Mark Fritsch

by: Mark Fritsch, General Manager

Owatonna Public Utilities is the Utility that is used as an example of excellence nationwide. This excellence includes operational aspects of the utility but also the non-operational aspects, which brings me to this month’s subject, recognizing the community involvement of OPU.

As your municipal utility, OPU has a long standing history of being involved in the community and region. This involvement has become a part of the culture of OPU, a culture that also extends to our employees.

OPU is deeply involved in safety education locally. One way OPU is involved in the community is through Steele County Kids Safety Camp. Each summer, OPU takes time to demonstrate how to stay safe around electricity to 3rd graders and the dangers of not respecting it. During this demonstration, campers get to watch a demonstration of an electric safety city which shows what would really happen if a human were to touch utility wires. Besides the demonstrations, OPU holds a seat on the board and assists with planning, setup and teardown of the camp.

Another way OPU is involved in the community is assisting the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism with decorations and street banner. Each year in the fall, you will see many of OPU’s lineman helping to decorate downtown for the holiday season. You may have even seen our linemen in boom trucks putting up garland and banners on the downtown street lights. They also assist with putting up the holiday lights in central park in preparation of the lighted parade and annual Lighting of the Lights festival.

As I said, the community involvement also extends to our more than 50 employees at OPU in their personal and professional lives. OPU employees volunteer to teach Junior Achievement sessions to the young people of Owatonna. These sessions go through a variety of material from elementary all the way through high school. Many of the volunteers come back year after year to teach in the same class.

Our employees are also involved on a variety of boards through the Owatonna area. OPU employees are on the boards and commissions for, among others, the Owatonna Degner Regional Airport, Steele County Historical Society, Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Ambassadors, Owatonna Area Business Development Center (formerly the Owatonna Business Incubator), Rotary of Owatonna, Kids Korner and St Mary’s School. Other professional involvement includes members of the Clean Energy Resource Teams Steering Committee, Owatonna Business Women, Leadership Owatonna and Owatonna Leadership Council.

Personal involvement in the community extends beyond what can be listed but includes all aspects of the community. From church groups to school volunteers to support groups, OPU employees carry the same community involvement culture that is so important to us as an organization.

With such a wide range of community involvement, OPU is no doubt the benchmark for other utilities to compare. I would like to wrap up by recognizing and thanking all those who are involved in making Owatonna the community it is today. Without the tremendous support if individuals and organizations alike, Owatonna would not be able to offer the opportunities it does today.