The people are the co-op

Cooperatives have existed for more than 175 years, and electric cooperatives for more than 80 years. Perhaps their longevity and strength can be attributed, in part, to seven core principles that provide the foundation on which cooperatives are built.

Behind each co-op principle – voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; members’ economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community – are people. Members, directors and employees. The people are the co-op.

As such, the people make decisions about the electric co-op. Self-governance is a defining aspect of cooperatives. Member-owners vote to elect fellow consumer-members to represent them as directors on their cooperative boards. Board members are local consumers, who get their power from the local co-op, just like the members they are elected to represent.

Democratically elected board directors provide governance and develop policies that connect the needs and desires of membership to cooperative management and the greater organization. Board members live in the communities they represent, understand the needs of their neighbors, and ultimately strengthen the link between the cooperative and each member, from the beginning to the end of the line.

The sixth cooperative principle – cooperation among cooperatives – states that cooperatives best serve their members by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

One example of this co-op tenet is mutual aid. Cooperatives have mutual aid agreements in place and are prepared to respond to emergencies. When a storm hits, electric cooperatives assist each other by sending lineworkers to help restore power quickly and safely in other co-op service areas.

Another example is the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC). In 1942, North Dakota’s electric cooperatives joined together to form this statewide association to work as a unified voice for cooperatives. Through NDAREC, cooperatives pool their resources to access services, like safety training, board and employee education, communications and government relations, community and cooperative development and more. This saves cooperatives time, money and resources, and improves quality, which benefits co-op members.

Just like at the local level, each member cooperative of NDAREC has representation on its board of directors. NDAREC directors serve on both their local electric cooperative board and the statewide board.

Whether on the local electric cooperative or statewide board, directors serve their neighbors, local communities and their co-op. They, like you, have families, other jobs and commitments. Their desire to serve is a part of them, too.

Next time you flick the switch on without a thought, remember the co-op people – like Bob Grant, Randy Simon, Connie Bitz, Maxine Rognlien and the many other co-op employees and directors – who help make it all possible.




NDAREC President

▶    FAMILY | Wife, Helen. Four children and eight grandchildren.
▶    BOARD SERVICE | Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative board since 1981, currently vice president. NDAREC board since 1998, currently president.
▶    WHY I SERVE | I believe in the mission to improve the quality of life for every member through the delivery of electricity. It is so enjoyable to be involved with all the important issues we are involved with in our local communities and state.
▶    2021 WISH | Peace and harmony. Our world is so divided, and I feel the middle-ground people get put on the backburner. There is both right and wrong on each side – it seems we have lost the desire and ability to see these good and bad points and work together to compromise for the good of all. Being positive and knowing there is a workable solution makes life for all more rewarding and enjoyable. And the best wish of all for 2021 – we can all get and give HUGS again!
▶    RECIPE NOTES – DYMO cups | This came from my cousin. She is a great cook, and when I was helping her make a meal for some friends, I was reading recipes and knew I needed to add this one to my recipe book (and am hoping someone else will, too!)


NDAREC Treasurer

▶    FAMILY | Husband, John. Three sons and a daughter. Five beautiful granddaughters and six handsome grandsons, ranging from 1 to 11 years old.
▶    BOARD SERVICE | Verendrye Electric Cooperative board since 2011, currently assistant secretary/treasurer. NDAREC board since 2013, currently treasurer.
▶    WHY I SERVE | I first chose to be on an electric cooperative board to learn more about it all. I never imagined I would enjoy it so much, and that there was so much to learn! The co-op people I have met and worked with are such a welcoming group. They all seem to be there to help their members and entire communities.
▶    2021 WISH | Like most people, my wish is for this coronavirus threat to GO AWAY, so we can get back to a normal way of living, especially being able to spend time with loved ones! And peace and comfort for all the people who have lost loved ones too soon.
▶    RECIPE NOTES – Ham-and-cheese sliders | I am more into making desserts nowadays, so this is my daughter-in-law’s, Alli (Hager) Rognlien, recipe. We enjoy these at many family get-togethers, and everyone loves them. Alli actually worked at Verendrye Electric Cooperative during high school and college (before I knew her)!


