SLV REC CEO Loren Howard retires
MONTE VISTA— “’Did I do the right thing?’ Going home at the end of the day, I ask myself that question. ‘Did I do the right thing for our cooperative, the employees and 90 percent of our members?’ If I can answer yes to that question, then I sleep well at night,” Loren Howard stated when commenting on his 11 years as CEO of San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative (REC). Howard retires in March, and Eric Ericksen will take over all duties as Chief Executive Officer on March 13. Howard will stay on board to the end of March to help foster a smooth transition for Eriksen and REC employees.
Coming to REC from Holland Board of Public Works (Holland, Mich.) in November 2011, Howard was looking forward to having “many new professional challenges and opportunities.” He had previously served 22 years in the United States Coast Guard and worked at Packaging Corporation of America, Century Boat Company, and Colorado Department of Transportation. He earned a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering and a master’s in Business Administration in his many academic pursuits. He is also a registered professional engineer in Colorado.
Howard has seen many industry changes since starting in the business more than 40 years ago. The technical (back-end) of the electric system is completely different, due to wholesale deregulation and the creation of regional transmission organizations (RTO) and independent system operators (ISO). In addition, “renewable energy is transforming the industry; wind and solar are changing where power is from,” he stated.
On a more local level, Howard does not see huge changes coming for the electric cooperative.
“We’re the wires to your house; we’re the end-user provider. I don’t see the fundamentals of our business changing even with solar on your house and someday the implementation of microgrids. No technology will change the wires and poles to your house. I do think demand will change, but the basics will not.”
Throughout Howard’s history of being at REC, one of the accomplishments he is most proud of is summed up in one word: Ciello. His pride for REC’s broadband division is very evident in the way he talks of it. “I’ve been around broadband since 1993. When REC’s Board of Directors wanted to bring it to the Valley, I said, ‘ok, let’s go.’ We brought in someone to do a feasibility study—marketing, engineering and financials, and everything looked okay. Then we did a second round of market and financial studies, and we went for it,” Howard said.
“I would like to think I’ve changed people’s lives here [by bringing fiber broadband Internet to unserved and underserved areas].” He would not have changed a thing along the way. “We didn’t wait for grant money. If we did, we’d never be where we are today. We just went and did it.”
“In the future, maybe grants will help build out fiber in other areas that are difficult to justify financially, but we did what we needed to do to get the job done at the time, and I’m proud of that,” Howard said, “I hope 20 years from now, maybe someone will think, ‘I remember Loren Howard; he brought fiber to the Valley.’”
“My best memory of working at REC … every day. There have only been two days since I’ve been here that I didn’t want to come to work. I’ve loved every other day of the last 11 years,” he commented.
Creede Hargraves, REC Board Director commented, “I have only had the pleasure of working with Loren for a short time; but the first thing that struck me in both meeting him and working with him was his high degree of professionalism. I have seen a great deal of respect afforded him, from both other board members and the staff of SLVREC. He has shown a real desire for service of the coop and the communities that are served by it. His service and experience will be missed.”
So, what is next for Howard… “I’m retiring,” he laughed. “I’ve never been good at having fun when I know there’s work to do. Can I just play all the time? I struggle with that concept.” As a new Monte Vista City Councilor, Howard will be able to keep himself somewhat busy. “I’ve thought about being on City Council before, but never could commit the time. With my impending demise here at REC, the time is right,” Howard commented.
Howard also plans to travel with his wife Karen; they are looking forward to a future trip to Scotland. “As of right now, Karen is excited for me to be home more, but we’ll see how that goes. Sometimes you realize you might not want what you asked for,” he laughed.
In addition, his two children have been asking him for years: “when are you going to retire and come visit us more?” That is in his plans too— visiting his daughter Rebecca and her husband James in Denver and his son Micah and his wife Kendra in Washington D.C., as well as his eight grandchildren.
Additionally, he will find more time for his hobbies: rebuilding jeeps, amateur radio, hiking, and rock climbing, and he might even try to finish getting his private pilot license. The San Luis Valley has been the perfect home for Howard and his wife. “Anywhere above tree line is literally my heaven on earth. When we moved here in 2011, we were 228 miles away from my son and his family and 228 miles from my daughter and her family. It’sthe perfect place to be,” Howard said.
According to REC Board Director Carol Lee Dugan, “Loren has been an energizer for the entire SLVREC Board. He encourages every board member to think out of the box productively. It has been exciting to see SLVREC’s progression under his leadership.”
“I am enormously grateful for being a part of REC. I love working for the members and customers of REC and Ciello. The employees here are the best I have ever had a chance to work with. It’s a great organization with few struggles; this makes it hard to walk away. My heart will always be with REC and Ciello, and I’ve told the board and the employees several times, ‘if you ever need me for any reason, I’ll be there,’” Howard concluded.