People provide power behind city utilities
By Mark Sherry
Current utility commissioners (above) are (front, from left) Julie Woelfel and Mike Steffen, and (back) Bill Heus, Chuck Fett and Gene Woelfel. Below, former commissioner Jerry Wink and Steffen talk about New Holstein Utilities.

For most people it is a mystery, but not one they spend much time thinking about.

They take it for granted that when they walk in a room and flip on a switch the room will be lit. They take it for granted that the water from the tap is not only going to be safe to drink but taste good too.

About the only time the average person thinks about such things is when something goes wrong—the lights go out, or the water tastes funny.

Those types of occurrences are extremely rare in New Holstein and have been for the last century, thanks in very large part to the efforts of the people who oversee and work for what today is known as New Holstein Utilities.

Who those people are and what they do also might be a mystery to some local residents. New Holstein Utilities is a separate entity from city government, and its operations are overseen by volunteer, appointed commissioners.

Employees and commissioners who spent years working for New Holstein Utilities recently shared some thoughts on the organization, and the unifying theme in their comments is the dependable utility services provided by NHU over the years.

Ron Greuel served as superintendent of NHU from 1990 to 1999, taking over after the retirement of Ernie Dyer Sr. Asked to what he attributes the quality of NHU, Greuel said, “It’s a culture. We had good people. The culture was there to do things for the customer and the community. Ernie always had that attitude, and you can’t beat the guy who’s there now (Randy Jaeckels).”

Shortly after ending an eight-year stint as mayor of New Holstein, Jerry Wink was asked to become president of the New Holstein Utility Commission. Wink said he attributes the quality of NHU to “managing the maintenance of the lines and having a superintendent who keeps things in order.”

“We’re kind of unique,” Wink added, highlighting the water softener rentals which New Holstein Utilities continues to do—something few other utilities handle.

Mike Steffen continues to serve on the Utility Commission and has since 1986 when then mayor Dennis Rybicke asked him to become a commissioner. Steffen was working in appliance sales for Household Utilities in Kiel at the time, and the mayor apparently thought that qualified him for the position.

“I remember some of the first meetings with WPPI (Wisconsin Public Power, Inc.),” Steffen said. “We were pretty new with WPPI back then.”

Retired employee Melvin Meier’s service with New Holstein Utilities predates the utility’s relationship with WPPI. He returned home in the early 1960s after serving in the military and needed a job. Although he had no experience in

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