I am posting the Connexus Board candidate questions and my answers for everyone to see.
ANSWERS TO THE FOLLOWING TWO QUESTIONS (Maximum 275 words total to answer the two questions. Note: Format of sentences, indents, bullets, etc., may be changed by the printer to fit in the publication space requirements.)
- What do you believe is an important opportunity and the most important challenge facing Connexus Energy, and how would you address both if you were elected?
The most important opportunity is helping local communities attract new businesses. Connexus has a remarkable ability to help local communities educate companies on the benefits of locating in our service area. Adding new companies increases the numbers of Connexus customers, leading to lower rates for everyone and provides local jobs, and decreased property taxes for our existing customers.
Ensuring affordable rates in an ever-changing energy market will only become more challenging. Shifting from fossil fuels to cleaner renewables takes upfront investments and long-term planning that develops a roadmap to future energy sources. My long-term financial planning experience, coupled with an extensive background in private business and public service, gives me the tools to achieve these goals.
b. Member satisfaction, electric reliability, affordability, and increasingly environmental sustainability are valued by Connexus member-owners. What do you believe members want from their electric utility and what keeps them satisfied with Connexus?
Affordability, reliability, and sustainability is the mindset of every successful company. Blackstone is an investment company with approximately $619 billion in its portfolio. They were also one of the first of their kind to evaluate investments based on the impacts of climate change. Connexus member-owners want the lowest cost, most reliable, and sustainable energy possible. The three expectations go hand in hand. When we find the most sustainable or renewable energy, we are discovering the most reliable. Continuing to upgrade our energy transmission to gain greater efficiencies is critical to being good stewards of our member-owners investments. Using sustainable energy leads to reliable electric power that translates into lower rates which what each of us wants. It is essential to ensure we communicate in every way possible with our member-owner so they not only know what Connexus is doing but that they too may contribute to our combined success.
- What personally motivates you to serve on the Connexus Energy Board of Directors?
The Connexus Board is a unique opportunity to serve our member-owners and a good company. I come from a military family, a service family. I have had four brain surgeries and suffered a massive stroke on the operating table, which left me paralyzed. After extensive physical and occupational therapy, I was able to walk again. The medical complications left me unable to serve in the military as I had planned.
I decided to help my community in other ways. I have been a volunteer religious education teacher, Odyssey of the Mind Coach, President of my local Jaycees, Health Council member, Arctic Plunge sponsor/jumper/fundraiser, Co-Chair of the Cambridge/Isanti Bike/Trail, volunteered for park builds and tree plantings. In the past few decades, I have applied my business finance experience and operations to roles in local government.
I was appointed to Park and Recreation Board and found a lot that is achievable in making the local government more efficient and approachable to residents. This lead to a successful run for City Council. Two years later, I was elected Mayor, and we created a great team to turn around our city from being deep in debt, high crime, and slow business growth.
We cut debt 70%, cut taxes over 30 percent, made Isanti the 6th safest city in the entire state of Minnesota, and won numerous awards for business recruitment while doubling private-sector jobs. My years in budget and planning in the private sector, culminating as Director of Operations of Precision Inc, a Twin Cities-based electronics manufacturer, helped me be a productive Mayor.
The same energy and excitement that drove me to decades of volunteer work brought me to run for Connexus Board. A democratically elected Board of Directors overseeing such an important company is a tremendous opportunity to share my years of experience. The more I explored the chance of running for this unique position; the greater possibilities appeared to serve our community.
I believe strongly in the three ideas of affordable rates, reliable service, and sustainability. My private business, volunteer, and government experiences give me a unique perspective to help our member-owned cooperative.
- What do you believe are the top three reasons you would be well-qualified to serve on the Connexus Energy Board of Directors?
The top three reasons I am qualified to serve on the Connexus Board are my extensive business experience, government service, and my nonprofit volunteer work.
