Growth and Stability Driven by a Leader in Public Power5 min read
By Zachary Hoffman, Manager of Communications and Publications
After retiring with more than 30 years of service at a job, most people would hang up their hat and enjoy retirement. Not Al Fiser.
Fiser retired after 32 years of being the local banker and then took on the role of village administrator for Pioneer in 2010. In 2021, he was rewarded for his work on behalf of the community when he received the 2021 AMP Seven Hats Award.
Born and raised in Pioneer, Fiser has lived there for all his life, where he and Ronda, his wife of 45 years, raised two children, Josh and Kori, and now enjoy activities with their four grandchildren. Over the years, he has served three terms on the village council and one year as mayor. The community holds a special place in his heart, which is why he wanted to take on the position of village administrator after a long career in banking.
“I’ve lived in Pioneer for 68 years and I love it here,” Fiser said. “I love the simplicity of life here. It is a great place to live and raise a family and being a part of this community has been a very rewarding experience.”
Since taking on the responsibilities of village administrator, Fiser has worked hard on behalf of his community, overseeing numerous infrastructure improvement projects and assisting with economic development efforts.
In recent years, Fiser and his team of permanent staff and consultants have completed more than $18 million in infrastructure improvement projects. These projects included the installation of a new 69-kilovolt distribution line to the village’s interconnection with American Electric Power, an improvement that increased reliability; the installation of new waterlines and a water tower, providing a larger and higher-quality supply of water to the community; the renovation of the village’s water treatment plant, bringing the facility up-to-date on state and federal regulations; and a rebuild of the majority of the village’s electric distribution lines, increasing the reliability and quality of service throughout the village.
These improvements have gone a long way toward helping the community with its development, but they did not come without their challenges.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting, we ran into some roadblocks,” Fiser said. “It made getting the necessary materials take longer than normal, and it was difficult to hit our planned completion dates. Thankfully, I work with a lot of dedicated people, and they got the job done. It makes it much easier for our economic development efforts and provides the community with the necessary capacity to expand.”
Recent job growth in Pioneer has been positive, leading to a low unemployment rate and a cost of living that is 26.4 percent lower than the national average, according to Sperling’s BestPlaces. For a village of its size, Pioneer boasts a very healthy industrial sector. Currently, Pioneer Light Department serves several large industrial customers with 100 or more employees. Those healthy economic factors are not lost upon residents or companies looking for new locations.
With a team of dedicated, local employees, Fiser’s work has helped to make Pioneer an attractive location for many prospective businesses. That is one of the reasons that Pioneer Mayor Ed Kidston saw fit to nominate him for the 2021 AMP Seven Hats Award.
“Al has been instrumental in the growth of Pioneer,” Mayor Kidston said. “His outstanding service to the public, management of personnel and ability to make important decisions in accordance with the policy goals of the mayor and village council make him an outstanding candidate for the Seven Hats Award.”
Surprised and humbled to have been presented with the award, Fiser is still slow to accept the praise that comes with the honor. Instead, he prefers to highlight the efforts of the team he has around him and the leadership of others in the community.
“For me to receive the AMP Seven Hats Award is a direct result of a good, supportive mayor and village council, along with a great team of employees,” Fiser said. “This is every bit as much their award as it is mine, and I am very humbled to have received it. These are all people local to Pioneer and they are all very dedicated to the town. I’m proud to work alongside them.”
While Fiser’s staff is small — only 13 permanent employees work for him directly — they are able to provide the quality services that would normally be expected of a much larger community and staff. Through their efforts, Pioneer has been able to greatly upgrade local infrastructure while still maintaining very low utility rates, a 1 percent income tax and no special levies for police, fire, parks or cemeteries.
The projects and growth that Fiser’s team have helped to make happen have been nothing short of outstanding, but it is the stability the village has experienced in that time that makes the work truly impressive.
“Managing tremendous growth in a small community, while not overextending or allowing expenses to burden the village has been a hat trick beyond measure,” said Mayor Kidston. “The value that Al adds to our success as a village cannot be understated.”
Whether Fiser is willing to accept the praise or not, it is praise well earned, and it is the reason that he is a worthy recipient of the 2021 AMP Seven Hats Award and the 2022 American Public Power Association’s Seven Hats Award.
The Village of Pioneer is a small community located in northern Williams County, Ohio. The village has a population of about 1,400 and serves 845 electric customers.