Co-ops and COVID-19: Elections, reporting continue despite pandemic

Although the coronavirus pandemic prevented Great River Energy’s stakeholders from their traditional in-person gathering in 2020, Great River Energy completed its cooperative duty by holding elections and disclosing financial and operational information.

“Our first priority is keeping our stakeholders safe and healthy, but our obligation to member-owners remains,” said Great River Energy President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau.

Great River Energy’s 28 member-owner cooperatives assigned voting delegates for an April teleconference to certify Great River Energy’s directors for the upcoming year. Stakeholders also received reports documenting the cooperative’s 2019 performance and strategic direction.

“We had a remarkably successful 2019. Our rate projections are favorable and we continue to make progress on our goal of reaching 50% renewables by 2030,” Saggau said.

For the second consecutive year, Great River Energy shared financial gains with its member-owner cooperatives, issuing a $5 million refund in January 2019. For the first time in its history, Great River Energy returned patronage capital through $15 million in cash payments to its member-owner cooperatives. Great River Energy also upgraded its high-voltage, direct-current system, a critical transmission resource that has served members for 40 years.

During the board of directors’ reorganization meeting following the annual meeting, Robert Bruckbauer (Lake Country Power, Grand Rapids) was re-elected board chair; Dale Anderson (Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, Spicer) was re-elected board vice chair; Audrey Hjelle (Runestone Electric Association, Alexandria) was re-elected secretary, and Lee York (Nobles Cooperative Electric, Worthington) was re-elected treasurer.

In addition to the officers, the following directors were elected to Great River Energy’s 24-member board:

Bill Berg

  • Mike Littfin, Arrowhead Cooperative, Inc., Lutsen
  • Gary Stenzel, BENCO Electric Cooperative, Mankato
  • Bill Berg, Brown County Rural Electrical Association, Sleepy Eye
  • Fran Bator, Connexus Energy, Ramsey
  • Mark Ethen, Connexus Energy, Ramsey
  • Peggy Kuettel, Cooperative Light & Power, Two Harbors
  • Margaret Schreiner, Dakota Electric Association, Farmington
  • Clay Van De Bogart, Dakota Electric Association, Farmington
  • Lonnie Johnson, East Central Energy, Braham
  • Joe Morley, East Central Energy, Braham
  • David Hernke, Goodhue County Cooperative Electric Association, Zumbrota

    Mark Ethen

  • Nancy Utke, Itasca-Mantrap Cooperative Electrical Association, Park Rapids
  • Craig Olson, Lake Country Power, Grand Rapids
  • Denny Tollefson, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, Pelican Rapids
  • Randy Hlavka, McLeod Cooperative Power Association, Glencoe
  • Harold Harms, Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, Aitkin
  • Bruce Leino, North Itasca Electric Cooperative, Inc., Bigfork
  • Greg Blaine, Stearns Electric Association, Melrose
  • Gary Wilson, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, Owatonna
  • Michael Thorson, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, Wadena

Board welcomes new directors

One of the hallmarks of a cooperative business is democratic control by an elected board of directors. Great

Lonnie Johnson

River Energy’s board recently welcomed three new directors to the cooperative’s governing body.

In addition to serving on Great River Energy’s governing body, directors are also active on the boards of their respective distribution cooperatives.

Mark Ethen, Connexus Energy, Ramsey, Minnesota, succeeded retiring director Don Holl. Ethen serves as vice chair of the Connexus board.

Bill Berg, Brown County Rural Electrical Association, Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, joined the board following the retirement of Reuben Kokesch. Berg serves as vice president of the Brown County board of directors.

Cooperatives mourn loss of leader

Don Swanson

The cooperative family said goodbye to a friend last month with the loss of East Central Energy and Great River Energy director Don Swanson. Swanson’s term on the Great River Energy board lasted two years.

Braham, Minnesota-based East Central Energy elected Lonnie Johnson to succeed Swanson. Johnson is very familiar with the Great River Energy board of directors, having previously served a term on the board.