On Monday, November 19 Brian Zelenak became the President/CEO of St. Croix Electric Cooperative, succeeding Mark Pendergast, who is retiring after 26 years with the co-op that serves more than 11,000 member accounts in St. Croix and the edges of neighboring counties.
Although he has spent the past two years as CEO/General Manager of Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative in Aitkin, Minn., Zelenak is no newcomer to St. Croix County: He has lived in Hudson for the past 12 years, serving on the boards of Family Resource Center St. Croix Valley and Camp St. Croix YMCA Camp as well as coaching within the Hudson Hockey Association. He and wife Kelley have two sons, Aaron and Will, who are students at Hudson High School.
“I look forward to serving the members of St. Croix Electric and becoming more involved again in western Wisconsin,” Zelenak said prior to his arrival at SCEC.
The Board of Directors of St. Croix Electric Cooperative a year and a half ago began working on a policy for management succession and had no sooner finished it than Pendergast told them of his plans to retire. In early July the board hired NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) Executive Search to lead the way and manage the candidate recruitment to help the board make their final selection.
“We had identified 14 key competencies and minimum education and experience requirements for the position,” Board Chair Bill Peavey said. “One of the things we wanted was someone who will be ‘out there’ promoting St. Croix Electric Cooperative – continuing our good reputation in the community, communicating with the public who we are and what we do.”
Along with his past western Wisconsin activities Zelenak, who is originally from St. Paul, has served on numerous non-profit and for profits boards including Aitkin County Growth, American Peat Technologies and Very Special Arts of Wisconsin, and on a number in industry-related boards including the MN Renewable Development Fund, the Energy Center of Wisconsin (now SeventhWave), the Wisconsin Public Utilities Institute and the Michigan Electric and Gas Association.
Prior to going to Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, Zelenak was with Xcel Energy for 20-plus years in various regulatory roles. He has spent many years working with legislators, regulators, advocacy groups and state agencies on energy policy issues and has testified at numerous public hearings, rate case hearings, administrative agency hearings, and before legislative committees on a variety of energy issues in multiple states. He is a former registered lobbyist in the State of Wisconsin.
“I am a strong supporter of the cooperative model, western Wisconsin and economic development,” Zelenak said. “I was always intrigued by the cooperative business model, and the more I learned about the Seven Cooperative Principles and Servant Leadership the more drawn I felt to cooperatives. I have never looked back or had any regrets making the transition – other than regretting I didn’t do it sooner in my career.”
Along with providing reliable electricity to more than 11,000 members via 1,760 miles of distribution lines, St. Croix Electric Cooperative also owns 21 acres labeled “Gold Shovel Ready” for development in the Hammond-St. Croix Business Center II, administers a USDA Revolving Loan Fund and offers incentives including reduced electric rates and rebates to member businesses. SCEC also demonstrates the Seventh Cooperative Principle of Concern for Community through its Commitment to Community Grant Program awarding dozens of grants each year to organizations serving the unmet humanitarian, social and educational needs within its general service area. Satellite internet is available to members and non-members alike through SCEC’s DishUp Communications as is FirstCall Medical Monitoring.
To learn more about St. Croix Electric Cooperative and its services, products and programs visit scecnet.net or call 715-796-7000.