Living the cooperative principles
by Paul Sukut
About 35 years ago, I told my dad I was leaving my public accounting job to go work for Basin Electric.
At first he wasn’t too sure about the idea. I told him it was an electric cooperative that made and delivered power to our rural electric co-op, James Valley Electric Cooperative (now Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative).
“Basin Electric’s a co-op?” he asked. “Well, you just might be able to make it in that job!” About 35 years later, I think it’s fair to say co-ops are now in my blood.
What makes co-ops different? It’s that they operate according to a consistent set of core principles and values, outlined by the seven Cooperative Principles. They’re the key reason electric co-ops operate differently from other electric utilities. They put the needs of the member-owners first.
In this issue, we outline some of the ways we exemplify these principles. For example, you get to know Basin Electric’s three new directors. As a co-op, we’re controlled by elected representatives who are elected from the membership, and accountable to the membership. I thank new directors David, Tom, and Dan for their willingness to represent members at the end of the line at their home co-ops.
Another principle revolves around members’ economic participation in the co-op. Members contribute to, and democratically control, the capital of the co-op. I believe Basin Electric has showed wise and efficient use of that capital through our ongoing strategic cost management efforts, formation of a rate stabilization fund, and safe and responsible operation of our facilities.
Basin Electric and many of our member co-ops also shine in the areas of education, training, and information distribution. As an example, you’ll find a story about our inaugural BE Leaders program in this issue. Almost 80 employees from all facilities dedicated the last year to learning about leadership through this new program. A new class started up in January.
Out in the membership, Sioux Valley Energy is helping better the community and develop potential future co-op employees and directors with the Empower Youth Leadership Program. Basin Electric is expanding the program to more of the membership this year, so watch for that at a co-op near you. It’s a great example of cooperation among cooperatives, another one of the seven principles.
Finally, co-ops show concern for their communities. There are countless examples of member co-ops’ engagement within their communities. Many of them are able to maximize their financial contributions through Basin Electric’s member matching program.
Three-plus decades ago, I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be part of a co-op. Today, I couldn’t be more proud of what co-ops stand for. Through these principles, the directors and employees at your local electric co-op are committed to not only keeping the lights on, but leaving this world just a little better than they found it.