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The upcoming Sangre de Cristo Electric Association (SDCEA) 2023 board of directors election in May is shaping up as a pivotal moment for the 14,000-member electric cooperative. A small but vocal minority has again contested the utility’s attempted rate-restructuring for a second year in a row, and is focused on a faster shift of the utility into renewable energy.

Sangre de Cristo Electric Association headquarters in Buena Vista. Photo by Jan Wondra

There are three SDCEA board seats are up for election, with two seats contested:

  • One board seat from Rural Chaffee/Lake County is contested. Incumbent Joe Redetzke is running for the seat, being challenged by Mark Boyle.
  • The At-Large seat held by Michael Robinson is also a contested seat. He is being challenged for election by Jeff Fiedler.
  • Incumbent Blake Bennetts, the town of Buena Vista representative, is running unopposed.

Candidate question and answer columns are featured from all candidates on SDCEA’s website:  and in the May edition of Colorado Country Life magazine.

Candidate forums are scheduled to be held:

  • 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in Buena Vista (Date TBA)
  • 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. May 4 at Howard Hall in Howard
  • 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. May 8. at the Wet Mountain Valley Saddle Club in Custer County.

The SDCEA is a member-owned, not-for-profit, corporate cooperative that provides electric service to nearly 14,000 member accounts in five counties: Chaffee, Lake, Fremont, Custer and Huerfano counties.

As a cooperative, SDCEA is self-regulated and governed by a seven-member board of directors elected by and from their membership. Five board members serve staggered terms; elected from director districts and two are elected at-large.

The cooperative has pointed out that it has not raised electric rates since 2017, making this the sixth year it has worked with a basically flat budget.

Over the past several years SDCEA has offered what is known as “net metering” to consumers, making the installation of solar panels on residences and businesses economically attractive. Without net metering, individuals would have no way to sell extra energy back into the grid. While some say this has amounted to a subsidy, others point out that the county — and the country — has to move faster toward clean and renewable energy sources.