CEO’s Message – October 2021

It’s a Matter of (Co-op!) Principles

ACE Hardware, State Farm, REI, Land O’Lakes and Stearns Electric Association all share something in common: we’re all cooperatives.

All cooperatives, no matter what industry they belong to, adhere to the same set of seven principles that reflect our core values of honesty, transparency, equity, inclusiveness and service to the greater community good:

  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

When it comes to the electric utility sector, rural electric cooperatives, such as Stearns Electric, differ from both investor-owned and municipal electric utilities in several ways. Investor-owned utilities typically provide electricity in urban and suburban areas. Municipal utilities, owned by the city, provide electric service within that city. Rural electric cooperatives, however, provide electricity where investor-owned and municipal utilities do not – primarily in sparsely populated rural areas. Rural electric co-ops are also owned by the membership.

October is National Co-op Month, so this is the perfect time to reflect on a few of the Cooperative principles that have stood the test of time and also provide a framework for the future.


Just like all co-ops, Stearns Electric was created out of necessity – to meet a need that would have been otherwise unmet in our community. In 1937, a group of neighbors banded together and organized our electric co-op so everyone in our community could benefit. By joining Stearns Electric, rural farmers could get electricity brought to their farms. Neighbors worked together for the benefit of the whole community, and the newly established electric lines helped power economic opportunity in our community.

Though many of us have come to expect reliable and dependable electricity since then, key parts of the Cooperative’s heritage remain – the focus on our mission and serving the greater good. In this, we include everyone to improve the quality of life and economic opportunity for the entire community. Membership is open to everyone in our service territory, regardless of race, religion, age, disability, gender identity, language, political perspective or socioeconomic status.


Stearns Electric is well suited to meet the needs of our members because we are locally governed by a board of directors, with one representative from each of our nine Cooperative districts. Each of our member-owners gets a voice and a vote in how the Co-op is run, and each voice and vote are equal.

We continually seek the input of all of our member-consumers and encourage you to weigh in on important Co-op issues and participate in the annual election.


As an electric utility, our mission is to safely provide reliable and affordable energy to our members. Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of Stearns Electric. Part of that capital remains at the Cooperative and is used to support Co-op programs, initiatives, capital investments and to support other activities approved by the membership. When Stearns Electric earns profits, or margins, we return those margins to our members in the form of Capital Credits.


Our employees and board members don’t just work for the Cooperative – we live here, too. We work for the sustainable development of our communities that many of us also call home. In addition to actively supporting many community events, we give back to our local communities through programs like My Co-op Cares, Operation Round Up, Energy Education, our annual Charity Event and more.

I encourage you to take some time this month to support your local cooperatives and help educate others about the importance and value of our nation’s co-ops. Here at Stearns Electric, we will continue to work hard to be of great value to our member-consumers!


Robin C. Doege