items – potholders, jar openers, lamps, clocks, etc. – are readily available on eBay, Amazon and Etsy. (A former co-worker has several Reddy items, including a bobblehead!)

Reddy changed ownership when the company controlled by the Collins family sold the character to Northern States Power. In 1998, Northern States became part of Xcel Energy, the multiple-state energy holding company, which today holds the rights to Reddy’s image.

If you get a chance to visit the lobby of NorthWestern’s building in Butte, take a moment to visit Reddy and ponder his colorful, sometimes glowing, life story.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 43
1960 1940
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 retiring in 2018. Originally from Malta, Montana, he now lives near Bigfork.


Grand Island was originally named for a 40-to-50-mile-long island located between two channels of the Platte River. French fur trappers in the late 1700s called it La Grand Isle.

Long before fur trappers arrived in the area, southwest Nebraska was home to Pawnee Indians who lived in earth lodges, hunted bison and cultivated 10 varieties of corn.

Today, the island for which the city is named is long gone, due to the dams on the Platte River changing the river’s flow. Grand Island, population 51,000, sits near the Platte River. The community has strong agricultural roots, hosting the Nebraska State Fair every year. It’s also home to horse racing, and each spring about a million sandhill cranes pass through the area on their spring migration.

Step back in time: The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer is so much more than a museum. It’s an immersive living history experience that feels like stepping back in time. The Stuhr offers 107 buildings spread across 200 acres. The elegant Stuhr building houses art exhibits, historic exhibits and a gift shop. Architect Edward Durell Stone, who also designed the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., designed the building. Visitors will also want to explore Railroad Town, a re-created pioneer town. Spring through fall, you can meet costumed interpreters who make

Railroad Town feel like a time machine taking visitors back to the 1890s. You can shop in the mercantile, grab a meal or snack at the Silver Dollar Café and watch a blacksmith at work in their shop. Visitors can also see the birth home of Henry Fonda, who was born in Grand Island in 1905. You also won’t want to miss the STEAM Learning Center where you’ll


find steam-powered tractors, farming tools, antique cars and more.

Off to the races: Grand Island’s Fonner Park features live thoroughbred horse racing from mid-February through early May. Put on your best derby hat and place a bet on your favorite horse. Horse racing has been a spring-time tradition in Grand Island since the 1950s.

Sip a drink and play some games: The Level Up Arcade Bar in downtown Grant Island is a family-friendly bar with a major nostalgia factor. You’ll find everything from air hockey to Pac-Man, alongside cocktails, beer and other beverages. Be sure to bring your pocket change. All games take quarters. 115 W 3rd St. On Instagram @leveluparcadegi.

A world-renowned wildlife phenomenon: Each spring about 1 million sandhill cranes pass through Grand Island and the surrounding area on their annual migration. The best time to see the crane migration is mid-March, but you may be able to spot the birds anytime from mid-February to mid-April. The Rowe Sanctuary and the Crane Trust both offer guided bird blind tours, or you can take a self-guided driving tour.

Celebrate the Cornhusker State at the State Fair: Grand Island is host to the annual Nebraska State Fair. The State Fair has everything from 4-H animals to quilt competitions. Of course, you’ll find all sorts of delicious fried treats, including fried Twinkies, fried Oreos, fried cheese on a stick, fried green tomatoes and more. The 2023 State Fair will be held Aug. 25 through Sept. 4.

Experience Harvest Days: Husker Harvest Days is more than a typical agriculture show. The event venue features demonstration fields planted with crops, complete with irrigation, where attendees can watch the latest farm equipment in action. The 2023 Husker Harvest Days will be held Sept. 12-14.

Enjoy a dessert: The Enchanted Bakery makes custom cakes for weddings, birthdays, quinceaneras and other special events. If you don’t need a whole cake, the bakery also sells cake by the slice, along with cupcakes, cookies and other baked goods. 418 N. Eddy St.

Luck of the Irish: McKinney’s Irish Pub in downtown Grand Island has a wide selection of craft beer and Irish whiskey, along with a menu of Irish-inspired fare. Start your meal with Guinness Onion Dip or a Reuben quesadilla. For your main course, try the Jameson BBQ bacon burger, bangers and mash, or pub mac and cheese. And for dessert, be sure to order a Guinness float or Bailey’s cheesecake. 123 3rd St. W.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 45

Enjoy tacos on a Tuesday or any day: ous options for authentic Hispanic food. Try El Toro. This family-owned restaurant serves tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos and every thing you’d expect to find at a Mexican restaurant. You’ll also find some fun twists on standard menu items, such as salmon tacos topped with pickled red cabbage and creamy lobster chipotle sauce. One of the house specialties is sopes, a fried masa base topped with shredded beef, pickled cabbage, salsa and guaca mole. 3425 W. State St.

