The board of directors for Burt County Public Power District made a decision recently they don’t have to make very often.
Namely, the hiring of a new general manager.
The board announced March 28, 2019, that Jon Dockhorn would take over for Dick Ray as the district’s GM. Dockhorn becomes just the third general manager in nearly 35 years. He also is the first in decades not hired from within. For example, Ray was hired as a materials clerk in 1976, moved up to purcahsing agent and eventually replaced Ray Carlson as general manager in 1997. Carlson had been with the district since the 1960s.
Ray said there are advantages to being hired from within, such as knowing the lay of the land, including the customer base as well as the district’s assets and its strengths and weaknesses.
But looking outside for new blood can be good, too.
“Coming in from the outside can bring a different perspective,“ Ray said. “That’s what the board was looking for.”
But Dockhorn isn’t entirely new. He previously worked for a Columbus consulting firm, RVW, Inc., as a project engineer, working on several projects for the local district. He is a 2005 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. He also is pursuing a master’s degree in engineering management from UNL.
After 14 years in the consulting field, Dockhorn said he was attracted mostly by the opportunity here. “Just having to keep track of one district, not 20, was attractive,” he said with a smile. “It’s a big change, but I’m excited about it.”
Plus, his wife’s family is from eastern Iowa, and a posting near the Missouri River shortens travel for visits. His wife and three children will be living in Oakland.
He said consulting work isn’t that different from day-to-day operation of a district.
“A lot of it carries over,” he said, “like planning for future projects.”
Although no major work is currently being planned, he said, there is always something going on. He gave the Costco chicken plant in Fremont as an example. The local district will have customers whose chicken barns will supply birds for the Fremont plant and plans have to be made to meet their needs.
Despite holding an engineering degree, Dockhorn said he may not do the engineering on the district’s future projects, depending on the scope of the project and his own workload. His engineering background also gives him insight when discussing projects with engineers and developers.
Ray’s last day on the job was April 5. Dockhorn took part in his first board meeting the day before.
Ray has been working with his replacement for a week getting him up to speed. He said the transition has been going smoothly.
“He was drinking out of a fire hose for a week,” Ray said. “There is a lot to learn, more than can be covered in a few days. If he ever has a question, I’m just a phone call away.”