SCEC Board names new CEO/President
The St. Croix Electric Cooperative Board of Directors has chosen Brian Zelenak to succeed Mark Pendergast as President/CEO of your cooperative. Brian will begin his duties here this coming Monday, Nov. 19.
Although he has spent the past two years as CEO/General Manager of Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative in Aitkin, Minn., Brian 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,” Brian said prior to his arrival at SCEC.
The SCEC Board of Directors 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. We believe Brian will meet the current and future needs of the organization, and we are very happy he accepted the position.”
Brian holds a B.S. in Energy Management from Moorhead State University and a certificate in Supervisory Management from the University of Eau Claire. Along with his past western Wisconsin activities Brian, 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, Brian 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.
“Over my years in the utility industry working for an investor-owned utility, 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,” Brian said. “The Cooperative Principles and Servant Leadership felt very natural to my management style and beliefs to the point I sought out the advice of local cooperative leaders to determine if the transition might be right for me. I have never looked back or had any regrets making the transition – other than regretting I didn’t do it sooner in my career.”
While at MLEC he was a strong advocate for electric cooperatives to assess their role in raising the quality of life in rural Minnesota by bringing fiber to unserved areas. He is also a strong believer in establishing partnerships that capitalize on individual entities’ strengths for the betterment of the community as a whole.
“I am a strong supporter of the cooperative model, western Wisconsin and economic development,” Brian said. “I’m really looking forward to the opportunities to further develop the excellent programs and service already in place at St. Croix.”