FARGO — Xcel Energy announced Thursday, Dec. 3, that former North Dakota state Senator and Fargo City Commissioner Tony Grindberg will take over as principal manager for the state effective Jan. 15, 2021.

Grindberg will take the place of outgoing Principal Manager Mark Nisbet, who announced his retirement after a 40-year tenure with the firm. Grindberg described the job as a "natural fit," combining his experience working in government with the Public Service Commission as well as his background in economic development.

The position will require Grindberg to oversee a shift to renewable energy as the company projects to be 80% carbon-free by 2030 and 100% carbon-free by 2050. Thus far, Xcel Energy has invested one billion dollars in wind energy in North Dakota and is eyeing future solar investments, Nisbet said.

"The future of Xcel Energy is based on reliability, safety and renewable energy," Grindberg said. "It's going to take some effort, there's no doubt, but there's time to meet those goals," he later continued.

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Xcel Energy also announced a $10,000 donation to the United Way of Cass Clay's Coronavirus Response Fund to combat the challenges the pandemic has created in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The United Way estimates that over 1,000 residents experience homelessness on a given night in the metro area, of whom roughly a quarter are children.

"Those aren't just numbers, they're names, they're children," United Way Vice President of Community Impact Thomas Hill said. "They're going to school and in class with your children. Their parents are probably working. They may be working with you."

Tom Hill from United Way talks about the partnership with Xcel Energy in regards to combating homelessness in the area during the winter months. David Samson / The Forum
Tom Hill from United Way talks about the partnership with Xcel Energy in regards to combating homelessness in the area during the winter months. David Samson / The Forum

The funds will be used to provide food and financial security to those in need as well as divert hundreds of area residents from becoming homeless, Hill explained.

"We're very fortunate to have this investment from Xcel because we know the better way to operate is to help those families from losing their housing than wait until they become homeless," he said.

The United Way's focus since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the state in March has been preventing homelessness that may result from a loss of employment.

"What we're seeing is that the No. 1 reason people are calling for financial assistance or people are calling because they're at risk of becoming homeless is because of a medical expense, largely because they've been laid off or unemployed," Hill said.

The fallout of the pandemic has "absolutely put a strain on the entire homeless response system," Hill continued. "This homeless prevention and diversion initiative can go a long way to stemming or really slowing the amount of people who are going into homelessness."

Despite the financial uncertainty the pandemic has created, Hill said the United Way's fundraising efforts have held steady.

"A lot of businesses and a lot of individuals are still making contributions to United Way," he commented. "We're actually seeing that we're on track year-over-year on our fundraising efforts."

Mark Nisbet, retiring North Dakota Principal Manager for Xcel Energy, along with incoming manager, Tony Grindberg, announce the $10,000 investment in United Way of Cass-Clay's Coronavirus Response Fund to assist local families. David Samson / The Forum
Mark Nisbet, retiring North Dakota Principal Manager for Xcel Energy, along with incoming manager, Tony Grindberg, announce the $10,000 investment in United Way of Cass-Clay's Coronavirus Response Fund to assist local families. David Samson / The Forum

Though he will not transition into the job until Nisbet's employment concludes in January, Thursday's United Way announcement marked Grindberg's first public appearance for Xcel Energy.

"Our success absolutely depends on the community and the United Way is one of those entities that has a really strong background, continues to grow and understands the issues of today," Nisbet remarked. "I just felt it was important and a good place to kick off Tony's welcome in this role."