'Small Community, Big Impact: The Proud History and New Directions of Osage Municipal Utilities' 

Luther alumnus Josh Byrnes featured speaker of Decorah Power's Learning Series Oct. 16

Luther College Alumnus Josh Byrnes is the featured speaker in Decorah Power's fall Learning Series at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, in Valders Hall of Science Room 362 on the Luther College campus.

Byrnes, the general manager of Osage Municipal Utilities, will give a presentation titled "Small Community, Big Impact: The Proud History and New Directions of Osage Municipal Utilities." In addition to his presentation at Luther, he will also speak at a brown bag lunch at noon Monday, Oct. 16, at Decorah City Hall. Both presentations are open to the public with no charge for admission.

Located approximately 55 miles west of Decorah, Osage has a municipal electric utility. The utility was formed in 1941 and currently has gas, electric and telecom departments. In addition, it utilizes renewable energy in a 1.5MW GE wind turbine and a 792kW community solar farm.

With the support of the Decorah City Council, local citizens group Decorah Power is conducting a feasibility study with privately raised funds to explore the creation of a municipal electric utility in Decorah. It would be a locally-owned, city utility providing electricity services in the same way it provides water and sewer services. According to Decorah Power, there are 2,011 municipal electric utilities in the U.S., 136 of which are in Iowa. Iowa also has 44 rural electric cooperatives.  

Byrnes' presentation is part of the Decorah Power Learning Series, which is designed to educate the community on the opportunities and challenges in creating a municipal electric utility in Decorah. The feasibility study is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Luther College has pledged $15,000 toward the study.

For more information about Decorah Power and the other presentations in the future, visit www.decorahpower.org.

Byrnes is a 1996 alumnus of Luther College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in biology. He also has a master's in educational leadership from Winona State University. Byrnes is a former Republican party member of the Iowa House of Representatives, serving three terms from 2010-17. He represented District 51, which includes Osage and Cresco. During his time, he served as the transportation committee chair and was the vice chair of the ways and means committee. He also was on the education, agriculture, natural resources, economic growth/rebuild Iowa and environmental protection committees. He chose not to seek re-election in 2016. In spring 2016, Byrnes was appointed the general manager of the Osage Municipal Utilities.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.