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From public service to public utilities, Grafton's Einarson to lead Nodak Electric

GRAFTON, N.D. -- When the board of directors at Nodak Electric Cooperative started to search for someone to succeed retiring president and CEO George Berg, it conducted a nationwide search through the USDA Rural Utility Service.

Nodak Electric

GRAFTON, N.D. -- When the board of directors at Nodak Electric Cooperative started to search for someone to succeed retiring president and CEO George Berg, it conducted a nationwide search through the USDA Rural Utility Service.

That search zeroed in on someone in Nodak's own backyard.

Mylo Einarson, Grafton's current city administrator, Grafton Municipal Utilities manager and the city's economic development director, will join Nodak later this month. He has been with the city nearly 20 years.

"Mylo obviously did a great job, not just as city administrator, but as economic development director," said Todd Burianek, who served four years as mayor. "He not only helped in bringing Marvin Windows to town, he was absolutely integral in that process."

Nearly 20 years


Like his predecessor at Nodak, Einarson is a Walsh County native, growing up in Grafton, and a UND graduate.

Grafton Municipal Utilities hired him in 1992, a year after he graduated, as its business office manager. He became city administrator two years later when the Grafton City Council created the position.

The economic development director job title came in 1996, about the time Warroad, Minn., based Marvin Windows was looking for another location for a factory.

"We had just lost an economic director when we learned about Marvin, so it fell on my shoulders to try to bring the company here," Einarson said.

Marvin opened in Grafton in 1997. Employment peaked at about 500 in Grafton before the last recession stalled new home construction nationwide. Today, Marvin still employs about 380 in Grafton.

Utility experience

Einarson also has acquired vast experience in the utility field.

He has been on the Northern Municipal Power Association board of directors since 1993, serving as its president since 1999, and the Minnkota Power Cooperative board since 2000.


Grafton is one of 12 cities in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota that are part of the NMPA.

The Thief River Falls-based group owns a 30-percent share of the 427,000-kilowatt Coyote Station near Beulah in western North Dakota, along with a share of Minnkota's transmission system. Member cities buy wholesale power from Minnkota.

Roughly half of the city of Grafton's 37 employees are with Grafton Municipal Utilities, according to Einarson.

"The electrical part of my job is a big part of what I do," he said. "I'm real excited to move into a job where I get to do that full-time."

He intends to move to Grand Forks in the near future.

"We didn't choose Mylo because he's from Grafton or graduated from UND," said David Kent, chairman of Nodak's board of directors. "He fit the mold that we were looking for."

Population challenge

Although the Grafton City Council moved quickly to seek a replacement, there's talk in town about re-evaluating the position of city administrator/GMU manager/economic development director.


It was sparked by a recent Walsh County Record editorial. Editor W. Todd Morgan suggested that, given the city's recent population losses, leaders step back and consider alternatives, including parceling out some of Einarson's duties, such as economic development, to other groups.

But the City Council has not taken any such action.

Grafton's population decreased from about 5,000 in 1990 to 4,500 in 2000 and 4,284 in 2010.

"I think we've turned a corner on our population loss," Einarson said. "I think we're up about 10 percent even from what the 2010 Census showed."

He said Marvin Windows' employment, which dropped mostly through attrition, has stabilized the past couple of years. The company doubled the size of its Grafton plant in 2007-09.

Shortly after Marvin came to town, it funded a major economic development program, Grow Grafton, which provides tax incentives, $20,000 grants to those buying or building new homes in the city and $10,000 grants to those who relocate their home into town.

While the early 2000s saw just one or two new housing starts annually, the numbers have grown to about a half dozen a year, according to Einarson.

Vacant factory


The city lost a major employer in 2007, when Alchem Ltd., an ethanol producer, closed its doors. At the time, it had about 30 employees.

"They were a heavy user of local electricity," Einarson said, "and they also provided a market for local farm products."

While the building was sold last fall, it has remained closed.

Einarson said a group that now has controlling interest in the facility is negotiating with a potential buyer who wants to convert it into a factory that recycles a variety of materials, farm byproducts or even trash, into bioproducts.

"I think that will happen," he said. "I think Grafton's got a bright future. I have a lot of confidence in the people here and in the town. It'll always be my hometown."

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send email to kbonham@gfherald.com .

Mylo Einarson
Mylo Einarson of Grafton, N.D., is leaving his job as city administrator and will be the new president and CEO of Nodak Electric Cooperative. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

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