Kaeter will always treasure his co-op connections
Before ECE Director Bob Kaeter ever ran for the board of his local electric cooperative, he lived by its values and understood “the power of human connections.”
He and his wife, Bonnie, have been anchors in their central Minnesota community for more than 60 years. The Benton County Fair Board, Benton County 4-H, St. Patrick’s Church in Sauk Rapids, the Knights of Columbus, the Veterans Administration in St. Cloud, and of course, ECE, have all benefited from the Kaeters’ penchant to give back.
“At ECE, you’re the people’s voice,” Bob said. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed being on the board. I’ve always felt like I’m another avenue of help for the members out here. Before the automated phone system, when there was an outage, people would call me and ask me to call in.”
He was first elected to the Board of Directors 39 years ago. He and Bonnie were busy raising their family of four, and at the time, Bob was farming 240 acres and milking 40 cows himself. He admittedly hesitated about taking on another commitment.
“East Central had formed a committee to help route power from the Minden substation to Milaca. I served on the committee and got to know some of the people. That winter, when the director from this district decided not to run, I thought I’d give it a try.”
He remembers farming in the days before electricity came to the Sauk Rapids area.
“We didn’t get it here until 1950. I had the kerosene lanterns. That’s probably why I’ve always been prejudiced in favor of electricity. I was so happy with it and what it could do.”
Bob has never regretted his tenure on the board, and stepping down, he said, is a tough decision.
“You learn how much goes into having electricity and keeping it reliable. You get to know people from other co-ops around the country. You enjoy talking to them and finding out what’s happening in their area.”
He and Bonnie treasure the friendships cultivated through their involvement in the community and enjoy sharing stories and memories.
The Kaeters laughingly call their home office ‘the trophy room,’ where they display the many awards they’ve received through the years. In 2016 Bob received the Lifetime Achievement Award from President Obama for his many years volunteering for the St. Cloud Veterans Administration Health Care System. He drove veterans to their appointments for several years and still helps with adult daycare there whenever he can.
“I’ve always been impressed with East Central. I think we take as good or better care of our members than anyone. Our employees do a wonderful job. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be part of that,” Bob said.
Bob and his wife, Bonnie