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New Employees

Todd Paulson is a Technology Development Operator at the EERC, where he works on project teams to set up, operate, maintain, and repair pilot plant equipment in support of related projects; modifies standard equipment and fabricates new equipment for nonstandard applications; and assists project managers and principal investigators in obtaining project data and results.

Prior to the EERC, Paulson worked for RBB Electric in Grand Forks. He holds an Associate of Science degree in Electrical Technology from the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton and is a Licensed Journeyman Electrician.

“One of the things I like about the EERC is that my coworkers are very willing to show me where things are located, tell me how the equipment works, and explain what the goal is for the end project,” said Paulson. “I like knowing why equipment is placed where it is and what it is meant to do.”
Paulson has always been interested in plants and equipment and looks forward to learning how the EERC operates. He has worked on plants being built and has helped with start-up in the past. He previously worked on the wiring of a project in the Fuels of the Future building and enjoyed that opportunity and what he learned there. 

A native of Grand Forks, Paulson’s hobbies are racquetball, cross country skiing, boating, and kayaking.

Chris Riendeaujoins the EERC team as a Technology Development Operator working with Butch Riske’s group, where he works on project teams to set up, operate, maintain, and repair pilot plant equipment in support of related projects; modifies standard equipment and fabricates new equipment for nonstandard applications; and assists project managers and principal investigators in obtaining project data and results.
“I enjoy working on so many different projects,” Riendeau said. “I also enjoy working with a great bunch of people who make a person feel needed.”

Originally from Red Lake Falls, Riendeau lives in East Grand Forks and attended East Grand Forks Technical College for autobody mechanics. Riendeau’s most recent position was as an equipment operator for a North Dakota agricultural producer, but he previously worked at the EERC as a Field Equipment Operator/Assistant.

A father of two, Riendeau and his 11-year-old son enjoy participating in BMX bike racing. His 20-year-old daughter recently made him a grandfather to a baby girl. Riendeau’s hobbies include four-wheeling, kneeboarding, snowboarding, and spending time at his lake cabin. Another of his interests is studying wildlife.

Don Schaffer is the new Building Services Supervisor at the EERC, where he oversees the training, scheduling, and administrative aspects of the EERC’s Building Services team and their work, which includes cleaning and maintaining the EERC building complex.

Schaffer also operates his own business, Schaffer Cleaning, with three employees cleaning community office buildings. Before coming to the EERC, Schaffer was a Building Services Technician (BST) and then a Lead for the University of North Dakota’s Wilkerson complex, supervising a staff of 14. Previously, Schaffer worked for Cirrus Design. Schaffer holds a Carpentry diploma from Northland Community and Technical College and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Early Childhood from Mayville State University.
“I like the challenge of getting people to do their very best work,” said Schaffer, who noted that the EERC’s facilities are very impressive and the BSTs really know what they are doing.

Schaffer and his wife have 15 children ranging in age from 3 to 26 years. They've opened their arms to a number of foster kids through the years and have adopted several children. Eight kids are still at home, and family time includes bike riding, soccer, playing catch, and trips to Turtle River State Park. The Schaffers have two grandchildren as well.

“We don’t distinguish between adopted or fostered or biological kids—they are all our kids,” said Schaffer. “My wife and I make the final decisions, but we want the kids to have a say in decisions that affect the group so they have some ‘buy in.’ I try to bring that democratic mindset to work as well. I expect a lot, but I want my group to feel that they have ownership of their work and their voices are heard.”


Mark Kobe, Building Services Supervisor at the EERC since 2007, retired after 31 years of employment at the University of North Dakota (UND). He was honored April 30 at a retirement reception at the EERC. Kobe first came to work at UND in 1982 as a Cook with Dining Services, after serving 10 years in the U.S. Navy as a cook. Mark joined UND Building Services in 1995, eventually becoming a Lead Building Services Supervisor. He worked in numerous UND facilities through the years, and many former and present coworkers as well as family and friends came to the reception to wish him a happy retirement.

“Mark’s outstanding work ethic, strong leadership skills, and always positive and proactive approach have been a tremendous asset to the Center,” Associate Director Deb Haley told the gathering. “Over the years, we’ve received many compliments from clients and other visitors about the quality and appearance of our facilities, and that is due in great part to the efforts of Mark and his team.”

In 2009, Kobe won the UND Vice President for Finance and Operations Employee of the Year Award, which recognizes employees who represent the division and the University in an exemplary manner through positive attitude, courteous and responsive demeanor, and outstanding performance.

For 25 years, Kobe pursued a UND degree while taking a class a semester and working full time. In May 2007, he graduated from UND with a bachelor’s degree in Management.  Kobe said that he hopes he can adjust to a “normal” sleep schedule. What he looks forward to most in retirement is not having to work in the middle of the night. He’ll also be putting in some time driving his ’76 Ford Cobra II and his ’78 King Cobra.

Eugene (Shorty) Balek, Technology Development Operator, retired from the EERC on May 30 after nearly 25 years of employment. Coworkers, past as well as present, wished him well in his retirement.

When asked what he was going to do with all of his free time, Balek said he was “just going to enjoy life.”

“Shorty’s knowledge, work ethic, and talents have been very much appreciated and will certainly be missed. We wish him all the best in the future and thank him for all the exceptional work he has done at the EERC throughout his career,” said Butch Riske, Technology Development Operations Supervisor.