By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Hal Becker of Delano Municipal Utilities (DMU) is one of eight people in the US to receive this year’s American Public Power Association’s Seven Hats Award.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting to be nominated,” he said. “There are a lot of managers who all do an excellent job.”
The award recognizes managers who perform a variety of duties in communities of 2,500 or fewer electric meters. Recipients wear many “hats,” demonstrating accomplishments in all seven of these areas: planning and design, administration, public relations, field supervision, accounting, human resources, and community leadership.
Decades of dedication
In March, Becker will be celebrating his 30th year at DMU.
“Having a good staff and a good crew makes the job enjoyable,” he said. “We also have an excellent five-person utility commission.”
Originally from Osakis (east of Alexandria), Becker’s initial career was as a master electrician in southern Minnesota. He then accepted a lineman position at DMU, serving for 2.5 years before moving into management.
“With utilities, everything is high-voltage work, versus as an electrician, where it’s low voltage,” Becker said. “It’s a different field, but the math and the theory are the same.”
A powerful feat
One major accomplishment in Becker’s career has been a 25- to 30-year infrastructure project that will result in all power lines in Delano being buried as of this year.
“We’re 99 percent complete,” Becker said.
Now that the lines are underground, DMU is beginning the next phase of the project.
“We’ve already started looping the transformers, so that if we have one fail, it can back feed,” Becker said. “That will be an ongoing project. The more lines we can loop, the more reliable our system will be.”
Utility work along the Highway 12 corridor was another highlight.
“It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too,” Becker said.
For Becker, getting to know DMU’s customers is a rewarding part of his job.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be at a gas station, grocery store, or another business in town, and someone will ask me to drop off their utility bill for them,” he said. “Everybody is pretty comfortable with what we do and who we are. It’s a good feeling.”
Becker said DMU also has a close working relationship with Delano’s city employees.
“There are a lot of things we do back and forth,” he said, giving the examples of drain tile installation or tree trimming.
Becker spent nine years on the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association (MMUA) board of directors (serving one year as president), and is also on the board for Utilities Plus Energy Services.
“My goal is to create a utility that provides a really good service at a fair price,” Becker said.
Winners near and far
The APPA’s Larry Hobart Seven Hats award extends throughout the nation. In addition to Becker, the other 2013 winners include:
• Robert Anderson, light commissioner for the Cozad Board of Public Works in Nebraska.
• Allen Coyne, town manager of Julesburg, CO.
• Kevin Gladden, village administrator for Genoa, OH.
• Chuck Tibbetts, director of utilities for Aitkin Public Utilities Commission in Minnesota.
• Jim Gibney, general manager of Wahoo Utilities in Nebraska.
• Jim Mardis, former town manager for Pittsboro, IN.
• Pat Davison, public works director for the city of Imperial, NE.