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Six join Blandin Foundation Broadband Strategy Board

Grand Rapids, Minn. — Six leaders in Minnesota’s technology sector have accepted invitations to the Blandin Foundation Broadband Initiative Strategy Board.

Kristi Westbrock has been with CTC since 2007 and has over 18 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. She has a strong background in human resources, sales and marketing, business operations, strategic planning and product development. Ms. Westbrock has been integral in the cooperative development and partnerships with new opportunities at CTC in the past five years. She spearheaded grant applications for the Border-to-Border State of Minnesota Grant funds for CTC and has been a two-time recipient of these funds to build out broadband in Fairview and Fort Ripley Townships.

Stacy Cluff has worked at Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative for 18 years and is currently the Supervisor of IT and Network Security. Her primary job functions include managing dialup, wireless Internet and WildBlue High Speed Satellite business, which consists of designing contracts, setting pricing, working with marketing promotions, planning for site expansions, vendor negotiations for contracts and equipment, and handling all daily business decisions. 

Dan Pecarina joined Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) in 1999 and has overseen the implementation of a wide range of data, video and voice systems and services. He led the development of Fiber-to-the-Premise networks in seventeen communities over the past ten years. Dan has also been instrumental in the development of the HBC Studios and Sports Network, and the HBC Wizards technical services and consulting group.

Fred Underwood has been employed with the Fond du Lac Reservation since 1999 and currently is the Management Information System (MIS) Director where he oversees the technical aspects of 1,200 workstations, 66 networks in 38 divisions both corporate and governmental. In 2013, Fred was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband.

Rich Sve, a lifelong resident of Lake County, was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2008 where he represents the 5th District and is the current chairman of the Board. Previously, he served as a township supervisor for the town of Silver Creek. Sve serves on nearly 20 committees, many of which deal with land use, natural resources, energy, and environment. He was recently selected to chair the Association of Minnesota Counties Broadband sub-committee.

Bree Maki is the Southern Field Representative and State Broadband Advisor for U.S. Senator Al Franken. Prior to her work with Sen. Franken, she spent more than 12 years at the Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District, where she worked on state and local policy, communications and provided technical assistance in the field. After flooding devastated southeast Minnesota in 2007, Bree managed more than $1.5 million in state funding to provide flood relief to Winona County.

About the Strategy Board and its work

The Broadband Strategy Board was formed in 2003. With members representing public and private sectors, it charts the strategic direction and oversees progress of the Blandin Foundation’s Community Broadband Program, including reviewing and approving broadband-related grants under authority delegated to it by the Blandin Foundation Board of Trustees. A total of $1.5 million in grants will be awarded in 2015-2016 to support community initiatives to increase broadband access and use.  

“We are delighted that Kristi, Stacy, Dan, Bree, Fred, and Rich have agreed to share their talents, expertise and perspectives with the Strategy Board,” says Bernadine Joselyn, director of Public Policy and Engagement for Blandin Foundation. “Their collective experience working with and in rural communities to realize the full potential of high-speed Internet is deep and rich.  This kind of local leadership is key to addressing community broadband needs across Minnesota and we’re honored to have them guide our work to create connected, economically vibrant rural communities.”

Joselyn emphasizes that communities without broadband access – and the skills to use it – are economically sidelined. Rural communities that invest in high-speed communication networks, however, have the tools they need to attract and expand businesses, add jobs, strengthen health care capabilities, improve educational efficacy and overall increase the quality of life.

The Blandin Foundation’s broadband work is guided by a vision statement created by participants in the 2015 DEED-Blandin Border-to-Border Broadband Conference, and now adopted by more than five dozen organizations statewide. The vision states, “Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.”

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