Employees recognized with Einstein Award for exceptional process improvement ideas

Each year, MDU Resources honors employees who make outstanding contributions to our family of companies and the communities we serve.

Five employees have been recognized with the 2023 Einstein Award, which recognizes exceptional process improvement ideas that contribute in a measurable way to the bottom line.


Everus Construction Group recognizes Confer

Mike Confer, a foreman with Capital Electric Line Builders, is the recipient of the Einstein Award from Everus Construction Group. Confer fabricated and constructed a custom device for the safe removal and installation of traffic signal heads on existing, in-place traffic signal poles.

Confer’s device was fabricated to ratchet to a signal pole mast arm and uses Capital Electric Line Builders’ existing cordless tool batteries to power a winch that safely raises and lowers the signal head into place, allowing a person in a bucket truck to quickly install or remove the signal head from the signal pole mast arm.

Prior to Confer creating the custom winch, the job required the installer in the bucket truck to try to hold the signal head in place, outside of the bucket, while simultaneously trying to attach the connecting hardware to the signal pole. The previous practice was burdensome and created safety challenges as the installer needed to try to carry and hold a signal head with one hand while trying to make pole connections with the other hand.

Confer’s device has, first and foremost, improved safety by reducing the risk of injury to employees performing signal installations. It also has improved efficiency by reducing installation times and reduced the risk of damage to signal equipment by creating a more secure installation method.


Utility group recognizes Jorgenson and Nottestad

Shane Jorgenson, lead operator technician, and Tim Nottestad, supervisor, Combustion Turbine, were honored with the utility group’s Einstein Award.

The individual who nominated Shane and Tim touted their creative effort to install a safer way to climb the Heskett IV stack. By utilizing an existing staircase from the retired coal facility at Heskett, they were able to combine function with safety at a low cost to the company. Repurposing the staircase saved money on materials, fabrication and installation while making it safer for employees.


WBI Energy recognizes Lynn

Tim Lynn, a mechanic in Glendive, Montana, received WBI Energy’s Einstein Award. Lynn was recognized for his continued ingenuity in coming up with countless improvements during two recent compressor station projects. One of his best creations, a manually actuated gas detection head, was not only compliant, but was also safer and cheaper than alternatives. It eliminated the need to rent equipment or work from heights to change out a piece of equipment.


MDU Resources recognizes Dorwart

MDU Resources awarded its Einstein Award to Becky Dorwart, director of executive programs and projects.

During the process of spinning-off Knife River, Dorwart was involved in many facets of the employee benefits program. One of the most complex items was breaking apart the Benefit Protection Trust, which is made up of insurance policies that fund executive programs.

She realized the trust was overfunded in comparison to the needs of the program. Ultimately, she proposed that management extract $20 million in cash basis from the trust and return to company assets, while still leaving the fund in compliance with plan requirements.

Pulling cash from our investments reduced the ongoing balance, which is sensitive to market fluctuations that affect the earnings of the business units that participate in the plan. Also, the timing was important because it reduced the corporation’s need to borrow funds and any interest that would have been charged.


MDU Resources employee, military veteran nominated for “Hidden Hometown Hero” award for volunteerism

Dennis Burdolski, an MDU Resources employee and Air Force veteran, is one of 10 volunteers in Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota, nominated for Scheels Hidden Hometown Heroes. Burdolski was instrumental in starting the Western North Dakota Honor Flight.

Dennis Burdolski, MDU Resources manager of Facility and Administrative Services and Air Force veteran, is one of 10 volunteers in Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota, nominated for Scheels Hidden Hometown Heroes.

Burdolski is a driving force behind the Western North Dakota Honor Flight. In fact, he was instrumental in starting this nonprofit, which provides World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War-era veterans a free trip to Washington, D.C. Burdolski currently serves as the president of the Western North Dakota Honor Flight Board of Directors.

“Many of these veterans did not get a proper homecoming or the respect they deserved when they came back from their service,” Burdolski said. “These honor flights finally give them that.”

Last month, Burdolski and the volunteer team for the Western North Dakota Honor flight took more than 100 North Dakota veterans to Washington, D.C.

During the veterans’ trip to the nation’s capital, they visited the memorials that honor those who have served and sacrificed for their country. They also visited Arlington National Cemetery to watch the Changing of the Guard and toured the U.S. Capitol.

“I enjoy making these flights happen, and this is a great honor to nominated,” Burdolski said. “I’m glad this is bringing even more publicity of the honor flight.”

Father-son Honor Flight experience serves as catalyst to create western North Dakota chapter

Burdolski’s first encounter with the Honor Flight was when he accompanied his dad, also a military veteran, on his trip.

