By Clayton Monsen
We are looking forward to our annual meeting on July 21st which will be our 75th anniversary. Wow, 75 years of lighting the prairie – that seems both a short time and a long time. As everyone knows the events that have transpired these last few months have raised concerns for our health throughout our state and nation. Never have we witnessed anything like the coronavirus outbreak and the worldwide impact it’s having. This year, McKenzie Electric’s annual meeting will be a little different as we take extra precautions and safety measures to keep our members and employees safe. We will be following the CDC’s social distancing guidelines and the North Dakota Department of Health recommendations and have shortened the meeting to essential items only. It is our hope that you, the members, will still be able to attend during these extraordinary times.
As we listen to our state and federal leaders contemplate, discuss and ultimately decide on what’s the right thing to do or what measures to take, it reminds me of our own activities around the MEC board table. As you may or may not know, your Board of Directors meets monthly, normally on the last Wednesday of the month. Each Board meeting typically begins about a week prior to that last Wednesday as staff begins getting reports and information out to the board members to start reading, reviewing and digesting.
The reports are typically detailed as staff works hard to determine and address any possible questions we Board members may come up with while reading their reports, but there are always questions. On meeting day, in addition to reviewing and hearing any updates or discussing action items in staff reports, your Board also spends a lot of time hearing Board member reports from applicable activities such as power supplier meetings, Statewide meetings, Midwest meetings, or director training. As a whole, each director spends the equivalent of three working days per month on Board meetings, meeting preparation and other cooperative related activities.
Regardless of whether it’s the business of MEC or associated organizations, your Board of Directors takes every issue, concern or decision very seriously because we understand who we represent, and why we represent the membership. In all our activities, doing the right thing is at the heart of each decision.
As you have all seen in earlier months, your Board has had to make some difficult decisions as we questioned whether our power suppliers are doing the right thing. Our belief is that if our power suppliers do the right thing, our cost of wholesale power will decrease. With roughly 91% of every expense dollar at MEC going toward power supply costs, we as a Board had better be concerned about doing the right thing. This past year we’ve attained such milestones as hitting a peak demand of 650 megawatts and surpassed four billion kilowatt-hour sales. With growth, our exposure to wholesale power costs only becomes larger. If we aren’t actively involved in making positive changes for our largest expense, we don’t feel as though we would be providing our membership proper representation.
We live in exciting and challenging times and all any of us can do is to try and do the right thing. We hope to see you at your annual meeting.
By John Skurupey
William Jennings Bryan once said, “Destiny is no matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” 2020 marks McKenzie Electric Cooperative’s Diamond Jubilee – 75 years of learning and growing toward a destiny that is still in the making.
The residents and businesses within McKenzie Electric’s service area have never been the type to sit around and wait for something to happen. No, the people and personalities that have worked and resided in our service area have been doers and McKenzie Electric is a product of that spirit.
Seventy-five years ago, area residents took it upon themselves to take a playbook that was created by the Federal Government which allowed for rural electrification across the country and carried out that plan right here within MEC’s service area. If those early incorporators only knew what was to become of their little electric cooperative…sometimes I don’t believe it myself!
MEC grew from those early beginnings, which included having to take electricity from the investor owned utilities lines, into a relatively self-sufficient entity today. Throughout the years and all the growing pains, your Board members and staff remain focused on the membership. As I’ve communicated to the membership in the past, the constant question we ask ourselves is, “what’s in it for the member?”
Another MEC quality that has existed over the years is always trying to do the right thing for the membership. Looking out for the members’ best interests is never-ending, but if we maintain a vigilance based on the philosophy that it’s all about the member, it is very difficult to make a wrong decision.
A good example of doing the right thing is how donation requests received by the cooperative are handled. I can’t count how many times I’ve been contacted for donations and, in turn, the many times that your Board has had to deliberate about those requests. It is a strong sense of satisfaction, coupled with a sprinkling of pride to observe your Board in action on these requests and how sensitive and conscious they are about whose money they have been entrusted with.
One of the Rochdale tenets, often characterized as the Seven Cooperative Principles, includes the principle, Concern for Community, which is described as: “Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.” Oftentimes in the cooperative business world, I witness what appears to be an unbridled ease of freely giving member money away – almost as though there is a misinterpretation of the principle. The membership of McKenzie Electric can rest assured that your Board of Directors, who have donated modest amounts of money from time to time to worthwhile endeavors, have shied away from far more requests. Each decision regarding donation requests was made only after significant thought and debate. In the end, at the heart of each decision is the concern about the reasonableness of the request and its financial impact to MEC members.
Being truly member focused and doing the right thing requires a certain drive and a desire to do better. Throughout MEC’s history there have been Board members, managers and employees who have strived to be and do better, and trust me, that philosophy hasn’t changed. At the Board level, I believe the desire to do better is an inherent trait as they all work to do what’s right for the members who elect them. For staff, the desire to do better or outperform is a mixture of member dedication along with a note of competitiveness – we work to do better than our predecessors and our competition with hopes of leaving behind a legacy, one that has set your cooperative up for success in the future.
As we work to do better, we ask questions such as, can we be more efficient than any other cooperative or utility? Can we have higher reliability than other electric utilities? Can we be more studious with member money? Can we have a higher sense of member than anyone else? You see, if we aren’t challenging ourselves to be better, we’re destined for mediocrity.
Your cooperative was borne out of need and was created by honest, hardworking and determined people. Your cooperative, albeit more modern and advanced today, is still operated under the same principles and integrity as it was 75 years ago, and by similar honest, hardworking and determined people. I hope you find solace in the fact that, as far as McKenzie Electric Cooperative is concerned, it is all about the member, and should the pattern hold true, it will be for the next 75 years.
Although we are in the midst the COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic, which will surely limit any plans to celebrate your cooperative’s anniversary, your Board of Directors has decided on a July 21, 2020 date to hold your annual meeting. Our number one goal is for the safety and well being of the membership, your Board of Directors and MEC staff – as such, we will be arranging for a social distancing version of an annual meeting. You’ll be hearing more about the meeting particulars in the coming weeks and months but, if you want to be a part of what is shaping up to be the shortest MEC annual meeting, make sure you plan to attend. This will be a member only meeting so that we minimize any possible exposure to those in attendance so please, do what you can to pencil us in on your calendar. Yes, we are working on a door prize solution.
I certainly hope that as many members as possible will make it to your momentous annual meeting as we celebrate 75 years of molding and shaping MEC’s destiny.