Seminars to teach dos, don’ts of co-op leadership

The Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives at North Dakota State University is hosting identical Cooperative Leadership Training sessions in Grand Forks and Fargo.

FARGO, N.D. — Need to learn or brush up on the dos and don’ts for co-op directors?

The Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives at North Dakota State University is hosting identical Cooperative Leadership Training sessions — Feb. 25 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D., and Feb. 27 at the Ramada Inn in Bismarck, N.D.

The one-day events start at 8:30 a.m. with registration, followed by the program from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sessions are for directors of any cooperative, but last year some directors of dairy or electric co-ops also attended.

Frayne Olson, director of the center, and an NDSU Extension grain marketing specialist, says last year about 185 co-op board members attended the “test version” of the training in Fargo and Minot, N.D. Among the purposes are to help directors be alert to laws and ethics, as well as to help set useful financial and capital goals.

Olson acknowledged that one of the reasons the sessions were organized in the wake of the Ashby (Minn.) Farmers Elevator Cooperative theft, where former general manager Jerry Hennessey in 2019 pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $5 million over a 15-year period and using the money to go on international big game hunting safaris and for expensive taxidermy and home construction. Significantly, the Ashby co-op board did not insist on third-party financial audits. Kimberly Marie Dysthe Goeden, a bookkeeper for the co-op, in late December 2019 was charged with embezzling an additional $88,033.84.


This year’s sessions will start with an overview group session but then split into two tracks. The first track is “foundation” training that introduces the basics of core skills co-op board members, including such things as financial statement and divisions between board and management responsibilities.

“There are clear boundaries in some areas, fuzzy in others,” Olson said.

The second track is called “enhanced,” for people who attended last year’s session or are more experienced board members. Among the topics there include more thorough discussion of the “gray areas” in responsibility between board and management.

Registration deadline is Feb. 18. Go online at or contact Olson at , 701-231-7377, or Kristi Schweiss, assistant director, , 701-231-6189. Cost is $100 per participant, or $50 per participant if there are three or more from the same co-op.

Topics include: fiduciary responsibilities, Robert’s Rules of Order, co-op principles, financial management, risk management, roles and responsibilities, capital management, and board/chief executive “gray areas,” and an introduction to financial strategies.

Presenters for the meetings include Olson; Zach Boettner of Juntunen, Sandberg & Boettner, law; Preston Kranz, regional vice president of CoBank; Mike Misheski, partner at Widmer Roel, PC; Todd Rosvold, development manager at CHS Inc.; and Jason McKenney, cooperative and transportation supervisor, North Dakota Farmers Union.

Other sponsors of the seminars include the North Dakota Cooperative Managers Association, the North Dakota Grain Dealers Association, the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Valley United Co-op, and Widmer Roel CPAs.


Frayne Olson, North Dakota State University

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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