District 4 and 5 elections end with one new director and 3 incumbents re-elected
Cresco, IA | Rushford, MN (2 p.m. April 15, 2022)— MiEnergy Cooperative’s Annual Meeting looked closer to pre-pandemic annual meetings with approximately 95 people in attendance. The event was also livestreamed through YouTube.
This year marked the first year since the merger of Hawkeye REC and Tri-County Electric Cooperative that director elections for districts 4 and 5 were held. A total of 1,547 ballots were cast (1,355 by mail, 191 electronically and 1 onsite).
District 4 had two seats up for re-election with challenger Kyle Holthaus, of Waukon, Iowa, winning over incumbent Charles Frana, of Calmar, Iowa, by a vote of 420 to 360. Carl Reicks, of New Hampton, Iowa, ran unopposed.
In District 5, both incumbents were re-elected. Jenny Scharmer, of Winona, Minn., won her seat over challenger Bob Peterson, of Winona, Minn. by a vote of 555 to 190. Beth Olson, of Lewiston, Minn., was re-elected with 474 votes, while her challenger Travis Thul, of Winona, Minn., received 272 votes.
The results were certified by independent election vendor Survey and Ballot Systems and Dennis Puckett from Sullivan & Ward.
Board Treasurer Don Petersen reported that the cooperative remained in good financial condition and met all the financial requirements of its lenders. The financials were audited by Eide Bailly which gave the cooperative a favorable report.
Director Dean Fisher, of Lawler, Iowa, who represented MiEnergy’s District 4 and who served as a director for MiEnergy’s predecessor Hawkeye REC, announced in November 2021 that he would not be seeking election in 2022. He was presented with a meter lamp in recognition of his 31 years of dedicated service to MiEnergy and Hawkeye REC. The board approved not filling his seat when the term expired and reducing the number of board seats from 12 to 11.
President/CEO Brian Krambeer highlighted the cooperative’s accomplishments over the first five years as MiEnergy following the merger of Hawkeye REC, of Cresco, Iowa, and Tri-County Electric Cooperative, of Rushford, Minn., in 2017. The merger has allowed for rate stability and Krambeer reported the 2022 budget approved by the board does not include an increase in the cooperative’s retail electric rates. Krambeer also referenced a study by the U.S. Department of Energy predicting renewable energy could account for 42% of all energy generated by 2050. He followed that statistic up with MiEnergy’s current energy mix showing the cooperative already has 37% of its energy being generated by renewables. “This is the result of our two community solar projects, our nine megawatts of solar installed in 2021, our members’ private generation systems, and the good work of Dairyland Power Cooperative,” Krambeer stated. “This is truly a leadership position in comparison to other cooperatives and utilities across the country.”
The CEO’s report also covered the transition of the transportation sector to electric-powered vehicles. MiEnergy is one of 40 electric cooperatives that are part of CHARGETM which is working to install charging stations in the region. Public charging stations can alleviate range anxiety concerns, but Krambeer said most people would be charging their vehicles at home. The co-op has a special rate for members which is the equivalent to paying 37¢ per gallon for gas.
Much of the evening's report covered MiEnergy’s partnership with Mabel Cooperative Telephone Company and Spring Grove Communications that formed MiBroadband to bring high-speed internet to rural areas. The pandemic created opportunities to bring fiber to rural areas and MiBroadband has been awarded over $20 million to install fiber. Some of those projects are nearly complete, while others are just beginning for 2022 and beyond.
“In addition to providing critical broadband to our members in unserved or underserved areas, we are also connecting MiEnergy’s substations to enhance our electric distribution communications network,” Krambeer said. “[Broadband] is our greatest economic development tool to grow southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa.”