Leadership Message – March 2024

Stearns Electric Association is a member-owned, democratically-controlled business. Because of this, the Cooperative is led by a Board of Directors made up of nine member-consumers – one from each of the Cooperative’s nine districts. As President of your Board of Directors, I wanted to take this month’s column to share more about Board responsibilities, our Director expectations and tenure, and to provide an update on the new operations facility and headquarters project.

Every year, about one third of Stearns Electric Association member-consumers elect a fellow member to represent them and their district on the Cooperative’s Board of Directors. Elected Board members each serve one three-year term. In 2024, districts 4, 5 and 9 are up for election, which you can read more about on page one and two of this issue.

Here is the schedule of district elections:
2024 & 2027: Districts 4, 5 and 9
2025: Districts 2, 3 and 6
2026: Districts 1, 7 and 8

Any member of Stearns Electric can run for a spot on the Board. The Cooperative’s legal counsel confirms the eligibility of all director candidates. Nominations generally open in November ahead of the annual April election.


As Board members, our priority is to ensure the overall success of Stearns Electric Association. Our main tasks include hiring the CEO and planning the strategic direction of the Cooperative.

As elected members and representatives, Board members serve as fiduciaries for the Co-op and are required to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of the Cooperative and its membership. 

Board members spend many hours working behind the scenes to prepare for monthly board meetings, completing industry training and working on special projects. The average time spent on board-related tasks in 2023 was 23 hours each month.Some of the regular tasks required as a Board member include:

  • evaluating whether decisions and projects help theCo-op successfully further its commitment to servingthe community and our members;
  • reviewing and approving the annual Cooperative budget;
  • adopting and enforcing policies, resolutions and actions;
  • providing financial oversight to the Cooperative on amonthly basis; and
  • serving as ambassadors to Stearns Electric members, the community and legislative representatives.

Currently, our largest project is the new operations center and headquarters facility.

One of the items the Board included on the 2019-2021 Cooperative Strategic Plan was “headquarters facility.” When the Strategic Plan was created in 2018, Stearns Electric was aware that its current headquarters facility had become cramped and there would not be sufficient space in the current facility to maintain efficient and cost-effective service operations in the years ahead.

In 2019, the Board started exploring facility options, including adding on to the existing facility. Unfortunately, Board members discovered very quickly that Stearns Electric was completely landlocked on the east side of our current headquarters location, which is not only where our mechanic shop, fleet area and warehouse are located, but also where the utilities are connected into the building. Though the Board explored a large addition and a redesign of the current facility to accommodate the proper warehouse and fleet area needed to house the large vehicles and equipment, the cost to complete an addition was very expensive and only provided a band-aid fix to our long-term needs.

In 2021, the Board voted to partner with GLTArchitects on a building pre-design process. Through the process, we determined the current and future needs of a new facility and explored potential building locations.

After much research and planning, in February 2023, your Board members voted unanimously to construct a new operations center and headquarters facility in Melrose, directly to the west of the current office on land already owned by the Cooperative. With this decision, they interviewed four construction manager firms and hired, W Gohman Construction. As part of the pre-construction process, the first week in March 2024 marked completion of the design phase and the beginning of the bidding phase.

Once we close the window for bids, we will review those bids and make the final decision to move forward with this new operations center and headquarters facility. The anticipated construction completion date is late summer to fall 2025.

Over the past year, all Board members have been involved in several aspects of the new facility project. A committee of three Directors and Cooperative leadership meets frequently to make decisions throughout the pre-construction and bidding process, and the other directors hear monthly updates and provide input.

This is the largest decision our current Board members have undertaken in our tenure. The decisions we have made so far have been intentional and strategic. Throughout the process, we have prioritized financially sound investments, our ability to provide reliable and affordable energy, and our capacity to meet the needs of member-consumers and Stearns Electric employees both now and into the future.

On behalf of your Board of Directors, thank you for trusting us to serve you and I encourage you to stay informed on this project through the website,


Eric Peterson
Board President