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Dawson PPD General Manager Gwen Kautz

Gwen Kautz

General Manager

During the board meeting of The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District on July 28th, I was deeply disturbed by public comments provided by opponents of the merger. They referred to Dawson PPD as ‘mediocre’, ‘evil’ and ‘thieves.’ They repeatedly questioned why Central would consider partnering with “a company like that.” The recorded meeting eliminates any possibility of denying the remarks made or the enthusiastic applause that followed.

Having spent 27 years at Dawson PPD, I can firmly and confidently state that we are a dedicated, well-established, well-governed, highly respected and efficiently managed organization. The commitment of the board’s leadership and the diligence of the employees ensure this.

The opposition went a step further by using escalated tactics, including issuing threats of financial ruin and physical harm to any Central director who supported the merger. They used intimidating behavior which included the threat of “frontier justice” (also recorded). These actions and words were unmistakable and were met with added approval from their supporters. They went to the extent of obstructing parking and building entrances in Holdrege using tractors and large trucks.

This group made repeated claims that Dawson PPD was out to steal their water. That is statutorily impossible. They said publicly that our board didn’t understand agriculture and the importance of irrigation. Dawson PPD’s directors are farmers, ranchers and irrigators, and work in businesses that support agriculture. Dawson PPD directors absolutely understand the importance of irrigation.

All public power boards are charged with representing EVERY customer and stakeholder regardless of where they live. An independent, neutral consultant was hired that showed both boards all our customers benefited. The board configuration, bylaws and plan of consolidation ensured no one had an advantage over the other.

Throughout the past year, it became clear that the opposition wasn’t interested in the truth but rather focused solely on their own interests, disregarding the potential positive outcome for everyone (yes, everyone) if the merger was approved. The adopted board governance model was designed to prevent any special interest from controlling the decision-making process, emphasizing inclusivity over exclusivity in voting requirements.

Despite claims of victory by the opposition, the reality is that all south-central Nebraska lost.

We take immense pride in the exceptional collaboration and dedication shown by both the Dawson PPD and Central boards, as well as their management teams and those employees tasked with helping, throughout this entire undertaking. Despite meeting many challenges, they showed unwavering professionalism and transparency in their actions.

Through the course of this journey, I’ve developed great respect for Central’s board, management and employees. This gives me the confidence that we can uncover ways to collaborate for the benefit of our entire region. My belief in the potential of our districts working together has only grown stronger over the past three years. Just like our work on the merger, any possibilities will be carefully investigated. They need to make sense and should be good for Dawson PPD customers, employees and everyone involved.

I hope folks will reflect on what occurred. In the future, when there’s strong disagreement, let’s work on avoiding a repeat of this situation. On all occasions, both the Dawson PPD and Central boards and management teams chose the more dignified path when faced with groundless accusations. We consistently showed respect for any group’s prerogative to voice opposition. I wish I could express the same sentiment about the opposing stance.

It is essential for the well-being of our communities that we foster a more respectful and constructive approach to decision-making and collaboration – especially when there is disagreement. Allowing the vocal minority to dominate with their agenda is never a step forward. Instead, it brings about destruction and potentially tarnishes the reputation of the entire community.

View merger documents and press coverage here


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