“My dad was a World War II veteran and traveled (on the Honor Flight) in 2010,” Burdolski said. “He lived six more years and talked of his trip every day for the rest of his life. I wanted to share that with others.”

At the time of his dad’s trip, western North Dakota didn’t have an Honor Flight. A chapter existed in only eastern North Dakota to serve veterans from that part of the state. So, Burdolski took it upon himself to change that. He was instrumental in creating awareness and fundraising so that the trips are free to veterans.

Participation in Honor Flights continues to grow

The inaugural flight for Western North Dakota Honor Flight was in April 2022. With every trip since then, the interest continues to grow.

“Each time we go and take 100-plus veterans off the (waiting) list, the list grows even larger within a few weeks after the flight,” Burdolski said. “Obviously these veterans want to be part of this.”

Burdolski said that veterans of Operation Desert Storm will be able to join the Honor Flight once the corresponding memorial in Washington, D.C., is built. The memorial’s location has been determined, but it will be a few years before the memorial is completed.

Learn more about Burdolski’s work for the Western North Dakota Honor Flight and vote by May 16 for him here.

The top six vote receivers will be recognized at a Bismarck Larks baseball game this summer.

Employees recognized with corporate award for volunteerism, community involvement


Each year, MDU Resources honors employees who make outstanding contributions to its companies and the communities we serve.

For 2023, five employees have been recognized with the Community Spirit Award, which recognizes employees who are actively involved in their community. Each winner receives $1,000, plus $1,000 is given to a qualified charity of the winner’s choice. 

2023 Community Spirit Award winners

Nicole Carpenter
Project manager,
Bombard Electric, LLC
Las Vegas, Nevada

Carpenter, a project engineer, leads the charge when it comes to organizing and overseeing Bombard Electric’s commitment to the community. She is passionate about ensuring Las Vegas’ homeless are not forgotten, particularly around the holidays.

In 2023, Carpenter organized a company donation drive to collect clothing, food and basic essentials for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. She also leads continual efforts to gather donations for Project 150, a local organization that focuses on helping homeless teens, providing everything from clothing to basic essentials.


Ben DeHart
ESI Electrical Contractors
Dayton, Ohio

DeHart is active with many organizations and volunteers his time to support their activities. He fixes and updates floats for the Dayton, Ohio, Christmas Parade and has even personally purchased tools needed to work on the floats.

Also during the holidays, DeHart organizes and leads the efforts to hang Christmas lights in downtown Dayton. Each year, he assembles a team of employees to volunteer on the weekends and leads the charge under a tight deadline. DeHart has been known to work alone in the rain, to hang lights when no other volunteers were available.

As a volunteer with his church, DeHart has helped wire the electricity in a home for people in need. He is also an instructor at the local Joint Apprentice Training Center, where he goes above and beyond by spending time with apprentices outside of class to help those who need additional coaching and training.


Mark Haag, manager of project Maximo
Shane Wothe, manager of enterprise endpoints and technical service
MDU Resources
Bismarck, North Dakota

Both Haag and Wothe are involved in Rebuilding Together, a non-profit that helps people with physical or income limitations make essential repairs to their homes. Haag and Wothe serve on the Executive Committee: Haag as the president and Wothe as the treasurer. They volunteer year-round in preparation for Rebuilding Together doing tasks ranging from conducting meetings, fundraising and reviewing applications to touring and selecting homes, coordinating volunteers and purchasing materials for the annual event. Last year, more than 20 homes in the community received improvements.


Matt Heinz
Working lead – Linecrew, Montana-Dakota Utilities
Dickinson, North Dakota

The individual who nominated Matt touted his tremendous commitment to organizations in his community, including giving time to youth hockey, football and baseball teams, as well as the Ronald McDonald House and the Roughrider Commission.

IT developers go back to school to inspire next generation of coders

Baley Wilson (top) and Clay Kuznia (bottom), both associate software developers, mentor their assigned students on a STEM project as part of his volunteer efforts for Hour of Code at Monroe Elementary School in Boise, Idaho. The event was part of Idaho’s Computer Science Education Week.
Photo credit: KTVB.com


Three members of MDU Resources’ Enterprise Information Technology web development team recently went back to school. Not to learn, but rather to help elementary students discover coding.

Joseph Murphy, Clay Kuznia and Baley Wilson, all associate software developers in EIT, volunteered for Hour of Code at Monroe Elementary School in Boise, Idaho. The event was part of Idaho’s Computer Science Education Week.

The trio heard of the volunteer opportunity from their supervisor. Wilson said he chose to volunteer because it was a good opportunity to share his skills with local kids. Kuznia thought it was a great way to foster interest in computer programming.

