Our Power

Powerful voices unite

Minnkota recognized the impact of its members, employees and partners during its 84th annual meeting on April 12.


Kaylee Cusack


April 24, 2024

Organizations often point to their people as the reason for their year-to-year success. Such sentiment was unmistakable on Friday, April 12, as Minnkota Power Cooperative and Square Butte Electric Cooperative celebrated the individuals who make power possible during their dual annual meetings. For both cooperatives, 2023 was a year of industry challenges, but the resilience and creativity of their membership and workforce transcended every obstacle.

The annual meeting’s “Powerful Voices” theme highlighted the role teamwork and collaboration played in navigating a grid transformation that seems to accelerate year after year.

“In times of immense industry change, Minnkota is guided by those voices, our partners and our communities,” Minnkota board chair Mark Habedank said to nearly 200 meeting attendees filling Minnkota’s Grand Forks, N.D., conference center. “Many of you are here today, and we’re grateful for your dedication and commitment to our cooperative family. Working together to accomplish what cannot be done alone is the cornerstone of the electric cooperative model.”

Minnkota Board Chair Mark Habedank welcomes guests to the annual meeting. (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft)

One of Minnkota’s greatest accomplishments of 2023 was touted by many of the annual meeting's presenters. In August, the employees of the Milton R. Young Station power plant in Center, N.D., reached a milestone of 1 million work hours without a lost-time incident. The same month, Minnkota employees in Grand Forks hit a similar mark, establishing the cooperative’s first-ever collective 2-million-hour safety streak.

“Let’s take a moment to recognize those employees for that milestone,” Habedank urged guests as applause erupted. “This record is especially impressive considering the wide scope of projects at the Young Station and across our entire transmission system.”

Todd Sailer and Brendan Kennelly, Minnkota vice presidents of Power Supply and Power Delivery, respectively, echoed the theme of safety and resilience in their reports to the members. Kennelly noted the resilience shown by crews during 2023’s historic Christmas ice storm, which brought down nearly 70 of Minnkota’s transmission structures and created treacherous driving conditions for responding lineworkers.

Brendan Kennelly, vice president of Power Delivery, commends the transmission crews for their resilience in 2023. (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft)

“The ability to take on the high winds and ice and conditions, when you can’t get out of town and get to where you need to because you’re literally sliding off the road – the crews showed incredible dedication and resiliency in responding to that,” he said.

The energy transition

A common thread pulled throughout the annual meeting: how to respond to a society that demands cleaner electricity while also demanding more of it. Innovations such as data mining, electric vehicles, automation and artificial intelligence are set to use more power than ever before. As more intermittent resources like wind and solar enter the grid, baseload resources such as the Young Station become invaluable in keeping electricity flowing 24/7.

“We know carbon management is a part of the industry’s future,” said Square Butte President Paul Aakre. “As such, Minnkota and Square Butte continue to work together on the evaluation of Project Tundra.”

Project Tundra, an initiative to install carbon capture and storage technology at the Young Station, entered its final stage of development in 2023. Cooperative leaders will take the coming months to examine the path forward for the project, which may assist the plant in meeting new state and federal compliance requirements.

Minnkota CEO Mac McLennan reminded members and guests that all new technologies have promise, but there are not enough resources – money, people, equipment, materials – to create change at the speed that many want. Thankfully, Minnkota has been evaluating carbon capture and storage for several years, before timelines were even set for decarbonization.

“We already live in a carbon-managed world,” McLennan said. “We just have the luxury of time to figure out how we slide into it, not whether or not it’s going to be here.”

Minnkota CEO Mac McLennan addresses attendees of the 84th annual meeting. (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft)

McLennan described recent alarm from regional grid operators over the fast pace of the energy transition, warning that the Upper Midwest faces “reliability and volatility challenges we have never seen before” from retiring baseload generation too quickly. However, his outlook remains positive as the powerful voices around him prepare to execute on opportunities at every level.

"I think optimism outweighs the challenges. And the challenges are enormous. Not just our baseload to intermittency has changed. The load underneath of it is changing, the transmission infrastructure is changing, the types of resources are going to change, the opportunities for those are going to change. Every aspect of what we do is going to change," he said. "Our board, our employees, our members, our ability to stay together gives me greater optimism, and our ability to work with partners around the region...all of that gives us a great advantage.”

Kay Schraeder, Minnkota chief financial officer, reports a strong financial standing for the cooperative. (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft)

Service Awards

The Red Lantern Award is presented at the annual meeting in recognition and appreciation of 10 years of service on a member distribution cooperative board.

- Harlan Highberg, Clearwater-Polk Electric Cooperative

The Electric Hammer Award was established in 1970 by Minnkota general manager Andrew L. Freeman to recognize board directors who have dedicated 25 years of service to their member distribution electric cooperatives.

- Steve Smaaladen, Nodak Electric Cooperative
- Roger Krostue, Red River Valley Cooperative Power Association

Board Officers Elected

Minnkota Board

Chair - Mark Habedank
Vice Chair - Tom Woinarowicz
Secretary-Treasurer - Colette Kujava


Rick Coe
Les Windjue
Roger Krostue
Kalvin Hoff
Anthony Ottem
Lucas Spaeth
Cheryl Grover
Steve Arnesen
Mike Wahl

Square Butte Board

Chair - Paul Aakre
Vice Chair - Larry Sollie
Secretary-Treasurer - Murl Nord


Shawn Gust
Michael Hanson
David Kent
Terry Kraft
John Martinson
Peter Mosbeck
Trevor Sorby
Greg Renner


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