Eleven years ago, Steve Donkersloot started as an intern at Lowell Light & Power. Now, he is the general manager. However, the longtime employee says it’s time to move on to new endeavors.
After a successful tenure with LLP, Donkersloot is preparing for a position with the Michigan Public Power Agency. As their Director of Strategic Energy Resources and Services, the Lowell resident will be responsible for long-range planning for the use of various technologies and resources by the 22 municipal utilities that make up the MPPA.
Leaving LLP was a difficult decision for Donkersloot, but it’s a career move that may not only benefit him personally but also reap rewards for the community as a whole.
“In his new capacity, he’ll be able to help Lowell,” says Perry Beachum, chair of the Lowell Light & Power Board. “If the MPPA is not successful, the municipal power companies won’t be successful either.”
Donkersloot will stay on at LLP until a new general manager is selected, but he expects to move into his new position prior to the end of the year.
Guiding the Utility through a Period of Change
As a public accounting major, Donkersloot could have gone off to any number of more lucrative positions at accounting firms, but Lowell felt right. “I said I want to work at Lowell Light & Power,” he recalls.
After earning his degree from Hope College in 2010, Donkersloot started as a staff accountant with the utility. In 2011, he moved into the position of office manager, and by 2016, he was named the general manager.
During his time with LLP, Donkersloot has watched the utility go through some rocky waters. About 7-8 years ago, some residents were unhappy about LLP policies, pricing and other decisions. “I remember a lot of letters to the editor,” Donkersloot says.
Since then, there has been a 180 degree change in community mindset, according to the general manager. However, he doesn’t take credit for that, saying it has been a group effort by the board, employees and supervisors to create a utility that is a transparent and wise steward of ratepayers’ money.
As testament to its commitment to excellence, LLP received a RP3 Diamond level designation from the American Public Power Association in 2018. It is the highest designation awarded by the association and indicates a high proficiency in reliability, workforce development, safety and system improvement.
“We’ve always had talented, great people here,” Donkersloot says, and he takes pride in seeing how those workers have come together as a cohesive team in recent years.
No Plans to Leave Lowell
In his new role, Donkersloot will be responsible for helping Michigan municipal power companies make smart decisions about their future operations. “With all these new technologies, the energy landscape is changing,” he says. It will be his job to look at how resources can best be used to serve customers.
While he won’t be employed by LLP, his work will still benefit local residents. He also doesn’t plan to leave the community anytime soon and will commute to his new job.
Donkersloot and his wife have two young daughters, and he says there are many reasons – from kayaking to cultural events to the school district – that they can’t imagine living anywhere else. “We want this to be the place where we raise our kids,” he explains.
For those who have come to know Donkersloot during the past decade and consider him a friend, the decision to remain in Lowell is a welcome one.
“He has furthered the positive culture at Lowell Light & Power,” Beachum says. “I hate to see him leave, but at the same time, I understand.”
Meanwhile, Donkersloot says he may be changing jobs, but that doesn’t mean he has anything but pride for the small-town utility he has been a part of for so long. “I’m not going to stop loving and caring about Lowell Light & Power the day I leave,” he notes. Instead, he looks forward to using his new position to help the utility – and all Michigan municipal power companies – continue to excel in the years to come.