October Cooperative Connections Message from General Manager Trevor Jones
ACE Hardware, State Farm, REI, Land O’Lakes and South Dakota’s electric cooperatives all share something in common: we’re all cooperatives. We may be in different industries, but we all share a passion for serving our members and helping our communities to thrive. In fact, all cooperatives 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. October is National Co-op Month, the perfect time to reflect on these principles that provide a framework for the future. Let’s take a look at the first three cooperative principles.
VOLUNTARY AND OPEN MEMBERSHIP
South Dakota’s electric cooperatives were created to meet a need that would have been otherwise unmet in our communities. So groups of neighbors banded together and organized our electric co-ops so everyone in the community could benefit. For a modest membership fee to the co-op, any farmer could get electricity. Neighbors came together to tackle a problem that they all had but couldn’t solve alone. They worked together for the benefit of the whole community, and the newly established electric lines helped power economic opportunity. While this history may be forgotten, key parts of that 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.
DEMOCRATIC MEMBER CONTROL
Our co-ops are well suited to meet the needs of our members because we are locally governed. Each member gets a voice and a vote in how the co-op is run, and each voice and vote are equal. Our board of directors, who help set long-term priorities for the co-op, live locally on co-op lines. These board members have been elected by neighbors just like you. We know our members have a valuable perspective, and that’s why we are continually seeking your input and encourage you to weigh in on important co-op issues and participate in co-op elections. Our close connection to the community ensures we get a first-hand perspective on members’ priorities, thereby enabling us to make more informed decisions on long-term investments.
MEMBERS’ ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION
As a utility, our mission is to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy to our members. But as a co-op, we are also motivated by service to the community, rather than profits. Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-op. At least part of that capital remains the common property of the cooperative. Members allocate surpluses for co-op programs, initiatives, capital investments and supporting other activities approved by the membership.