NDAREC Secretary

▶    FAMILY | Jim has been my loving spouse since 1973 when he returned from Vietnam. We have raised four children – Kimberly (Nathan) Robbins, Kelli (Christof) Just, Kari (Joe) Tews and Kasey – on our diversified family farm south of LaMoure, and have five grandkids, who all live within 10 miles of us.
▶    BOARD SERVICE | Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative (DVEC) board since 2008 (and the first woman elected to the DVEC board), currently secretary. NDAREC board since 2012, currently executive secretary.
▶    WHY I SERVE | Co-ops are in my blood. My father and father-in-law were active on co-op elevator boards, and my husband was on our oil company and elevator board, too. My grandparents were the first James Valley Electric Cooperative (now DVEC) members to receive electricity. The stories I heard of how life changed on the prairie were amazing.  Growing up, my family attended all the electric cooperative annual meetings. There was this “pride feeling” in me when I saw how many members’ lives were improved by rural electric cooperatives and understood their importance in our rural/ag economy. I set a goal: When my children were through high school, it would be my turn to advocate for rural electric cooperatives!
▶    2021 WISH | Probably similar to others, my wish is to be with our family and friends in person, to hug and cry and laugh. To remember how important life and our time together is, and never take it for granted again.
▶    RECIPE NOTES – Fruit pizza | This is a MUST at every Bitz family gathering! We’ve had many creative and colorful version over the years, and there are never any leftovers. Veggie pizza is also made as an appetizer, but the fruit pizza is the winner!


NDAREC Vice President

▶    FAMILY | Wife, Charlotte. Three children and six grandchildren.
▶    BOARD SERVICE | Northern Plains Electric Cooperative board since 2000, currently secretary/treasurer. NDAREC board since 2014, currently vice president.
▶    WHY I SERVE | I was interested in learning more about the electric industry. It is a great honor to serve, and I love being able to help worthy causes and our local communities through co-op programs that provide grants and loans.
▶    2021 WISH | I would love life to be back to near normal as possible. I look forward to once again shaking hands, giving hugs and seeing people smile without a mask.
▶    RECIPE NOTES – Rumali (bacon-wrapped chestnuts) | It is easy to prepare and who doesn’t like bacon?


 1  lb. Jimmy Dean sausage
        Onion, chopped
        Celery, chopped
        Peppers, chopped
    1  cup shredded cheese
        Wonton wrappers
        Ranch dressing

Brown sausage. Add onion, celery and peppers, sautéing until soft. Let cool slightly. Combine sausage mixture with cheese.

Bake wonton wrappers in a greased muffin tin at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Fill wonton cups with meat mixture. Add ranch dressing, enough to hold them together. Bake another 5-10 minutes until heated through and cheese melts.

Recipe by Bob & Helen Grant, Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative members


12-count package Hawaiian sweet rolls
    ¾    lb. cooked deli ham, thinly sliced
    ¾    lb. Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
    1    stick unsalted butter, melted
    1    T. Dijon mustard
    1    T. poppyseeds
    2    tsp. dried minced onion
    2    tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    ¼    tsp. salt, or to taste
    ¼    tsp. pepper, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 or 9x13 inch pan with aluminum foil, sprayed with cooking spray.

Using a large serrated knife, slice the rolls in half horizontally, so you have a “slab” of tops and a “slab” of bottoms. Don’t pull the rolls apart or individually slice them – keep them connected. Place the bottom “slab” in prepared pan.

Evenly layer half the ham, then cheese, then remaining ham. Add the top “slab” and set aside.

Add mustard, poppyseeds, onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to melted butter, whisking to combine.

Slowly pour butter mixture over the rolls, spreading evenly with a spatula. Cover with aluminum foil and let stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.

Bake covered for about 20 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Uncover and cook an additional 3-5 minutes. Slice into individual sliders and serve immediately.

Recipe by Maxine & John Rognlien, Verendrye Electric Cooperative members


    ½    cup sugar
    ¾    cup softened butter
    1½    cup flour

    8    oz. softened cream cheese
    ½    cup sugar
    1    tsp. vanilla
        Fruit, your family’s favorite!

GLAZE (optional):
    2    T. cornstarch
    1    cup fruit juice
    ½    cup sugar
    1    T. lemon juice

Mix crust together well and pat into a pizza pan or 9x13 inch pan. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until light brown. Cool.

Beat filling until smooth. Spread on cooled crust. Top with fruit.

If adding the optional glaze, cook ingredients on medium heat until glaze thickens. Spoon over fruit. Refrigerate.

CONNIE’S NOTES: Be creative! Use the fruit your family enjoys! Our favorite toppings are banana, strawberry, kiwi, apple and grapes. Make a pattern with the fruit or do it helter-skelter. Adding the glaze helps keep the fruit from browning, but does make it more messy to eat.

Recipe by Connie & Jim Bitz, Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative members


 3    cans whole chestnuts
    16    oz. package bacon, each slice cut into 4 pieces
    1    cup ketchup
    1    cup sugar
    ¼    cup apple cider vinegar

Wrap chestnuts with bacon slices and secure with toothpicks. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees on broiler pan.

Combine remaining ingredients and bring to boil, reducing to make a sauce. Toss wrapped chestnuts in sauce and serve.

Recipe by Randy & Charlotte Simon, Northern Plains Electric Cooperative members