UEC tabs Echenrode as new general manager

Robert Echenrode, who is currently the engineering manager for Umatilla Electric Cooperative, has been selected as general manager and chief executive officer. He will assume his new role March. 8.

The Umatilla Electric Cooperative has found a new general manager from within its own ranks.

Engineering Manager Robert Echenrode will be promoted to the co-op’s top job beginning March 8. Echenrode takes over for Steve Eldrige, who announced his retirement last spring.

“It was an honor to be considered to follow such a distinguished group of leaders,” Echenrode said in an announcement Thursday. “I want to help build on the past achievements of our employees.”

Echenrode, 54, started working at UEC in March 2013 and has 25 years of experience with rural electric cooperatives. He previously worked six years as general manager of the Northeast Oklahoma Electric Co-op in Vinita, Oklahoma, serving 38,000 customers.

Echenrode has also worked as an engineering manager at Carroll Electric Co-op in Berryville, Arkansas, and Indian Electric Co-op in Cleveland, Oklahoma.

The UEC Board of Directors chose Echenrode from a pool of 22 candidates and eight finalists from a nationwide search. Board President Jeff Wenholz said Echenrode brings both experience and dedication to the position.

“From the beginning, we were impressed with his work ethic and devotion to the cooperative, and how quickly he learned our system,” Wenholz said.

Echenrode becomes only the fourth general manager in UEC history. Eldrige has served in the position since 1990, overseeing rapid growth at the Port of Morrow along with introduction of power-hungry data centers in both Boardman and Umatilla.

Echenrode takes the reigns at a time when UEC is on the verge of becoming one of the state’s “large” utilities, meaning it provides at least 3 percent of all electric sales statewide. That would lead to significant changes in how UEC must obtain power under the state Renewable Portfolio Standard.

UEC currently serves more than 14,000 accounts and about 2,200 miles of power lines from Boardman to the Blue Mountains. The co-op recorded about $87.25 million in revenue in 2015.

Echenrode has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University. As engineering manager, he was closely involved in helping UEC accommodate industrial expansion at the ports of Morrow and Umatilla.

Echenrode and his wife, Judy, have been married since 1989. Their son Evan, 20, is a sophomore at Oklahoma State University. Their son Avery, 18, will graduate from high school in Oklahoma and has already been accepted to college by Oregon State University and Portland State University.

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Reporter George Plaven can be reached at gplaven@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0825.

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