Harry Thomas was inducted into the South Dakota Cooperative Hall of Fame.

Harry Thomas was inducted into the South Dakota Cooperative Hall of Fame.

East Sully rancher Harry Thomas was inducted into the South Dakota Cooperative Hall of Fame last Wednesday, September 24.

Harry Thomas has been a member of the Venture Communications Board of Directors in Highmore since 1982. As a man who always has his eye on the future, Harry has seen the industry change dramatically over many years, from simple landlines to the video and streaming services available today. Harry's vision for growth and new technology allowed Venture to avoid lagging behind urban areas, and this vision enabled the statewide network SDN Communications to take 17 separate cooperatives and tum them into a network that brought equal access and other services to member cooperatives, their rural communities and key public service providers such as health care clinics across the state.

Under Harry's leadership, Venture also achieved 100 percent fiber plant to all its members after placing its first "fiber to the home" plant in 2006. Rural customers are now able to enjoy video and highspeed internet services that they would not otherwise have access to without fiber. Most recently, Harry has helped to oversee Venture's expansion beyond the cooperative area, as Hughes County received fiber connections in 2020, which brought customers the same high quality service that cooperative members enjoyed. Harry has also served on the South Dakota Association of Telephone Cooperatives (SDATC) Board for 25 years in top leadership and committee positions and has remained active to ensure that cooperatives maintain a strong position in the state. He took those same skills and passion to the national stage as Board President for the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association in 2009. Harry saw where the opportunities were not only for the industry but also for the consumers served by telephone cooperatives across the country.

His vision and foresight allowed the association to seek out the support that would allow cooperatives to flourish.

The South Dakota Cooperative Hall of Fame provides recognition for those who have contributed in especially significant ways to the enhancement of the cooperative idea, its broader acceptance, or to the substantial advancement of cooperative enterprise in any of its various forms.