77th Annual Meeting Recap
Held in the Rough Rider Center Arena in Watford City, McKenzie Electric Cooperative’s (MEC) 77th annual member meeting took place June 7. In contrast with last year’s meeting, members fortunately didn’t have to brave severe thunderstorms and temperatures in excess of 95 degrees to take part in their cooperative.
Upon entering the event space, members were greeted by MEC employees at registration tables and an interactive display showcasing an assortment of cooperative equipment found on overhead lines and substation locations. With a chance to view electrical hardware in a controlled, deenergized setting, members had the opportunity to learn more about the lineworker trade and what really goes on behind the scenes when you “flip the switch.”
Lineworkers Nick Shattuck and Brad Hueth demonstrated the tools of the trade and answered questions about the restoration process. To better accommodate our members with children, bouncy houses and activities were also available and were a huge hit with our mini-members.
4-H clubs from throughout MEC’s territory prepared a home-cooked meal of shredded beef and cheesy potatoes, accompanied by watermelon and all the desserts you could imagine. Members in attendance received complimentary gifts that included a Kasa Smart Wi-Fi plug and a 500-kilowatt-hour bill credit. The smart plug provided to registered members offers a unique way to control energy usage by scheduling on/off times, remote-controlled and voice-activated responsiveness, and a timer to ensure appliances
aren’t using power when they’re not in use. Alongside the gifts, information was provided regarding safe line clearance, LED lighting benefits and an electric demand
infographic to go along with the annual report.
A special tribute to longtime cooperative attorney, Dennis Johnson, was shared to begin the 77th annual meeting. As an attorney for MEC for over 30 years, it was clear he loved his role, and above all, the members, community and citizens of northwestern North Dakota. Accepting a memorial plaque in his honor, Dennis’s wife, Kathleen Johnson, shared a few words on how much Dennis enjoyed his duties, and how he began a compilation of notes during his time as a state’s attorney that would take form as the book, “End of the Rope: The True Story of North Dakota’s Last Lynching.” This book would later become the backbone of the film, “End of the Rope,” written and produced by Daniel Bielinski. Dennis played an active role in the production of the film, including an acting role in which he will be memorialized forever.
The business portion of the meeting followed, with highlights from throughout 2021, including cooperative finances, reliability, upcoming and ongoing system projects, and our effort to keep power costs as affordable as possible. The financial health of MEC remained strong through 2021, as reported by Lance Rambousek, with Brady,
Martz and Associates. Board President Clayton Monsen shared an update on the copper line replacement project in MEC’s southern service area and the continued growth of the cooperative in the form of new services, including farms and residences, oil locations and various industrial loads. Monsen also presented the 2021 scholarship awards to Riley Bushnell of Cartwright and Messina Garmann of Watford City.
Cooperative CEO Matt Hanson reported on the various influential forces of the electric distribution industry, and the 2021 polar vortex that resulted in cascading outages throughout the central United States.
Explaining and providing insight on a topic fresh in everyone’s minds, Hanson also spoke about the blizzard of April 23 that caused 95% of MEC’s system to go dark within the span of a few hours. Hanson spoke on the damage the system received, the cooperative response and the different attributes of overhead versus underground lines. Even with the unpredictable nature of storm-related outages, members enjoyed a system availability of 99.97%, which is no small feat considering the nearly 4,500 miles of underground and overhead lines that compromise MEC’s system.
Taking place during the meeting was the election of three directors to the board. Cameron Wahlstrom (District 1A), Chris Link (District 2A) and Tim Wasem (District 3C) each ran unopposed in 2021 and were reelected to their positions on the board. Following the business portion of the meeting, Operation Round Up Director Kim Neprash and Member Services Coordinator Andrew Spratta provided an update on Operation Round Up (ORU). Since the adoption of ORU by MEC’s membership in 1998, over $240,000 has been distributed on behalf of the membership to individuals with emergency medical costs, aid for civic and charitable organizations, equipment upgrades to schools and parks, and new and necessary equipment for ambulance and rescue departments. Due to 56% of MEC’s membership enrolling to have their bills rounded up, this voluntary program has harnessed the generosity of our members to prove that working together to help someone never goes out of style.
Wrapping up the 77th annual meeting, door prizes were raffled to members in attendance. This year, MEC members had the chance to win an assortment of over
30 door prizes, including Medora Musical tickets, bill credits, a 22-inch Blackstone griddle and a grand prize of an electric, self-propelled push mower.
Don’t miss these door prizes and the opportunity to take part in the future of your cooperative. We encourage every member to attend the next MEC annual meeting. Stay tuned for the date announcement! Thank you to all the members in attendance. We look forward to seeing you next year at our 78th annual meeting!