The retirement of a Utah electric cooperative board member marks the end of an era for a husband and wife's service to the local and national co-op family.
For Don Torgersen, 73, it's a farewell to a career that ranged from climbing poles in the sprawling, rugged service territory of Garkane Energy Cooperative as a journeyman lineman to stints in the paneled boardrooms of the Loa-based co-op as well as NRECA's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
Among many other contributions, he shepherded the selection of the bronze lineworker statue in NRECA's lobby. He said the statue honors career lineworkers like himself.
“I think it tells best the story of electric co-ops' struggles they've had throughout the years, and a lineman was on the front lines all the time," said Torgersen, who was NRECA's Utah director from 1992 to 2012 and chaired the association's fine arts committee that commissioned the sculpture.
His wife, Melinda, 70, was also active in state and national co-op affairs. She spent 33 years helping build the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour program before retiring in 2018. On contract with the South Jordan-based Utah Rural Electric Association, she led the state's Youth Tour program from 1985 until her retirement and oversaw Youth Tour efforts in 11 states.
“It just grew bigger and bigger, and it was wonderful," said Melinda. “It was a wonderful opportunity to work with these kids, because I knew they could go on and be good citizens, understanding how important their participation in their communities and states could be. And they'd always have a tie to their co-op."
Don served a total of 39 years on Garkane Energy's board, including three terms as president. Garkane Energy Board President William Hammon, his successor, said Don helped the organization through a time of demanding challenges, from a pandemic to a rate hike.
“He taught me much more than just policies and procedures," Hammon said. “He taught me about character. He taught me about doing the right thing, the right way. I am sure I am not the only person that Don has taken under his wing, or the last. I am just grateful I am one of them."
During retirement, the couple will continue to operate their 300-acre sheep and cattle ranch in Koosharem, spend more time with family and travel.
“We hope we've been able to contribute, not only to our co-op but to our state and the program," Don said. “It's just totally been a wonderful experience for us."