Dave Raatz retires after 41 years

Dave Raatz
Dave Raatz, senior vice president of Asset Management, Resource Planning, and Rates.

It was 1977 and Dave Raatz was studying engineering at Bismarck (North Dakota) Junior College when he had the opportunity to become a student intern at Basin Electric in the planning and marketing division. It was the start of what would ultimately become a 41-year career, being offered a permanent job with the cooperative after graduating from North Dakota State University in Fargo in 1980 with a degree in electrical engineering.

Growing up in Bismarck, Raatz was aware of cooperatives but didn’t know much about what they were before joining Basin Electric. But one thing that stands out in his mind from his childhood is the groundbreaking at Leland Olds Station (LOS) near Stanton, North Dakota.

“My dad was a civil engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation, and he took me to the LOS groundbreaking (see a video). I remember sitting on the grass watching and realizing that this was a really big deal,” Raatz says.

Fast forward to 2021, Raatz, now senior vice president of Asset Management, Resource Planning, and Rates, has a lot to reflect on as he looks back at his time with Basin Electric. He is one of the few individuals who had the opportunity to work with every general manager at Basin Electric. He was also able to see and influence some major milestones in the cooperative’s history, like diversifying revenue, backfilling with renewables, and joining Southwest Power Pool. But some of Raatz’s favorite work has had to do with negotiating power sale and purchase arrangements, resource planning, and member rate design.

Raatz says that out of everything he’s had the opportunity to do, he’s most proud of the relationships he’s developed within the membership.

“Really, our work is about doing whatever we can for the membership and ultimately our member-owners in the nine-state region. I was able to do a lot to serve the membership, and that’s what I enjoyed the most because I saw how important that was to the organization,” he says.

One thing that has helped Raatz have a successful career is his ability to adapt and pivot.

“I’ve never been opposed to change or doing new things,” he says. “Some people say, ‘This is the way we’ve done it for the last five years,’ and I like to ask, ‘How should we do it for the next five years?’ Change is constant, so you should never be afraid of change.”

As confident as Raatz is today, he shared that making decisions with a big reach wasn’t as easy early in his career.
“Over the years, there have been a lot of challenges. I can remember doing some analysis that had a significant impact on employees at the power plants. Early in my career, I had some anxiety over giving recommendations that would impact a lot of people. Over time, those decisions became easier to deal with because the guiding light has always been what is right for the membership,” says Raatz.

Dave Raatz
Dave Raatz early in his career at Basin Electric.

As he grew in his career, Raatz says he was influenced by some of the senior managers he worked with when he was starting out.

“When I was younger and getting into my career, some of the initial senior management were mentors to me, like Howard Easton (manager of marketing and member services) and Rich Fockler (manager of operations and engineering). Their philosophy had a big impact on me.”

He says that starting out, he didn’t picture himself holding a senior vice president position.

“It’s always been a goal to advance in my career but boy, I sure didn’t think I’d be a senior vice president,” he says. “I feel very thankful.”

Raatz says leadership by example and an ability to work with people are two skills that have helped him find success.

“From a manager’s perspective, it’s important to be able to help staff find a position that’s beneficial for everyone. Every employee is different, so how do you find the right niche for the right person that fits their skillsets so they work together? That’s the challenge,” Raatz says. “And sometimes you see a strength in someone that they don’t see in themselves.”

When asked what advice he would give to people early in their careers, Raatz says, “For my kids, I tell them it’s important to follow what they really like to do, and that they’re not going to be successful in everything but should still try to do their best.”

He adds, “It’s not always about the salary – don’t underestimate the value of benefits and the feeling that you are adding value through your work.”

From a student intern to the head of a large department, Raatz has had a big influence on the cooperative. He says when he pictures Basin Electric in 10 years, he knows it will always provide a lot of value to the membership. And for him, it’s bittersweet that he will no longer be involved.

“It was a hard decision to walk away from a job I really enjoy. I used to say I would retire at 55, and now nine years later I finally pulled the pin. I’m kind of sad but still excited. It will be a change, but like I said, I’m not opposed to change.”