Connexus Energy, as a member-owned cooperative, is a nonprofit entity whose goal is to provide affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy. The combination creates an organization that uses best business practices to supply electricity at affordable rates. My experience in business operation, management, finance, and six sigma will help me provide proper oversight as a board member.
First as Budget and Planning Manager, then as Director of Operations for Precision Inc, a Twin Cities-based electronics manufacture, I learned a lot about the importance of applying sound operational control to meet our goals. The Connexus Board would benefit from more members having business experience.
As an electric cooperative, we rely on a knowledgeable board of Directors to govern Connexus. My experience is unique from any current board member. I have significant business experience, which I was able to leverage when I serve in local government.
My 16 years serving on over a dozen boards and committees, including city council and Mayor of the City of Isanti. Working on Finance, Development, Personnel, Police, Public Works, Chamber of Commerce, Community Education, County EDA, and so many more gave me valuable experience working with hundreds of other individuals to achieve our common goals. It was not always easy, but it was still productive.
Working with others on a board to achieve a common goal should include diverse opinions and fresh perspectives. The inclusion of new members with valuable experience helps everyone involved.
Connexus as a cooperative also touches on my volunteer experiences. We focus on helping others and not making a profit for ourselves. The focus on helping others is a trait I try to teach my children and a standard I live in my own life. We need to make things around us better to make it a bit easier for the next generation.
Connexus is making strides to include current renewable energy in the electricity it supplies to member-owners. It is a productive first step that must have a long-term plan allowing for new renewable energy sources and alternative distribution models. My current work podcasting and writing about the significant progress local communities can make when they are open to innovation was my introduction to electric cooperatives.
- Tell us what you believe are three of the most impactful member-owner benefits of the electric cooperative business structure?
The three most impactful member-owner benefits of an electric cooperative business structure are direct elections of board members, excess revenue goes back into operations or refunded back to member-owners, and flexibility to make quick changes beneficial to the cooperative.
Perhaps the number one benefit to members of an electric cooperative is electing board members to supervise Connexus. Member-owners directly control how their cooperative operates and what goals it should have through the voting process. Member-owners need to take advantage of this right and responsibility and participate in the election. Low voter participation goes against the express intent of electric cooperatives.
In President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Portland Speech about the Public Good, he talks about manipulating electric companies and lack of oversight. The President was a strong supporter of electric cooperatives and the idea of elected board members providing better leadership than for-profit electric companies. As member-owners, we need to fulfill our responsibilities to exercise our right and vote.
The second benefit we have as member-owners is that any excess revenue is either reinvested or refunded back. A for-profit electric company does not refund extra income to its customers but pays it to its shareholders. An electric cooperative maximizes value for its member-owners while an electric company maximizes profits for its investors.
Electric cooperatives focus on maximizing value translates into better input from member-owners. If there is a strong desire to make a change, then the cooperative makes that change.
The third benefit is flexibility. Its board governs an electric cooperative has a more straightforward process to change direction if new opportunities arise. Flexibility, if made a guiding principle of the board, can allow for great leaps forward. Decisions to improve resiliency and sustainability in an ever-changing electric power landscape. Adaptability can save money and better ensure reliability to our member-owners. Electric cooperatives have an immense ability to lead on energy issues in ways for-profit companies can not or will not.
- Regarding your skills as a potential director, tell us one of your strengths and how it would contribute to the Connexus Board. And, list one weakness needing development and your plan to address it.
I believe my experience is an essential strength. My experience in business, government, and nonprofits will benefit the Connexus Board. I approach potential obstacles as an opportunity to create solutions that help all involved, and the organization achieve success.
I have experience in trying to solve complicated issues and working to achieve a common goal. My years serving on over a dozen boards and committees in local government have prepared me to work with fellow board members to reach a consensus on the issues we will face. I bring my private business and government experience to Connexus to continually improve service to our member-owners.
The area I continue to study is the regulations that Connexus must follow. The myriad of rules at all levels of government and industry best practices is quite intriguing. Understanding how all of these create the framework in which Connexus operates will make me a better board member.