“My favorite part of volunteering was witnessing the ‘aha’ or ‘eureka’ moment when they found the solution to the problem, in most cases by themselves or with little help,” Wilson said. “It was cool to see the kids build confidence in themselves and build important problem-solving skills.”

For some classes, the coding lessons integrated popular video games to provide additional excitement for the kids. The students Wilson worked with love the game “Minecraft,” and the lessons provided a coding challenge for this game.

Murphy was paired with a third/fourth grade class, and the students caught on to the coding challenges almost immediately.

“My role ended up being a voice to push the kids to try new things and experiment rather than to teach the lessons,” Murphy said. “Overall, my favorite part of the experience was seeing the kids’ heartwarming enjoyment while problem solving and learning to code.”

Kuznia was assigned to a first grade class and loved seeing so much excitement in the classroom.

“It felt more like a fun activity instead of a lesson, and it was effortless to get the first grade students interested in the activity,” Kuznia said. “Many of the students were overjoyed when completing a section of their Scratch Jr. coding challenge. The kids appeared to be having a great time. Overall, it felt like a positive experience for everyone.”


Employees purchase gifts for 39 families

For the 19th year, employees in Bismarck and Mandan, North Dakota, gave generously in hopes of making the holidays a little brighter for families in need.

Employees at MDU Resources, Montana-Dakota Utilities, the Heskett Station, WBI Energy and MDU Construction Services Group supported the Abused Adult Resource Center’s Hope for the Holidays program by purchasing, wrapping and delivering gifts for 39 families consisting of 144 individuals.

The Abused Adult Resource Center is a nonprofit organization that serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in seven North Dakota counties.

Sonya Wald with Montana-Dakota Utilities has led the company’s participation with Abused Adult Resource Center’s program since 2013. At that time, 12 families received gifts.

According to Wald, employees from 36 departments contributed to this year’s effort.

“Abused Adult Resource Center had 300 individuals this year, so our exceptional teams were able to assist with almost half of the community need,” Wald said.

Wald and fellow co-workers Dyke Boese, Dave Wiedmeier, Sarah Kirkendall, Alice Gross and Holly Watts gathered and delivered the gifts, which nearly filled a 16-foot trailer.

22 students receive scholarships from MDU Resources Foundation’s Employee Scholarship Program

The MDU Resources Foundation recently awarded 22 scholarships worth $2,000 each to students who are family members of employees from across MDU Resources Group’s companies.

This year’s recipients are featured below.

The Employee Scholarship Program is awarded annually to children, grandchildren and spouses of eligible employees. Up to 30 scholarships in the amount of $2,000 are awarded each year.  Since 1987, the foundation has awarded more than $1.13 million in scholarships to family members of MDU Resources employees.

While the foundation funds and determines the criteria for awarding the scholarships, it hires Scholarship America to select the winners.

Scholarship recipients are selected based on:

  • Academic excellence, including class rank, test scores and grade-point average;
  • Work experience;
  • Participation in school and community activities;
  • Volunteerism; and
  • A written statement of their career goals.


Recipients of the 2023 Employee Scholarship Program

WBI Energy employee recognized with life-saver award

Ryan Muecke, senior area representative with WBI Energy, third from right, received the Liberty Mutual Life Saver Award for his actions to help a teenage boy in an ATV accident. Pictured with Muecke, from left, are Brian Voss, WBI Energy Worland District transmission supervisor; Muecke’s wife, Christy, and children, Curtis, Charlee and Tucker; Brandon Hoehn, technical consultant with Liberty Mutual; and Mike St. Clair, WBI Energy Worland District manager.


Ryan Muecke, a senior area representative in the Worland District for WBI Energy, was heading home from work recently when his sharp observation skills and instinct to stop may have saved the life of a teenage boy.

While Muecke was driving down a county road, he spotted the tire of an all-terrain vehicle sticking up out of a ditch. He slowed as he got closer and could see hands waving from under an overturned four-wheeler.

“I pulled safely off the road as quickly as I could and ran over to find a teenage kid with his leg pinned under the four-wheeler,” Muecke said. “He was not bleeding and didn’t appear hurt, but his leg was pinned and he couldn’t get out from under the machine.”

Muecke asked the boy if it was OK for him to try rolling the four-wheeler up enough for him to try to get out from under it. When the boy said it was, Muecke was able to lift it and the teen scrambled out.

Muecke said that after making sure the boy was OK and able to walk, the teen helped Muecke push the four-wheeler back onto its wheels. Another truck pulled up at that point, and the other driver also helped push the four-wheeler out of the ditch.

