Director Elections

The term is expiring for the director representing District 1: Green/Firesteel/Toivola.  Ballots have been mailed to members and must  be returned to the co-op office no later than noon Monday, June 10. Ballots will be counted and results shared at the annual meeting on June 15. There are three candidates running for this position and their bios follow.

Bruce H. Johanson

Randy B. Myhren

Frances “Fran” Wiideman

Bruce H. Johanson

Bruce and Roberta Johanson have been  Ontonagon County REA members since 1970. They reside in the Firesteel area east of Ontonagon.  Mr. Johanson was a teacher in the Ontonagon Area Schools for over 30 years.

Bruce and Roberta operated a small riding stable and were involved in 4-H activities for over 15 years. The family farm also had cattle, goats, pigs, and chickens. Summers were spent with hay making and the challenge of keeping the machinery running.

Roberta worked as a restaurant short-order cook, and for over 36 years as a dental assistant. The couple have two daughters, Lori (Kent Thomas) who resides in L’Anse; and Linda (Greg Nelson) who reside in the Firesteel area and continue the family horse ranch. Linda is employed as a teacher in Bessemer and Greg works for the Ontonagon Area Schools as a bus driver and teacher aide.  Linda and Greg are also OCREA members.

Bruce is currently President of the Ontonagon County Historical Society and has been a member of the Board of Directors since 1984. He is also the chairman of the Ontonagon County Planning Commission, and a former member of the Ontonagon Area Board of Education. Bruce is also the President of the Church Council of the Siloa Lutheran Church and Chairman of the Northern Lights Lutheran Parish.  Since retiring from teaching, he writes for the Ontonagon Herald covering local government meetings and doing feature stories.

Some years ago, Bruce wrote a local history book which provided material for “On Their Own Power,” the story of Michigan’s Electric Co-ops by Raymond Kuhl. As a result, he is well acquainted with the history of the Ontonagon REA and the story of its beginnings and the original vision of the founders.

Johanson says, “I have the time to devote to the position of being an OCREA Board member.  I am committed to assuring that the OCREA serves the  best interests of all of its members and keeps them informed about the unique challenges  that our REA cooperative has to deal with.”

Randy B. Myhren

Randy B. Myhren has represented two areas of the Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association since 1999. He was first elected to represent the Ewen/Trout Creek District, serving in that capacity from June 1999 to June 2011. In September 2011, he was reappointed to the position to fill a vacancy. He resigned from the Ewen/Trout Creek district when he was elected to serve the Green/Firesteel area in June 2012.

Randy is a long-time R.E.A. customer, having a residential account for almost 40 years and a seasonal account for nearly 30 years, so he understands electrical and service issues from both customer and co-operative points of view. As part of his commitment to the position, he attended a training session on Board Governance in 2014.

In addition to his work with the Ontonagon R.E.A., Randy served on the Ontonagon County Solid Waste Planning Commission and is a member of the Ontonagon County Whitetails Unlimited Governing Committee, the Lake Superior Sportsman’s Club, and the Upper Peninsula Sports Fisherman’s Association.

Randy was employed as an Operator at Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation from 1979 until the mill closed in 2010. In 2011 he began studying for an Associate Degree in Construction/Building Technology at Gogebic Community College, graduating in December 2012 with a 3.83 grade point average.

A strong advocate for the R.E.A. nationwide, Randy believes that had it not been for the R.E.A. many Americans would be without electric power today. He feels that larger companies would not be willing to invest in the costly infrastructure needed to provide power to rural areas for so little return.

During Randy’s tenure as director, the Ontonagon R.E.A. has focused on improving reliability through an ongoing brushing program and installing underground facilities to decrease the risk of power outages. Because the cooperative has no generating facilities of its own, the cooperative also researched the energy market and established power-supply contracts with companies offering the best reliability at the lowest cost. “Fixed costs are high,” Randy says. “The Ontonagon R.E.A. pays $300.000.00 a year to 30 townships and two villages just in property taxes. I feel it’s important to work with our manager to establish a realistic budget and operate within those parameters. Overall, our goal is to keep the power on for our members at the lowest cost we can.”

Frances “Fran” Wiideman

I live in Misery Bay in the house my father built. I graduated from Jeffers High School, got married, had eight children. After my youngest child entered school, I decided, with encouragement from my brother, to continue my education. While enrolling at Suomi College, in Hancock, a professor encouraged me to take a Finnish Language course, saying that, for me it would be an “easy A.” So I did, and it was. (I am the granddaughter of four Finnish immigrants.) Then I wanted more.

Following the AA in Liberal Studies from Suomi College was a BS in Earth Science and an MA in English from Northern Michigan University, and finally, an MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Oklahoma State University.

Upon returning to Toivola in 1997, I was a substitute teacher at several local schools. In 1998, I accepted a position as Chair of a department that included ESL, Pro-College, and Students with Disabilities at Suomi College, now Finlandia University. In 2001, I accepted a position at Michigan Tech University to develop and direct an English as a Second Language (ESL) Program for international students who needed English language instruction to meet the language requirements for academic study at MTU. I retired in 2011.

I am a member of the Misery Bay-Toivola Seniors Club and, since 1997, a member of the Kalevan Naiset (Kaleva Ladies) Ainon Tupa #13 of Mass City.

In May of 1998, I was walking along the gravel road in Misery Bay when a neighbor, Marvin Mattson, stopped to talk to me. He had in his hand a nominating petition form for Director on the Ontonagon County REA Board, and after telling me some of the history of the REA, he asked me if he could nominate me for Director for the Toivola/Lake Mine District. I agreed, signed my name, and got elected. I have served on the Board ever since, as a member, vice president and president, participated in Director Training, and worked with attorneys to update the REA bylaws. I have learned to recognize and appreciate the impact that the REA has had on the rural areas of this country: The Power of Power.

In 1938, Toivola sent a committee of local farmers to Ontonagon to ask for power lines to be built through the 20 miles from Ontonagon to Misery Bay. When the rejection letter, along with the returned $5.00 membership fees per member/customer, signed by the REA Manager, came back, disappointment came to all those committee member’s faces.

I remember my father’s words as he built a store, Charlie’s Grocery in Misery Bay, to serve the needs of local families, his neighbors, friends, and relatives… farmers, loggers, and fisherman. The first years without electricity, then a gasoline generator in a small building near the house that brought power to Charlie’s Grocery and the taste of ice cream on a hot summer day.

Then, ten years later, REA came to Misery Bay and every home got power and ice cream on a hot summer day.