CEO Column // Annual Meeting 2022

Good morning,

We held the Annual Meeting of NIECI on 6/16/2022.  This is the presentation I gave to the Member-Owners that were able to attend.  I sincerely apologize to all.  During the Annual Meeting the wind came up and upset our American flag.  This was an oversite on my behalf, I should have anchored the flag better.  I will ensure that the due respect of our American flag will not be overlooked ever again.  Once again, I apologize. 

We started our meeting with a safety message, thank you to our crew that presented that message to all of us.  This presentation was explaining the steps of an underground outage. 

2021 was one wild year.  We saw several changes in the economy, work force, and world around us.  NIECI was able to have a successful year through the hard work of many.  I want to recognize those who made this possible.

Our operations department overcame many challenges last year.  We were down to three linemen at a point last summer.  The crew was able to be flexible to cover call and accomplish the mountain of work we had.  Trying to be resourceful we contacted neighboring cooperatives for scheduled mutual aid.  Several of our neighbors sent us linemen that volunteered to assist us on the weekends to provide some relief to our crews.  Daryl also worked with several contractors to provide new services to the many new Member-Owners.  The changing work demands coupled with a retirement of Mr. Jerry Pula, and storm response over the past couple of years led us to the decision to hire additional linemen.  Please help me to welcome Josh Hubbard, Jake Bowers (journeyman), and Trevor Michienzi (1000 hr).  Bruce Carlson, Chuck Peck, John Rahier, Cody Eischens, Cole Serfling, Dick Lind, Chris Larson, and Daryl Pederson, thank you all for the hard work you provide for our cooperative!

I want to call out Jerry Pula once again!  Jerry has been serving our membership since 2000.  Jerry made the decision to retire this past year.  I want to thank Jerry from the bottom of my heart for all he has given to the membership.  There are many nights, weekends, missed events, and a lot of time all these guys invest into our system.  Thank you to all our operation department!

Our auditors were here in May to report to the Board of Directors.  I am very proud to say we received a clean audit report once again.  Preparations for the audit really begin in January and run through out the twelve months of the year.  Our office professionals are outstanding!  Communicating with our Auditors through the year and keeping outstanding records is only part of the daily tasks facing these professionals.  These office professionals are my rock!  They sort through the financial data, provide hundreds of reports, and take on any task, no matter the size.  Tina Danielson, Sheila Hafeman, Katie Smith, and Kim Giesen… Thank you!  You are our last line of defense to ensure the I is dotted and T is crossed, thank you for all you do.

A couple of the new projects we have been working on relates to communications.  We have updated our phone app.  This is a handy tool to help with billing information, usage, outages, payments, and notifications.  If you need more information on this App, let us know.  We will be more than happy to help you get signed up.  The second big project, we are creating a new website.  This will update the look and feel of the current site.  We can be more proactive and timely sharing information related to your cooperative.  The new website is designed to be used with phones and tablets; this is a major improvement over the current site.  Thank you, Kim, for your willingness to tackle these projects!

Jerry Loney and Roxanne Prather are my hard-working Member Services Department.  Roxanne came to me with a new idea, electric bicycles.  OK, I had my doubts.  I’m glad I listened to her; these things are awesome!  The first four through the door sold almost immediately.  They are a blast to ride for young or young at heart!  Don’t worry about the hills between here and there, you can just twist the throttle and climb that thing. 

Jerry has been looking for new programs to shave additional load off our peak.  These programs can save us all significant money.  With the changing grid and rising costs, it will be vital for all to come together to save and protect the grid.  Jerry has some thoughts and programs he will be working on this year.  One little space heater can run us $36 if it is running at the wrong time during the month.  These are billing peak times.  We want to work with you over this next year to see if we can smooth that mountain peak out.  This will help us to provide rate stability over the coming years.  Thank you to Roxanne and Jerry, thinking outside the box to help the Member-Owners out is what we are here for. 

Next, our Board of Directors.  Thank you for coming to our meetings prepared, for the continuing education you take, and for the oversite you provide.  Our directors put in many hours for our behalf.  They attend classes, meetings, seminars to continue to educate themselves to best oversee our Cooperative.  Mr. Andrew Shaw is our cooperative attorney, he is outstanding overseeing discussions relating to our policies and our bylaws.  Andy is also a call I will make when the clouds get dark, his wisdom and oversite is welcomed and appreciated.  Thank you, lady, and gentlemen, for your commitment to North Itasca.

One last thanks, that’s for you the Member-Owners.  Your grit and determination through the years got us to this point.  You and your communities built the cooperative we are all proud to serve.  We have some challenges coming in the years ahead, but together we have kept rates stable for the past five years.  With pressures coming from every direction, I cannot stand here and make future promises of flat rates.  We will do everything in our power to protect your investments, keep your lights on, and keep costs competitive with safety at the forefront of everything.  We will need your help to participate in the new programs as they roll out.  We will need your voice when we want to pass legislation at St. Paul or in Washington.  We will need you to be informed to help us to keep the costs at bay.  We have freshened up our website and mobile app to help you to be best informed about the issues faced.  Like 82 years ago when the lights were first coming on, we need you to make this cooperative successful.  Thank you for being the engaged members and welcoming communities you are!

By your side! Miigwech