CEO Message – July 2023

Pioneering Patriotism

Brandon Wittman headshotIndependence Day brings many spirited celebrations across our great country. Thinking about the 4th of July makes me reflect on some of our history and the figures that helped mold the U.S. into a prominent power in the world. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States of America. He was very popular among American citizens and most credit that to his military experience and history as a war hero. He has a handful of quotes that remain popular, however, here is a lesser-known quote that bears some serious consideration: “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” That is truly a timeless piece of wisdom.

All cooperative businesses around the world, whether they are electric co-ops or different business ventures, operate in accordance with the following seven cooperative principles.

  1. Voluntary Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training and Information
  6. Co-operation among Cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

Interestingly, less is known about the fact that cooperatives have also adopted a set of values that help to effectively put these principles into practice. These values are the foundation of all co-ops: Self-help, self responsibility, democracy, equality and solidarity. In the true tradition of their founders, cooperatives believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

We care about the impact we have on the community while also working hard to ensure we are economically viable, in order to keep our rates affordable and competitive.

I will take this opportunity to look closer at these values in order to see how they impact us here at Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative. The pioneers that created YVEC did so to serve those that couldn’t get electricity otherwise. The investor-owned utilities showed no interest in serving the rural areas of the country. The vision of those founders is still alive today as we continue to provide electricity and other services to our members. What incredible foresight our founders had! This embodies the values of self-help, taking action and doing what needs to be done. We also know we must embrace the value of self-responsibility and be accountable to you, our members. (72790000)

Each member has one vote, no matter how much electricity you use. This ensures that democracy is practiced the way it is intended, with equality for all members. This is a key difference between cooperatives and investor-owned companies where the number of votes you have depend on the number of stock shares you own. For co-op members, equity has 2 meanings. We strive to treat all of our members fairly. It also means that, as a member, you have equity (ownership) in the cooperative.

While each co-op is autonomous, we do act in solidarity with other cooperatives in our community, state and nation. We know that we can do more by partnering with other like-minded organizations. From other electric co-ops in the state to co-op lending agencies in the region, such as CoBank which is one of our key lenders, the network that has been created by and for co-ops is quite expansive and yet very efficient. Cooperatives have long been identified as the original socially responsible business. We are and have always been great stewards to both the environment and the business community. We care about the impact we have on the community while also working hard to ensure we are economically viable, in order to keep our rates affordable and competitive.

YVEC tries to demonstrate our concern for community by caring for others every day. One excellent example is the Operation Round Up Program, which has been incredibly successful in just five years of charitable giving. Since 2018, over $400,000 of funding has been granted to more than 61 non-profit organizations in the communities served by YVEC. Additionally, our co-op continues to provide academic scholarships, electrical safety demonstrations, donations to Family Service, Energy Share and other important programs that support our members. By using our values in support of our principles since our founding in 1937, we have been able to serve you with more than just electricity for the past 86 years and will do so long into the future.

Brandon J. Wittman
Chief Executive Officer