Serving Illinois’ electric cooperatives

My grandfather used to tell me how our family somehow scraped together $5 in 1939 to join the electric cooperative and how electricity greatly improved their lives on the farm. I didn’t know then that the electric cooperatives in Illinois would play such an important role in my life.

I am honored that the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives’ (AIEC’s) board of directors selected me as the next president/CEO of the statewide organization. To introduce myself, I want to share a bit about my background, the path that led me to this position, and my goals for continuing the success of the AIEC.

I was raised in the small farming town of La Moille, Ill., and I still help my father on our family farm when time allows.

My wife and I met when we were undergrads at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I then graduated from Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa, and began practicing law. My practice included representing energy companies when they proposed utility projects. With my agriculture background, I also represented landowners when a utility project was proposed on their property.

I later became the general counsel of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which administers more than 100 statutes and regulates Illinois’ largest industry. My previous experience was quite helpful when Illinois enacted legislation to mitigate the impacts on farmland from utility projects.

In 2018, I left state government to be the general counsel at the AIEC. This position has allowed me to learn the statewide association inside and out. It also allowed me to work with and learn from Duane Noland, the president/CEO since 2005. I have benefited greatly from Duane’s experience and leadership, and now it is one of my goals to make this a smooth transition.

Just like my grandfather back in 1939, you are a consumer-member of your electric cooperative, and the 25 distribution electric cooperatives in Illinois are members of the AIEC. Five generation and transmission cooperatives and several telephone cooperatives are also members.

I am fortunate to be CEO of the AIEC, a well-respected organization with a long history of providing support, expertise and unity of purpose for its member cooperatives. For AIEC to continue its success, I think we must focus our efforts in four main areas.

First is member satisfaction. Electric cooperatives — and thus you, the members — are the reason AIEC exists. We must listen to and understand the needs of electric cooperatives and deliver the best results possible. Second, we must succeed in retaining and hiring talented personnel. Third, we have to succeed financially by having stable budgets and being good stewards of our funds. Finally, we have to succeed with the Illinois legislature and administrative agencies. Our model of providing electricity on a not-for-profit basis and being regulated by our members has worked well since the 1930s.

It’s quite interesting how life can turn out. When my family scraped that $5 together back in 1939, they could not have predicted that in 2023, I would become the fifth CEO in AIEC’s 80-year history. I look forward to working hard for the membership and leading a great organization.