CEO’s Message – August 2022

Time to Pass the Baton

In August 2018, I joined Stearns Electric as CEO. My first day was the 2018 Member Appreciation Pancake Feed at the Freeport Community Center. Last month, I announced my plan to retire. My last day at Stearns Electric will be September 30. Since we just hosted the 2022 Pancake Feed, it seems fitting this month to share a few of my favorite accomplishments, memories and highlights in my tenure as CEO.

Having worked for Minnesota rural electric cooperatives for 22 years, I have always viewed Stearns Electric as a premier electric cooperative. I’m honored and grateful for the opportunity to have led Stearns Electric for the last four years. It has been an absolute privilege working alongside our Cooperative team, members and Board of Directors to achieve many things.

Perhaps most significant has been leading the Cooperative though the ongoing global pandemic. The year 2020 was a big year for Stearns Electric. We were right in the midst of planning our Annual Meeting, conducting our annual election and coordinating a Bylaw vote when the country shut down. On Monday, March 16, our Cooperative’s Emergency Response team met in our Melrose Auditorium to create a plan of action. By Wednesday, March 18, at least half of our employees were working remotely. For two weeks we planned to run a lean office to do our part and ‘flatten the curve.’ Two weeks turned into two months, then three, then four, and on and on. We made many adjustments, but the Cooperative continued to meet its mission to safely provide reliable electric service to our members despite so much change and volatility.

Safety and security of Stearns Electric employees, members and the general public is, and has always been, of utmost importance to me. I’m proud to have led the Cooperative as it achieved numerous milestones in safety over the last four years, including driving 1,000,000 miles without an accident, which we achieved twice in the last four years. We also hosted an innovative MAYDAY safety drill for all Cooperative employees and facilitated emergency responder training events.

Other highlights worth noting include:

  • updating the Cooperative’s Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation;
  • discontinuing Stearns Electric’s ownership of powerline contractor Karian Peterson;
  • securing Stearns Electric’s largest commercial energy load in company history, which will be the largest energy load for our wholesale power provider, Great River Energy (GRE);
  • managing Cooperative personnel needs, negotiating multi-year union contracts, and realigning the Cooperative’s internal structure; and
  • managing Stearns Electric’s facility updates, including starting the discussion on a future new headquarters facility.

As I get ready to pass the baton to the next CEO of the Co-op, I want to thank our employees, Board of Directors, and you, our member-consumers. As an organization, Stearns Electric has never been stronger, and the Cooperative is well prepared for the future. It has been an honor and privilege to lead Stearns Electric over these last few years.


Robin C. Doege