Members in attendance for annual meeting approve proposed articles of incorporation, bylaws, and elect directors

Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric members in attendance for the co-op’s 87th annual meeting Tuesday, June 6, voted to approved proposed articles of incorporation and bylaws in addition to electing three board members to three-year terms.
Of the 421 registered members in attendance at Steele-Waseca headquarters in Owatonna, the proposed articles of incorporation and bylaws were approved 339 to 47.

A question-and-answer session was conducted prior to the vote as members were mailed the new articles and bylaws, May 22, and received a copy as they registered for the meeting. It is the first change to the articles of incorporation since the co-op started in 1936. The last time Steele-Waseca members changed the bylaws was in 1995.

Board members elected to three-year terms by acclamation were incumbent District 7 Director John R. Beal, Faribault; and Scott J. Carlson, Faribault, in District 9, as each were unopposed. In District 8 incumbent Ronald D. Sommers, Northfield, was re-elected by a margin of 256 to 131 for Bryan L. Finley, Northfield. District 8 Candidate Mark Estrem withdrew from the election days before the annual meeting.

With guests, the co-op’s annual meeting had 892 in attendance. Steele-Waseca members who attended received an ice cream scoop, $50 Energy Star® gift certificate, and a $30 Power Perks certificate good at participating member-owned businesses listed on the certificate. Both certificates expire Dec. 31, 2023 (no exceptions).

There were two Early Bird drawings before the start of the annual meeting. William Jr. and Jane DuPay of Webster had their registration card drawn for a $250 gift certificate from 4-Seasons Vacations in Albert Lea, and a $100 gift certificate from Nagel Sod & Nursery of Medford. Thomas and Karen Partridge of Mankato had their registration card drawn for a $250 gift certificate from 4-Seasons Vacations, and a $100 gift certificate from Boonie’s Bar & Grill in Faribault.

In addition, members with donations to a local food shelf received an LED lightbulb. In all, 232 pounds of non-perishable items and $227 were collected and donated to the Faribault Community Action Center.

Steele-Waseca’s 2022 Youth Tour Delegate Nate Seykora of Owatonna had a PowerPoint presentation on his experience last year in Washington, D.C. The co-op also recognized their 2023 Youth Tour Delegate Fred Klokonos of Lonsdale, who will be joining Minnesota’s delegates to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., June 13-18.

Steele-Waseca General Manager Syd Briggs introduced guests, and retired Steele-Waseca employees and directors in attendance.

Briggs reflected on the past year for the co-op and what’s ahead after the Minnesota legislative session.
“Our main purpose every year is providing reliable power to our members; 2022 was a good year and 2023 has been fantastic so far,” said Briggs.

As for the recently completed legislative session, “One of the biggest news items this year is the 100% Carbon Free by 2040 bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature in early February. Originally the bill called for 80% carbon free mandate by 2030 and 100% by 2040. We have our statewide organization and our power supplier to thank for helping us acquire many changes to the bill before it passed,” said Briggs. “Minnesota Rural Electric Association and Great River Energy worked very hard to affect several very needed changes or modifications to the original bill. One of the biggest changes was to reduce the 2030 mandate from 80% to 60% for cooperatives. Although Great River Energy is well on its way to achieve many of the goals in the bill, it is good to have options and alternatives to help support all of us as we remain committed to reliability in addition to sustainability.”

Briggs also addressed the grants available due to the federal government’s Inflation Reduction Act approved in 2022.
“Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric is now a part of those grants. We have applied for a $500,000 grant that will make our infrastructure a much bigger part of the ‘smart grid.’ Every four years we develop a ‘four year work plan’ which schedules our changes to our facilities to sustain growth, reliability, and improve our system,” said Briggs. “Included in our next plan will be the ability to communicate remotely with our distribution lines in a very advanced way. We will install equipment on our lines that have the ability to designate exactly where an outage is on a feeder from a substation, which saves time that a crew will normally spend walking or driving out a line. In addition, the equipment will be able to decipher whether it is a break in a line or a problem with a piece of equipment, which enables our crew to be prepared with the necessary materials for a quicker repair.”

Following the business portion of the annual meeting, three Grand Prize drawings were conducted along with drawings for the flowers on stage. The Grand Prize drawing recipients included David Lau of Pemberton with a $100 gift card to Lerberg’s Foods in Ellendale; Gerald Saxton of Morristown had his registration card drawn for a $100 gift card to Grampa’s Ole Home Meats of Medford and a $100 gift card to Casey’s General Store. Fred and Kathryn Klokonos (Youth Tour Fred’s parents) of Lonsdale had their registration card drawn for a $150 gift certificate to Steve’s Meat Market of Ellendale and a $150 gift card to Casey’s General Store.

Following the drawings, a smoked pork chop lunch was served by Hy-Vee of Owatonna, which included potatoes, corn, coleslaw, roll, water and/or milk. The Faribault Middle School students delivered your choice of chocolate, cherry, or butterscotch Dilly® Bars to the dining members and guests.

At the conclusion of the annual meeting, the Steele-Waseca board of directors met for their reorganizational meeting. The following officers were elected: Gary W. Wilson, Owatonna, president; Rodney D. Krell, Blooming Prairie, vice president; Ronald Sommers, secretary/treasurer; and PJ Duchene, assistant secretary/treasurer.

The co-op’s 88th annual meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 4, 2024.