JOPLIN, Mo. - One of the biggest stories in Cherokee County this past year was when Liberty Utilities announced the completion of the acquisition and merger of The Empire District Electric Company (Empire). Liberty owns and operates regulated water, wastewater, natural gas and electric transmission and distribution utilities in 13 states, including Missouri. It is a subsidiary of Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp., based in Canada.

“We have been working together with Empire to meet all state and federal requirements over the last several months and we’re looking forward to delivering high-quality service to all of our new electric, water and natural gas customers for decades to come,” said David Pasieka, President of Liberty Utilities.

Before the merger, Empire provided electric, natural gas and water service to about 218,000 customers in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. A subsidiary of Empire also provides fiber optic services.

The companies worked together in the months leading up to the closing of the transaction to ensure a seamless transition. Customers continue to contact or visit Empire at the same office locations, website and telephone number as they have in the past.

New leadership

Effective Feb. 1, 2017, David Swain has been named President of Empire District - Liberty Utilities Central. In this position, he will oversee the operations and leadership of the Liberty Utilities Central region.

Swain has 37 years of utility experience. Most recently he was President of Liberty Utilities – New Hampshire where he led Energy North and Granite State Electric. He previously served as President for Liberty Utilities operations in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. He began his career in Vandalia, Illinois, working for United Cities Gas Company. In 1997, he became the Division Operations Manager for Atmos Energy Corporation, one of the largest natural gas utilities in the United States. Swain has also been very involved in the communities where he has lived throughout his career. He has served in various capacities with Chambers of Commerce and Regional Economic Development Boards. He was recognized as Small Business Advocate of the Year while working with the Economic Development Board in Southern Illinois. He and his wife, Andrea, will relocate to the Joplin area.

Passing the torch

Former Empire President and CEO Bradley P. Beecher announced his retirement from Empire District effective March 31, 2017. His retirement follows a 29-year career in the utility industry.

In making the announcement, David Pasieka, President of Liberty Utilities, commented, “We owe Brad a huge debt of gratitude for the leadership and vision he has provided to Empire District. Among many other accomplishments, he successfully led the Company through the recovery effort after the May 2011 Joplin tornado, as well as the largest environmental improvement program in the Company’s history. He has provided a strong foundation for the existing members of the Empire leadership team to ensure the continued success of Empire District as part of the Liberty Utilities organization.”

Based in Joplin, Missouri, The Empire District Electric Company is a subsidiary of Liberty Utilities Company. Empire District is a regulated utility providing electric, natural gas (through its wholly owned subsidiary The Empire District Gas Company), and water service, with approximately 218,000 customers in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. A subsidiary of the company provides fiber optic services. For more information regarding Empire, visit www.empiredistrict.com. For more information about Liberty Utilities, visit www.libertyutilities.com.