“It went fast,” Ken Hendrickx says, reflecting on his experience on Lake Region Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors. “It has been a great experience for me. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people with different perspectives. It’s even helped me learn more about myself.”
Due to term limits, Hendrickx will retire from the board this summer after serving the cooperative for the past 15 years. For 14 of the last 15 years, he’s either served as board chair for Lake Region or as the co-op’s Great River Energy (GRE) representative.
Hendrickx’s time as a director first began when he was elected to LREC’s Board of Directors, a spot his father had held previously. Back at the family farm, he recalls watching his dad go to board meetings. At dinner time, the family would discuss business and his dad would talk about his experience on the board. This sparked an interest in Hendrickx that remains today.
During his time on LREC’s Board of Directors, Hendrickx has witnessed many changes on both the local level and in the electric industry as a whole. He mentions how the way electricity is generated continues to evolve, with a growing focus on alternative energy sources.
Hendrickx says many of the greatest changes he’s witnessed have come about as a result of advances in technology. “For example, it used to be that I would walk out to our light pole, write down the numbers on the meter, figure out the bill, and send a check in the mail,” he says. “Now, I don’t even need to look at my meter–it’s automatic. I don’t send a check–it’s directly deposited.”
The cooperative is also utilizing technology to help keep members informed when outages occur. He mentions how Lake Region has its own website with an outage map that shows any outages currently affecting the co-op’s service area. Members can even opt to receive an estimate of how long it will take before they get power back on.
“The demand for electricity has also changed a lot from what it was like when I first got on the board in 2004. At that time, there was such a thirst for more electricity. Then, in 2008, there was a recession and the bottom fell out on that demand,” Hendrickx reports. “We needed to try to figure out how to replace these revenue streams. In my opinion, Lake Region has done a wonderful job of adding other sources of revenue–such as our natural gas business, our partnership with Carr’s Tree Service, and programs like our standby generators. These are beneficial to both the company and our members.”
Reflecting on his time on the board, the fiscal strength of the cooperative is something Hendrickx says has always been a top priority for him. Coming from the business world, he places a lot of value on developing a fiscally strong company. He is pleased to report that the metrics show Lake Region is now stronger than it was 15 years ago. He credits Lake Region’s many talented employees with helping to operate a successful cooperative.
“I am proud of the direction Lake Region is headed in,” Hendrickx says. “My hope is to hand off to the next generation a little bit better hand than what we got.”
To anyone interested in filling his soon-to-be-vacated spot on the board, Hendrickx says they should take the chance and try running for the board. “I would certainly encourage someone who has an interest in something like this to give it a try. Jump in. Try it out. It’s been such a good experience for me. I am thankful to members for their support and the opportunity to represent them.”