Let’s Talk Community Service

Jun 20, 2024
Written by: Rodney Wilson
Cassidy Hjelmstad next to Barksdale Trophy which recognizes the partnership between Minot and Minot Air Force Base.

Cassidy Hjelmstad is Active On Many Fronts

It might be OK for most CEOs to turn off the lights, close the door and head for home after a busy, pressure filled day. But for SRT CEO Cassidy Hjelmstad it could be a quick switch of hats, and on to the next activity, or activities.

Not only is Cassidy a busy CEO of a company that competes in the ever changing world of residential and corporate communications, a quick look at the Minot Chamber of Commerce/EDC website will give you information about Cassidy Hjelmstad, Chairman of the Chamber/EDC board of directors.

TJ (16), Cassidy, Claire (7), Travis and Thomas (9)

So, you say, many of us wear a couple of hats. Isn’t that what community service is all about? A couple of hats, certainly, but Cassidy is also an Honorary Commander for the 91st Missile Wing. Her Honorary Commander is THE commander of the 91MW, that being Colonel James Schlabach, who just replaced Colonel Kenneth McGee as Wing Commander of the only Air Force base in the United States supporting 2 Wings of the Nuclear Triad, the ICBM Minuteman III, and the 5th Bomb Wing, home to the 23rd and 69th Bomb Squadrons and the B-52H jets.

Any one of the above roles warrant an article in the Northern Sentry, but we’ll take them one at a time as we recently sat down with Cassidy.

We are almost done with our fiber build out in Minot. (Supplying a fiber feed to all homes in Minot). “Technically we started our rural fiber build out in 2010, it was a broadband grant for an area that served only the rural Lake Metigoshe area, and that grant was very specific as to the area that would be served. But 14 years later, we are almost done (with converting the entire SRT area). Considering we had almost 5,400 square miles to cover, and we all know how far apart rural farms and towns are, so it takes a while to install all this underground fiber” explains Cassidy “and we will be 100-per cent served, across our entire SRT service area, by the end of the year.” SRT worked with landowners and homeowners to get directly to their properties so they can have access to that service.”

The fiber conversion was a quite an undertaking, and a significant investment for SRT “our fiber investment was almost $130 million dollars, so that everyone would have access to Gig internet speed” finishes Hjelmstad.

SRT is a telecommunications cooperative with over 24,000 internet customers and 13,500 landline (phone) customers. SRT is also the cooperative that serves Minot Air Force Base, and now every home and office on Minot Air Force Base has fiber to their location. SRT worked with Balfour Beatty who has operated the residential area on base under a new privatized housing agreement, to make sure that they not only reached all of the homes but didn’t overbuild to areas where homes may have been removed.

“We worked to cable the dorms (on Minot Air Force Base) and the residents have Gig by Gig (1 Gig upload and 1 Gig download). This isn’t one Gig to the entire dorm and they all have to share it, but one Gig to each resident, which is great” says Hjelmstad “a true gamer wants to have their own environment, and they want to be comfortable, and they don’t want to share internet feeds.”

And the future? “We are always challenged, and we are always looking for what’s next. We have our eyes on quite a few things that would make sense from a business case, and honestly, it’s pretty exciting.”
Cassidy gives kudos to the innovative, forward thinking board at SRT, “they are always challenging us, keeping us on our toes, and we love that.”

And when Sentinel is being planned and built? “Well of course we want to be at that table. We know and serve this region better than anyone else does. We have fiber everywhere, and I would hope that is an advantage. We are set and ready to help with any project that would come our way, and we love being partners with Minot Air Force Base.

Honorary Commander Cassidy Hjelmstad
“First and foremost, what has impressed me the most, is the quality of the leadership at the Air Force Base. To have 2 missions that are working together to provide nuclear deterrence, with 2 of the 3 legs of the nuclear triad, on a daily basis, has been eye opening” says Hjelmstad about her role as an Honorary Commander for Minot AFB. “The talent that is leading our Air Force allows me to sleep better at night. I grew up in Newburg. We drove by the Minot Air Force Base at least once a week when we would come to town. Now to see all that happens on Minot Air Force Base, and the big picture, it’s incredible. At the Nuclear Triad symposium, we were challenged to talk about the missions, and what Minot Air Force Base does. Honestly, it’s been life changing for me” continues Hjelmstad.

Minot Chamber of Commerce/EDC
“Our military is one of the main pillars of the Minot Chamber/EDC, and it should be. We have the ability to educate and advocate through Task Force 21, we have the ability to show military appreciation from a member/investor side. And even though I may be the Chairman of the Board this year, SRT is a member of the Minot Chamber/EDC. It’s great to have that close of a connection to Minot Air Force Base, and for others like Verendrye Electric to have that connection, is no different. They also serve the base, and they oversee the Military Affairs Committee and they just sponsored Military Appreciation Day at the park. The Minot Chamber/EDC, is the glue that keeps all these relationships moving along and communicating. I also have the privilege of meeting and talking to many Airmen and their families, and even though Minot may not be like the bigger city that they are from, they all say the people are so nice. That’s what’s important, we can make the people not from here feel welcome in our community, and I hope people agree.”

When will things slow down for Cassidy Hjelmstad. From the outside looking in, I can say “never, I hope” in a tongue in cheek fashion. Her experiences on the many fronts that make up the tapestry of Minot as a community and Minot Air Force Base are important. Thank you Cassidy, and keep up the good work…

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