PIERRE – The South Dakota Rural Electric Association (SDREA) held its 81st annual meeting on Jan. 12-13 in Pierre with more than 300 electric cooperative leaders in attendance. Nearly 100 lawmakers took part in the association’s Legislative dinner.
“Charging Forward” was the meeting theme that summarized a full slate of informative industry-related discussions and programs that covered a variety of topics, including key state and federal legislative issues, carbon dioxide emissions, implications of the current political climate and lessons in member-focused leadership.
The resonating theme of this year’s event centered on implementing best practices for delivering quality service to the system’s roughly 300,000 member-owners while also expanding economic development and growth opportunities in communities that fall within the cooperative network’s footprint.
“We should be proactive in promoting the power of our network, which finds its strength rooted in the principles that obligate us to work together to protect the collective interests of our members, whether we find ourselves in the grips of a political storm, an economic storm or an actual weather-related disturbance,” said Don Heeren, SDREA’s board president, during his annual address.
Steve Barnett, SDREA’s newly hired general manager, elaborated on Heeren’s comments: “Our principles as member-owned, member-controlled organizations are centered on striving each and every day to improve the quality of life across our state and promote prosperity in every corner of every community we serve.”
The challenges and opportunities that South Dakota’s electric cooperatives face in ensuring prosperity for co-op members and their communities were thoroughly discussed during the two-day event.
“We need to ensure that our members have the credible information and resources they need to continue providing affordable and reliable energy to South Dakotans,” said Barnett. “Each year we look forward to this time with our legislative leaders to have impactful conversations that benefit the people we serve.”
Attendees heard compelling presentations from industry leaders as well as from Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson. Sen. Mike Rounds also addressed the audience and provided an in-depth update on federal legislative issues he faces in Congress.
Kermit Pearson was presented with SDREA’s 2023 Legacy of Leadership Award. This award highlights outstanding cooperative leaders who lend their talent, time, expertise, and passion toward achieving success for their cooperatives and their service areas.
Pearson serves as board president of Lake Region Electric Association, based in Webster, S.D. He is dedicated to the electric cooperative movement and mission and has held leadership positions on various cooperative boards at the local and regional levels for more than 42 years. In addition to his involvement at Lake Region Electric, Pearson currently holds leadership positions on the SDREA, East River Electric Power Cooperative, and Basin Electric Power Cooperative boards.
About South Dakota’s Electric Cooperatives – South Dakota’s electric cooperatives provide electricity to more than 126,000 homes, farms, and businesses in the state, averaging only 2.5 consumers per mile of line.
SDREA is a member-owned, member-controlled association of 31 electric cooperatives in South Dakota. SDREA is devoted to unifying, promoting, and protecting the interests of member electric cooperatives in South Dakota by providing leadership, training, communication, legislative representation, and other member services.