South Dakota electric cooperatives hold annual meeting


South Dakota’s electric cooperatives gathered in Pierre Jan. 12 and 13 for the South Dakota Rural Electric Association’s 70th annual meeting. During the meeting, the 325 cooperative leaders, which represented each of the state’s 31 electric cooperatives, heard presentations that focused on NRECA’s International Program, Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, the impact of the world economy on co-op finances, political action and other aspects impacting electric cooperatives.

On Friday, cooperative directors attended an “In the Boardroom” training session presented by NRECA focusing on Board Working Relationships and Obligations. Co-op lobbyists also held their Legislative Update prior to the evening’s Legislative Dinner, which saw more than 450 people attend.

“Our ability to provide a unified voice, and grassroots involvement of our members, will be even more vital in the coming months,” said SDREA board president Don Heeren. “The challenges facing electric cooperatives in the coming years will require innovation, commitment and unity. We know our power comes from cooperatives working together and we look forward to working FOR you in the decades to come.”

During his comments to the group, SDREA general manager Ed Anderson focused on legislative issues at both the national and state level. “Electric cooperatives will seek, and deserve, a change to current law that governs how you are taxed in South Dakota.”

He also outlined the importance of getting involved on the issues.

“When push comes to shove, it is the grassroots voice of electric cooperative members that forces politicians to stop and listen,” Anderson said.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard spoke to the group on Friday morning and centered his comments on the state’s “SD Wins: South Dakota Workforce Initiatives” geared toward preparing our current and future workforce.

Safety Recognized – On Friday morning, representatives of Sen. John Thune and Sen. Tim Johnson spoke to the group and gave an update on energy-related issues from a national perspective. Sen. Johnson took to the podium during the noon luncheon.

Three cooperatives were recognized for their 2011 safety accomplishments during the SDREA annual meeting.

Central Electric Cooperative, Mitchell; Clay Union Electric Corporation, Vermillion; and Dakota Energy Cooperative, Huron, each completed its three-year enhanced assessment process in 2011.

Other South Dakota cooperatives participating in RESAP include: Black Hills Electric Cooperative, Custer; Bon Homme Yankton Electric Association, Tabor; Butte Electric Cooperative, Newell; Charles Mix Electric Association, Lake Andes; Codington-Clark Electric Cooperative, Watertown; East River Electric Power Cooperative, Madison; FEM Electric Association, Ipswich; Grand Electric Cooperative, Bison; H-D Electric Cooperative, Clear Lake; Kingsbury Electric Cooperative, De Smet; Sioux Valley Energy, Colman; South Dakota Rural Electric Association, Pierre; Southeastern Electric Cooperative, Marion; West River Electric Association, Wall; and Whetstone Valley Electric Cooperative, Milbank.

The mission of the Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program is “to establish and promote the highest quality safety standards, best practices, and behaviors of a high performing safety culture.”

Revisions made to the program in 2011 are designed to further enhance safe working conditions for electric cooperative employees.

Board Reorganizes – During the SDREA annual meeting election of directors, Ken Gillespie of Pierre was seated as the director representing East River Electric Power Cooperative in Madison. He replaces Rick Koupal of Yankton as East River’s SDREA director. Koupal has served on the SDREA board since 2008.

Following the meeting, the board of directors held its re-organizational meeting. Southeastern Electric director Don Heeren of Parker was re-elected as the association’s president.

Lacreek Electric director Butch Livermont was re-elected as the association’s vice president while West River Electric director Bill Bielmaier was re-elected secretary of the association.

D.J. Mertens of Kennebec was elected as the association’s treasurer. Mertens has served on the SDREA board since 2010 representing West Central Electric Cooperative. Locally, he was elected to the Murdo-based cooperative board in 2007. Mertens replaces Koupal who served as SDREA treasurer for one year.

Source: South Dakota Rural Electric Association