New general manager Jodi Johanson’s hope is that business at Big Sioux Community Water System is as predictable as turning on the faucet.
Johanson, 52, replaces Martin Jarrett, who is retiring, as the general manager today, July 1, 25 years after both of them joined the company. While the company’s future is expected to include growth, Johanson said consistency is important to customers.
“We want to serve safe, quality water for our customers,” she said. “When expansions come, we want to be ready.”
Johanson’s job is to make sure the company continues to be financially healthy, a job she is familiar with because of her 25 years of experience, in which she started as a bookkeeper and was promoted to office manager.
Even when Johanson turns on the tap, she thinks about the business and how important it is to have a steady supply of quality water. She wants those good business practices and profits to continue for a system that has become her career.
“I just want to see us succeed,” she said.
Johanson will learn more about the plant near Egan and the distribution of water to the company’s 2,200 hookups plus service to area towns, including Flandreau, Egan, Trent, Colman, Wentworth, Chester and Rutland. The service area includes all of Moody County, including some bordering areas, and into Minnesota.
“The biggest change for me is to really get to learn the distribution, the pumping,” she said.
Dan Dannenbring, president of the board of the water system, said Johanson stood out during the hiring process, which included about a dozen applicants. She was the right fit to bring in as general manager with the retirement of Jarrett because she knows the company finances well, he said.
“She’s been with him every step of the way,” Dannenbring said.
“She’s a very strong person and she just fit the bill,” he said. It will also mean less disruption of the business. “If you have somebody qualified within the system, there is no reason to go outside the system.”
Big Sioux supplies water to the ethanol plant near Wentworth, an ag business that is the biggest user of the company’s water. The company also supplies several dairies and other Concentrated Agriculture Feeding Operations in the county.
The ag industry likely will continue to grow, Johanson said. In addition, there continue to be new customer hook-ups, lately coming from growth around the lakes.
Since concerns about spread of the COVID-19 virus happened in the spring, the plant and offices have been closed. Big Sioux planned on having an annual meeting for customers, but that had to be canceled. Instead, the company handed out about 250 meals in a drive-thru arrangement in April.
For now, the plant remains closed to the public and will be for a while, she said. “I think we’ll probably keep it shut down through the year, just to be safe.”
Johanson, who grew up in Rapid City, earned a commercial economics degree from South Dakota State University, married and moved to a farm west of Flandreau. She has three children – D.J., Dan and Grace—and one grandchild.
She said that coming to work for the past 25 years hasn’t seemed like work.
“I have truly loved my job. It’s not really a chore to come to work,” she said.
“This company has been great to me. I love working here. “We’ve had a lot of fun down here, which makes it easy to come to work.”