Spring into action: If you’re looking for a fun activity for the whole family, check out Spring City Indoor Trampoline Park. You’ll find an American Ninja Warrior course, rock climbing, dodge ball courts, an airbag pit, basketball dunk lanes and more.

plexes forced the theater to close its doors. A group of business owners formed the Grand Foundation and have worked ever since to save the theater. The Grand shows movies every weekend. 316 W. Third St.

Indulge at The Chocolate Bar: The Chocolate Bar in downtown Grand Island offers breakfast, brunch, lunch and dessert, along with espresso drinks, tea, smoothies and cocktails. For breakfast, you’ll find French toast, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches and more. The lunch menu includes soups, salads, wraps and sandwiches. And anytime is a good time to sample The Chocolate Bar’s desserts, such as old-fashioned chocolate cake or almond butter rainbow cake. You’ll also find craft cocktails, spiked lattes, mimosas and a full bar. 116 W 3rd St.



This almond fruit tower recipe won first place in the Best Baking Contest at the Nebraska State Fair. The award-winning recipe was submitted by then-9-year-old Caden S. According to KLKN News, Caden learned to bake from his grandmother.


3 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 packages yeast (4½ teaspoons)

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup warm milk

1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup mixed dried fruit bits

¼ cup sliced almonds



If using a bread machine, place flour, salt, yeast, sugar, eggs, milk, butter and fruit in bread machine container. Set to dough cycle and let run. Make sure to follow any instructions in the manual for your model of machine. Dough will have the consistency of thick cake batter. Skip to Step 3. 2

If using a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix flour, salt, yeast, sugar, eggs, and butter. Knead until smooth, then incorporate fruit. Let rise in a warm area 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Dough will have the consistency of thick cake batter. 3

Grease a bundt pan well and sprinkle bottom with almond slices. Carefully drop batter over almonds. Let rise for 1 hour. 4

Preheat oven to 350° and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 47

Employee Volunteer Programs:


We donate up to $400 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.

$38,100 awarded to 88 nonprofits through the Employee Volunteer Program and Team Grant Program

Total employees: 1,530*

Montana employees: 1,232 South Dakota employees: 267 Nebraska employees: 31

Total employees over time: 2022 – 1,530 2021 – 1,483

2020 – 1,530 2019 – 1,533 2018 – 1,528

(As of Dec. 31 for each year)

Average tenure: 11 years

2022 Interns: 20

This was the largest class of interns we’ve had since starting the program in 2015.

NorthWestern Energy encourages employee volunteerism by offering paid time off for volunteer activities and by financially supporting the organizations our employees serve. in 2022.
BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 49 Montana gross payroll: $132.2 million South Dakota gross payroll: $29.8 milion Nebraska gross payroll: $2.7 million Employee gross payroll: $164.7 million* Workforce diversity:* 27% women Total employees 26% women Management 40% women Executive team 3.2% of total employees Minority group Represented employees:* 37% of Montana employees are represented by a labor union Retired workforce:* South Dakota/Nebraska $2.9 million
retirees Annual pension plan benefit payments:
retirees Annual retiree payroll in Montana: $24
Montana 55% of South Dakota/ Nebraska employees are represented by a labor union *As of Dec. 31, 2022
219 total
695 total


Do you recognize the location of any 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.



Answers from the Environment issue

Montana: Those pink flamingos are hanging out in the campground at Holter Dam on the Missouri River.

South Dakota: The metal pheasant sculpture is located in Chamberlain.

Nebraska: That is the Hall County Courthouse in Grand Island.

Several readers submitted correct answers for one or two of the photos, but our three winners all correctly identified all three photos. Congrats to Caitlin G. of Great Falls, Montana; Austin G. of Wolf Creek, Montana; and Nancy M. of Kimball, South Dakota.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE People Edition | 51
A publication of: NorthWestern Energy 11 E. Park St. Butte, MT 59701 Prefer digital? No problem! Subscribe or read online at Recycle Responsibly
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.