As he scoots up to a second-floor conference room table, Folko Mueller, recently hired short-term trader at Basin Electric Headquarters, promises his co-workers he will return the borrowed chair he’s perched on shortly. It’s a simple request, and everyone seems cool with it.
Taking into account this minor act of consideration toward his teammates, it’s easy to see why Mueller has major success when it comes to making friends in Bismarck. He’s just a nice guy.
“I feel right at home,” Mueller says, relaxing his folded hands onto the table in front of him and sporting a giant grin. “People knew immediately who I was. The first couple weeks I had strangers walk up to me … that just doesn’t happen.”
More than just a number
In the jobs he worked before Basin Electric, Mueller often found himself planted in the middle of a corporate jungle, unable to meet people in neighboring floors and work areas. So when he walked through the cooperative’s front doors, receiving greetings from fellow employees was a pleasant surprise.
If you ask Mueller, the Basin Electric culture trumps that of an office building for other larger companies, like his prior Houston-based BP office where “you’re just kind of a number more than anything.” In Bismarck, Mueller has an identity, and people are taking to it.
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“Opportunity,” Mueller says with a smile.
He says accepting a job at Basin Electric has allowed him to help “start a floor from scratch.” More specifically, he refers to the new trading wing on the second floor at Headquarters.
“It’s almost like starting your own business,” he says. “That was probably the biggest draw.”
Just a few yards from the conference room door sits Mueller’s desk. He’s excited to talk about the cooperative’s new work area, and immediately highlights the benefits of the setting.
“There’s a reason for this open-floor plan; the reason being that communications are a lot better that way,” he says in regards to the nearly officeless setup.
A few minutes prior, Mueller could be seen swiveling his desk chair back and forth, from his computer to a neighboring trader a few feet away. He finds the floor’s atmosphere exciting, and continues to work while a man on the opposite side of the room sets up dozens of TV monitors that take up nearly an entire wall.
“We have a good crew out here,” Mueller says. “It’s a very stable culture, and I think people are rightfully proud of that.”
Basin Electric provides great benefits
He adds that Basin Electric’s benefits package is another plus, stressing that it is one of the best he’s seen. The pension plan is especially eye-catching to him.
“At this day and age, that’s very rare.”
Mueller has only been in his new setting for a couple weeks. He worked on the fifth floor when he started at Basin Electric, while the trading area was still in a major construction stage. Many of his trading teammates were in the same boat. But now they all live in what seems like a different world together; a world accessible via an electric office I.D. lock, which isn’t yet active.
Mueller says the trading floor won’t be in full operation until Jan. 1, but he’s keeping busy in the meantime. Those who work around him can often hear him speaking Spanish or German, his native tongue, to associates over the phone. He speaks perfect English.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Mueller studied through high school and a business apprenticeship. Eventually, he decided that he wanted to pursue his undergrad in England, and he also ended up studying for some time in Mexico.
Eventually setting his sights on the U.S., he decided that he wanted to also work toward a graduate degree. He later attended University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, earning master’s degrees in business administration and Latin American studies. And, as fate would have it, that’s where he met his wife, Meredith.
And the rest, they say, is history. The couple has two young girls, Isabella and Sophia.
Mueller is still in the process of moving his family to Bismarck; they’re remaining in Houston for now. Until they can make the move, he uses his time to enjoy certain hobbies – sports, especially. He recently caught a Bobcats play-off game, as well as a Twins game when his plane first landed.
Mueller has been able to visit his family since starting at Basin Electric, and they have since traveled to Bismarck to spend time with him.
“We’ll probably be looking at some houses,” he says. “I think the girls are really excited about catching a show at Medora … the rest is probably going to be up to my wife.”
And while Mueller grew up in Germany, and is therefore used to experiencing cooler winters, his girls are looking forward to experiencing winter in Bismarck.
“My girls are very excited to see snow,” he chuckles.
Discovering family at work
Mueller says he is happy to be able to spend time with his family in Bismarck for a while, but explains he also feels lucky to be part of the support unit he’s found in the workplace.
“There is such a thing as a Basin family,” he says. “Just happy to be here.”