The South Dakota Rural Electric Association has turned to another Republican establishment figure from Aberdeen to run its largely socialist operations. In October, SDREA picked the SDGOP’s rejected Secretary of State Steve Barnett as its new general manager:
According to SDREA Board President Don Heeren, Barnett possesses the leadership skills and experience to help member cooperatives navigate through an array of challenges such as supply chain issues, transmission constraints, environmental regulations and economic market uncertainties. SDREA provides services in several key areas such legislative and regulatory lobbying, operations, training and safety, communications and more.
“One thing that clearly stands out about Steve is that he is a consensus builder, and he understands our mission to deliver quality service at the lowest rates possible for our members,” Heeren said. “He has a terrific personality and an impressive ability to relate to folks of every political background, orientation and persuasion. Steve has consistently demonstrated his effectiveness as a leader throughout the trajectory of his career and I know he’s eager to work with our cooperatives to accomplish our individual and collective goals for the future.”
A resident of Pierre, Barnett currently serves as Secretary of State and is expected to assume his duties at SDREA before the end of the year. Barnett earned his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Sioux Falls and has held positions within the South Dakota Republican Party, Wells Fargo and U.S. Sen. John Thune’s office. He served two terms as State Auditor and was elected by his peers as vice president of the National Association of State Comptrollers (NASC), as well as serving on the Executive Committee of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers, and Treasurers (NASACT).
…“I’m very excited to play a leading role in representing our cooperatives and our more than 250,000 members who work and live in every corner of the state and who rely on the power we deliver,” Barnett said. “The visionaries who began this movement many decades ago sparked a movement that has grown into a strong network of independently owned and independently controlled cooperatives that strive every day to carry out that early vision. It’s very humbling to be chosen as the next leader of SDREA and I’m looking forward to working with our stakeholders throughout the system to continue that legacy of service and success” [SDREA, press release, 2022.10.13].
One thing SDREA apparently isn’t looking for in the job is originality. The last Republican Aberdeen native SDREA hired for the job, Trevor Jones, said pretty much the same things when SDREA hired him in June 2021:
“I’m very excited to play a role in representing our cooperatives and our more than 126,000 members who work and live in every corner of the state and who rely on the power we deliver,” Jones said. “The bold leaders who began this movement many decades ago had a vision that has grown into a strong network of independently owned and independently controlled cooperatives that work hard every day to carry out that vision. It’s very humbling to be chosen as the next leader of SDREA and I’m looking forward to working with our stakeholders throughout the system to continue that legacy of service and success” [SDREA, press release, 2021.06.01].
When Jones and Barnett recite the boilerplate about bold, visionary leaders, they are, of course, referring to grassroots democratic socialists rallying rural masses to collective action to provide vital services that capitalists could not or would not provide.
Jones managed to manage for about a year. Maybe Barnett will manage to hang on and lobby for the coops a little longer… maybe even until 2026, by which time his extremist election-denying successor Monae Johnson will have so bungled the management of South Dakota’s elections that Barnett can mount a Krebsian campaign to come restore competent, fact-based management to the Secretary of State’s office.