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Editorial: April 2018

Trust - earn it, hold it, keep it


Josh Kramer, NDAREC executive vice president and general manager
Josh Kramer


Recently, I and many others representing North Dakota’s electric cooperatives had the chance to partake in the annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), also known as America’s Electric Cooperatives. This meeting provides the opportunity to network with cooperative leaders from across the country and gain industry insight. More importantly, it provides a vehicle to communicate important messages developed by the grassroots member-owners of local electric cooperatives. Our charge, as pointed out by NRECA CEO Jim Matheson, is to promote the co-op model, maximize political influence and engage with member-owners.

Essentially, the success of the electric cooperative movement is best summarized by one word: TRUST. Trust must be earned, held and maintained. It is what North Dakota’s electric cooperatives have to offer. It’s trust that when you flip a switch, the lights will turn on; trust that your cooperative and its leaders are accountable; and trust that decisions are made in the best interest of the entire membership.

OK, if you are like me, you might be starting to raise an eyebrow, because whenever I hear, “trust me,” I almost immediately become skeptical. But in my opinion, the cooperative model, when exercised, provides the framework for necessary trust-verification.

To maintain this important trust relationship, each cooperative strives to engage with member-owners, but it is equally important for member-owners to participate, exercise governance and provide feedback. That’s why your participation in annual meetings and member surveys is so important. You see, the number one goal of a cooperative is to meet the needs of its membership. To do that well, your cooperative needs you.

You and your local cooperative are part of a larger cooperative network. That is why we ask cooperative member-owners, directors and employees to be co-op advocates. Co-op advocates are diligent in letting local, state and national decision makers know the impact their decisions have on our cooperatives, communities and quality of life.

Demonstrating the cooperative principle of concern for community, North Dakota’s electric cooperatives invest in the communities they serve. They support the sustainable development of their communities through a variety of programs and quality of life initiatives. By advocating for your electric cooperative, you will help ensure the future of this commitment.

As we embark on yet another election year, let’s make sure co-op issues are part of the conversation. One way to do this is by participating in Co-ops Vote. Co-ops Vote is a non-partisan project of America's Electric Cooperatives. The goal is to inform decision makers about key issues facing electric co-ops by enhancing the political strength of electric co-ops through voter engagement.

The future of rural America is on our ballots. I trust you will visit, to contribute to this important dialogue.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727; email to