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This September will mark 35 years of service for Tom Johnson of our Cambridge Propane Division. Tom grew up on a farm near Sunrise MN, graduated from North Branch High School in 1967 and St. Cloud Vo. Tech. soon after. Tom served our country for 6 years during the turbulent 1970’s and the Vietnam War as an Army reservist, seeing active duty in 1971. While serving in the reserves, Tom worked as a carpenter before joining Federated in 1976.
The cylinder or “bottle” truck was his first job with the Co-op, filling and servicing cylinders in Cambridge and delivering them to member Co-ops throughout the area. Tom drove propane bobtails delivering LP full time in the busy winter months while he performed other duties during the summers. In 1980 Tom took on new responsibilities when joined our propane tank setting crew. The housing boom in the 80’s and 90’s kept this crew very busy in an area that once stretched from just north of Minneapolis to just south of Duluth. Tom continues in this role today with the added duties of unloading propane rail cars whenever needed. Tom is an invaluable part of our Federated family, his propane knowledge is unsurpassed, and his carpentry skills have been used extensively throughout the company. Tom has seen big changes in our propane customer base over the years, “most all customers lived on small farms and dairy farms back then, now it’s almost all rural residential, much more urbanized” he says.
Tom’s passions outside of work include his family, two daughters and two grandchildren, hunting, fishing, and his 2 vintage Chevrolets (1956 & 1957).
Mike Meelberg recently celebrated 30 years of service to Federated Co-ops, Central Rivers Cooperative and Princeton Cooperative Assn. Mike has been a key part of the management team for all of those 30 years.
Mike was employed as an agronomy trainee by Princeton Co-op in 1981. When the position of agronomy plant manager opened, Mike submitted his application. He was hired and continued as a plant manager until his employment as agronomy operations manager of Central Rivers Cooperative.
He assumed additional responsibilities as they presented themselves taking responsibility for feed, Country Stores, C-Stores and Bulk Petroleum. Currently he has management responsibility for 21 locations providing agronomy, feed, petroleum and consumer products. Seven division managers and specialty managers report directly to him.
He has been a critical force in improving maintenance of equipment and is involved in the vehicle purchasing of most departments. He has taken additional responsibility for computer services and software implementation. His involvement in safety programs and training have been instrumental in improving safety company-wide.
Mike is always willing to help with any task requested whether in his area of management or in other areas of the company. Congratulations Mike on this milestone!
Byron Anderson will have been employed by Federated Co-ops for 30 years in March. He was originally hired by General Manager Bob Olson of Kanabec County Cooperative Oil Assn to work at the full-service pumps at the Mora Station. Byron remembers the “ding,ding” as cars drove over the driveway bell hose. Byron fondly remembers Bob Olson and how tight he was with raises but that he always made employees feel good about working there. The Co-op had sold Midland fuels and lube oils for many years. Price changes for petroleum were rare and usually not more than a penny per gallon. Byron says he spent 20 years of cold winter driving the bulk petroleum truck. One that stands out in his mind was an extremely cold January day in the 1980’s filling an underground tank when the temperature was -47 and windchill -80. Byron had on his snowmobile suit, mitts, parka and face mask. The customer, a bald guy with no hat and a light jacket with zipper and no gloves came out to “shoot the breeze”. He was talking and an suddenly his speech began to slur. Byron told him to get inside because his blood was freezing in his head!
He fondly remembers a little older lady who always insisted on shoveling a path through the snow to the tank. One delivery she told me that she had worked for 3 days through 3 feet of snow to get a path to the tank. People such as her were never forgotten.
He says his job was always enjoyable because of the good equipment the Co-op had. Whether the coldest days of winter or the hottest days of summer, there were always newer trucks we could count on.
Times changed of course. The Co-op went from Midland to Land O’Lakes to Cenex Farmland to CHS Cenex. Our Co-op names changed from Kanabec Co-op to Central Rivers to Federated. Byron worked with three General Manager; Bob Olson, Tim Faust and Tim Kavanaugh.
11 years ago when his back injury became too painful, Byron chose to accept a job in the C-Store and Station. It was a location manager and when h asked Tim Kavanaugh if I would get any training he said “no, sink or swim”. He said he feels fortunate to still be working for the Co-op. “I really like the people I work with. They care about the customers and are knowledgeable. My goal is to retire working at the Co-op if the economy allows”.
She began working for Federated Propane in 1980 part-time and became full-time later that year. Her husband, Clarence Nelson had worked for Federated Propane as a driver since 1962 and when he passed away, Janet was hired by Bud Ringer who was the Federated General Manager. Corey Nelson, Janet’s son, started as a driver that same year. Federated Propane was organized with four drivers in Princeton delivering to Princeton, Isle, Milaca, Ogilvie and St. Michael.
Janet worked in a small 18x18 office near the propane plant, dispatching drivers, processing orders and doing banking and driver reports. There was a “manual card” degree day system in the Cambridge office. Degree day cards and bookkeeping needed to be transported by vehicle between Princeton and Cambridge.
Drivers on call had no cell phones. Many drivers took orders at their home phones and Janet had done that when her husband was delivering for Federated. Sometimes when Bud Ringer called in an order after hours, Janet would go to the field to get Clarence, who was farming part-time. As a result Janet has been involved with Federated for 47 years through her family and her “back room” support for Federated Propane.
Janet has four children, Cindy who with her husband own and operate an over the road truck and are team drivers; Jeff who is truck fleet manager; Cheryl who is a director of a chemical and substance abuse clinic; and Corey who is employed at Federated Co-ops.
Congratulations Janet and thank you for all you do at Federated Co-ops!