CEO Talk

Paul Sukut

Giving thanks

As I write this column, we just finished our 55th Annual Meeting of the Membership. It’s Thanksgiving, and then we take a sharp turn into the holiday season.

I’ve spent the last couple columns summarizing our work in 2016. I’ve laid out the challenges we faced and continue to face. I’ve shared our plan for moving forward.

We’re licking our wounds from a tough financial year, and in true co-op spirit, our membership stepped up to help. We’re going into 2017 with a strong start, and I believe our future will tell a story of bold decisions, defining moments and the next greatest thing that we as cooperatives will do.

I’d like to step back, though, as I often do during the holidays, and take stock in what I’m thankful for. So, for the rest of this column, I’m setting aside the challenges, and I’m focusing on everything that is good about our co-op world.

I’m thankful for an engaged membership. We admittedly put a lot of work into our annual meeting. Sometimes we’ve been told we share too much information. And yet, our membership continues to turn out year after year. They ask tough questions. They keep us in line, and they’re always first to step up, roll up their sleeves and get to work. Not every co-op can say that. I meant what I said at the meeting. Our members are Basin Electric. Without them, we don’t exist.

I’m thankful for our employees. New employees and long-term. They continue to amaze me with their ideas, knowledge and eagerness to help. They solve complex problems, work long hours, and have been doing more with less as our austerity program continues. They’re the first to sign up and volunteer in their communities. Year after year, they coordinate angel trees across our footprint and turn out countless, generous gifts for those in need. And, they continue to pledge significant amounts of their salaries to local United Way chapters. Each year the pledges grow. It amazes me.

I’m thankful for our community agencies that coordinate care and services for the underserved. It is tough, gut-wrenching work, but through them, children are fed and clothed, families are given shelter, and educational opportunities are afforded to them.

I’m thankful for our elected officials. We often hear that co-ops live and die by politics. It’s true. We have congressional delegations that are accessible. Where else can you stop into a U.S. Senator’s office unannounced, be welcomed with a hug and invited in for an hour and a half visit? They continually step up, ask EPA the tough questions, invite EPA to see our facilities and meet with us, draft solid legislation and push for solutions. They also aren’t afraid to have hard conversations with us and tell us things we could be doing better.

I’m thankful for our freedom. This past election cycle tested us. Yet – vitriol and anger aside – I am so grateful we live in a country where we have a voice. And, for better or worse, we choose our president. Our president then works for us. This freedom is not to be taken lightly. It’s through sacrifices, bloodshed and lives lost that got us here today. I will never take it for granted. I salute our veterans, and I thank them. As Sergeant David Rohrich, a Purple Heart recipient and husband of our employee Nichole Rohrich, said in a video we produced earlier this year, “They gave us their tomorrows so we could have ours.”

I am thankful for our farmers. Having grown up on a farm, I understand very well the hope, sacrifice, heartbreak and satisfaction that comes with farming. Simply put, farmers don’t choose this profession because of the promise of wealth. They choose it because of the promise of a rich life ... a life rich in love for the land, love for dirt and love for watching things grow. Our farmers feed this country. We should never take that for granted.

I’m thankful for our board. I meet with this board monthly over the course of three long days. I receive phone calls and emails from them daily. Their commitment, diligence and engagement is unmatched. They all have busy lives and careers outside of Basin Electric. And, they all serve at their Class A and local boards. They’ve committed their lives to rural electric cooperatives. Through them, Basin Electric is governed. They work for us; not for profits.

Lastly, and most of all, I’m thankful for my family. My wife Colette and my daughter Lizzie make my world go round. The sun and moon rises and sets with them, and they’ll forever be my biggest and brightest stars. I couldn’t do this without them. Not a chance.

Thank you, and have a blessed and safe holiday season.