Company leaders share cooperative message

Financial strength, dependable assets and a plan to remain competitive long into the future – those were the messages Great River Energy leaders shared with members and stakeholders during the cooperative’s June 1 annual meeting.

“2015 was a good year, and 2016 is off to a strong start,” said President and CEO David Saggau. “Our rates are not only competitive, but also stable – and we are deploying strategies to get ahead of the challenges facing our business.”

Saggau detailed Great River Energy’s 2015 accomplishments, which included the completion of the Brookings County-Hampton CapX2020 transmission project, installation of 19 solar arrays and recognition as the nation’s 14th healthiest employer.

More than 230 guests were the first to see Great River Energy’s 10-year wholesale rate forecast, which projects average increases of 1.56 percent.

Great River Energy Board Chair Mike Thorson invoked the seven cooperative principles during his address, stressing their continued relevance more than 150 years after they were drafted.

“It is important that we continue to share the cooperative story with the next generation of cooperative members. They’re the ones who will make sure we remain central to the success of our communities,” Thorson said. “My dream is that Great River Energy will provide energy to my grandchildren.”

Great River Energy’s transmission and information technology leaders both detailed the cooperative’s plans to modernize the electric system to address changing member needs. Vice President and Chief Transmission Officer Will Kaul stressed the importance of a shared vision of the future among Great River Energy and its member cooperatives.

Vice President and Chief Information Officer Jim Jones agreed. “We cannot do it alone. Collaboration will be essential. The changing grid will be about people as much as it is about technology,” Jones said.

During the board of directors’ reorganization meeting following the annual meeting, Michael Thorson (Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, Wadena) was re-elected board chair; Brad Leiding (BENCO Electric Cooperative, Mankato) was re-elected board vice chair; Dale Anderson (Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, Spicer) was elected secretary, and Joe Morley (East Central Energy, Braham) was elected treasurer.

In addition to the officers, the following directors were elected to Great River Energy’s 24-member board:
• Mike Littfin, Arrowhead Cooperative, Inc., Lutsen
• Reuben Kokesch, Brown County Rural Electrical Association, Sleepy Eye
• Fran Bator, Connexus Energy, Ramsey
• Don Holl, 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
• David Hernke, Goodhue County Cooperative Electric Association, Zumbrota
• Tim Kivi, Itasca-Mantrap Cooperative Electrical Association, Park Rapids
• Robert Bruckbauer, Lake Country Power, Grand Rapids
• Dale Long, Lake Country Power, Grand Rapids
• Ken Hendrickx, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, Pelican Rapids
• Randy Hlavka, McLeod Cooperative Power Association, Glencoe
• Harold Harms, Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, Aitkin
• Lee York, Nobles Cooperative Electric, Worthington
• Bruce Leino, North Itasca Electric Cooperative, Inc., Bigfork
• Audrey Hjelle, Runestone Electric Association, Alexandria
• Mike Blenkush, Stearns Electric Association, Melrose
• Gary Wilson, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, Owatonna