CEO’s Message – July 2020

COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLE: Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are a vital part of our nation’s economy. Especially in rural America, we rely heavily on agriculture, food and energy cooperatives. It is estimated that approximately 30,000 co-ops serve nearly every business sector in the United States.

Our unique co-op business model is based on the seven cooperative business principles:

1.  Voluntary and Open Membership
2.  Democratic Member Control
3.  Members’ Economic Participation
4.  Autonomy and Independence
5.  Education, Training and Information
6.  Cooperation Among Cooperatives
7.  Concern for Community


This month, I want to focus on Democratic Member Control. The most obvious example of this cooperative principle in action at our Cooperative is through our annual election. Every year director elections occur for three Stearns Electric Association districts, and members in those districts get the opportunity to vote for a director to represent their district for a three-year term on the Cooperative’s Board.

Additionally, in 2020, we asked all of our members to engage in Democratic Member Control by voting to approve amendments to the Cooperative’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. The proposed amendments were overwhelmingly accepted by Cooperative members.

Stearns Electric Association recently wrapped up the annual election and Cooperative update. Due to COVID-19, we had to rearrange our traditional plans for our in-person Annual Meeting in 2020, but look forward to returning to our usual meeting format in 2021. Since we couldn’t safely meet in person this year, we put together a video update for members. If you haven’t done so yet, you can view the Annual Meeting update on our website,


As elected representatives of their district by Cooperative members, Stearns Electric Board members serve as fiduciaries. This means Board members are required to make informed decisions for the Cooperative, comply with federal, state, and local laws and regulations, act in the best interest of the Cooperative and avoid conflicts of interest.

There are many hours of behind the scenes work that the Co-op Board completes. All Board members are required to complete training through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) to better understand what an electrical cooperative is, how Boards operate, and how to effectively make financial and strategic planning decisions. In addition, before monthly Board meetings, directors review reports compiled from employees from every Cooperative department, special Board committees and the Cooperative’s legal counsel. When making decisions, your Board members must consider the impacts on the Cooperative’s members, employees, suppliers and finances.

Directors are members themselves, elected by other members through the annual election. They are trusted by Cooperative members to represent the members of every district.

In addition to serving members, Board members also serve as ambassadors to the communities that we serve, and to state (and even national) legislators. The Cooperative’s Board members must be respectful, professional and confident, and practice legal and ethical integrity. Board members discuss decisions in depth and disagree sometimes, but ultimately, the Cooperative’s Board speaks as one voice for your Co-op.

A sage community member once told me that “local control is the best control.” Stearns Electric Democratic Member Control is local control making decisions on services, rates and community needs that will benefit Co-op members. The Stearns Electric Board and Cooperative employees will continue to work efficiently in ways to best serve the needs of our local members. Thank you.


Robin C. Doege