Muecke noted that the accident happened because the boy had a poorly secured load on his four-wheeler — a tank sprayer for spraying weeds. When a strap holding the tank came loose, it caught the front wheel and caused the ATV to flip down the steep embankment.

“I’m glad I was there to help, and that everything turned out OK. It could have been a lot worse if that ditch had been full of water or the tank had come loose and landed on him, or if fuel from the ATV had spilled,” Muecke said. “It was a good reminder to always make sure equipment is secured properly.”

For his actions that day, Liberty Mutual honored Muecke with the Life Saver Award “for outstanding courage and humanity.”

Employees volunteer during lunch break to serve meals to kids


More than 40 Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota, employees volunteered during their lunch hour to serve meals for the Summer Hunger lunch program.

The MSA United Way and Bismarck Public Schools partner to provide free, hot meals to children under age 18 at 11 sites throughout Bismarck. Volunteers are instrumental in getting the meals to the mouths of hungry kids.

Employees from MDU Resources, WBI Energy, MDU Construction Services Group and Montana-Dakota Utilities, including the Bismarck Service Center, volunteered to serve meals.

The employees adopted two of the 11 sites throughout Bismarck to serve meals Monday through Friday. Each of those days, from June through mid-July, two employees at each site served meals, and many employees were repeat volunteers during the six weeks.

Kellie Erhardt, internal auditing director at MDU Resources, led the efforts on behalf of the company. She served as the liaison between United Way, recruited volunteers and managed all coordination efforts.

“Volunteer time and energy are invaluable to this program to help achieve its goals and serve our community,” Erhardt said. “It’s so amazing to see how our employees are quick to help, and some even included their families in this volunteer opportunity.”

Ferderer named to Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC’s “20 Under 40” list

We’re proud to announce that Nikki Ferderer, assistant to the chair of the board and the president & CEO, has been named to the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC’s 20 Under 40 list.

In her role at MDU Resources, Nikki provides support to the CEO and board of directors of the region’s largest publicly traded company. She is a trustworthy team player who, no matter how busy she is, maintains her professional and friendly composure and makes it all look easy!

Ferderer joined MDU Resources in 2008 and was promoted to her current role in 2016.

Read more about Ferderer and the other professionals recognized at https://issuu.com/bismarckmandanchamberconnection/docs/08chamberedc_connissuu_ae6fac43132d83

Brightening birthdays: WBI Energy employees donate 42 Caring Cake Kits

Mindi Steckler (left), WBI Energy director of human resources, and Patty Fillion (second from left), WBI Energy administrative assistant, delivered 42 Caring Cake Kits to the Dream Center Bismarck. They were joined by Kelly and Johnathan Allen (center) with K&R Designs, and Dorreen Quist (second from right), manager of Dream Center Bismarck, and Jim Barnhardt (right), founder of Dream Center Bismarck.


Cakes and birthdays go hand in hand. But for families struggling to make ends meet, a birthday cake and celebration can bring added financial stress.

In honor of America’s birthday, July Fourth, employees in WBI Energy’s Bismarck, North Dakota, office created Caring Cake Kits to help struggling families celebrate their loved ones’ birthdays.

Patty Fillion, administrative assistant at WBI Energy, rallied her co-workers around this initiative. Payroll teams from MDU Resources and Knife River, which are both located in WBI’s building, also participated.

Employees donated enough supplies to create 42 kits. Each Caring Cake Kit includes:

  • A nine by 13-inch disposable aluminum cake pan.
  • Cake mix.
  • Icing.
  • A can of Sprite, which can be used in place of eggs and oil in a cake mix.
  • Candles.
  • A birthday card.

The employees’ efforts were in collaboration with K&R Designs and the Dream Center Bismarck, both in Bismarck, North Dakota. The Caring Cake Kit is K&R Design’s community initiative, and the kits are distributed through the Dream Center’s food pantry.

Inspired by personal experience
Caring Cake Kits is the brainchild of Kelly Allen, co-founder of K&R Designs. It was inspired by her own experience during a time of financial hardship.

When her husband lost his job during the pandemic, they couldn’t afford a cake for their child’s birthday. It was also during this time when they became familiar with the Dream Center, as they used its services, including the food pantry.

The Caring Cake Kits initiative is one way the Allen family pays it forward and helps others in need. They partnered with the Dream Center, which distributes the kits through its food pantry. This ensures families in need never miss a birthday celebration.


About the Dream Center Bismarck
The Dream Center Bismarck is a nonprofit center dedicated to serving low-income and struggling families, children, elderly, disabled, veterans and individuals in the Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota area.