Municipal utilities have long sought to provide reliable service at a reasonable rate.
At one time it may have been enough. 
It isn’t now.
Simple numbers add up to trouble in many places. About 20 percent of Minnesota’s municipal electric utilities have fewer than 500 customers. A look at many city census numbers over the decades reveals a dismal fact of population decline. 
A smaller pool of candidates promises less talent to pick from. But population decline (or stagnation, for that matter) may not be the biggest problem.
There is also a worrisome cultural trend that may be tempting to shrug off, as something that won’t affect your utility. But it has contributed to the sale of two municipal utilities in recent memory, and remains a threat.
Others have put their finger on the problem. Granite Falls Mayor and Utilities Commissioner Dave Smiglewski calls it “an alarming decline in civic and community engagement, particularly in rural areas.”
This is especially notable, since Granite Falls is no slouch when it comes to operating a municipal electric utility. It is an MMUA member city and has operated a municipal electric utility since 1891. Its hydroelectric plant supplies approximately 30 percent of the city’s electrical needs in a good year. The utility also maintains and operates a fossil-fueled electric generating plant. It builds and maintains its own lines. The city operates the ‘Kilowatt Community Center.’
The city’s population is approximately 2,500—which makes it a typical Minnesota municipal electric city.
That a well-respected leader in a well-run, typically-sized municipal utility city is sounding the alarm is notable. The alarm being sounded by Smiglewski is often confirmed in conversations with city and utility people around the state.
From this, I submit that it is not enough to diligently attend to the utility’s business, seeking to make wise decisions to benefit the utility and its customers. A transition in leadership often leads to trouble for a utility. What happens when you go (and you surely will) and there is nobody prepared (or even willing) to take your place? 
A person involved with MMUA once compared municipal utility leaders to offensive linemen: if they were never noticed—if their number never got called—then they were doing their job. There is, however, much work to be done in promoting Public Power in Minnesota. 
Somebody has to do it.
And it starts with you.
A municipal utility’s first mission may well be to simply replicate itself. I offer two thoughts to consider:
• Start with the United States Marine Corps. Anyone interested in organizational mission, vision and values would find good study here. The United States Marines Corps spells dedication to its mission, vision and values in sweat and blood. This selfless devotion means nothing if the Marine Corps can’t make Marines. That is its first and most important mission. (Why do you think the Marine drill sergeant is an iconic figure; the crucible of boot camp a transformative event?)
• Second (perhaps leaving philosophical convictions aside) consider the ‘great commission’ left to his disciples by Jesus of Nazareth: Go and make disciples. That is a clear mission. It was aimed squarely at perpetuating something that started, on the face of it, with 12 people.
While there is more to it, one of a local policymaker’s jobs should be to simply keep the organization going. This includes nurturing a replacement. That may strike the politician as heresy, but it is common sense for those who want the best for their community: Just because somebody has always stepped up to fill the void doesn’t mean somebody always will.
Some local organizations have a proven track record of bringing in new blood to benefit the utility, its customers and their city. I salute you. It is easier said than done. 
Nurturing a replacement grows more important as it grows increasingly difficult, what with the distractions of technology—news and entertainment at our fingertips—and the demands of modern life. 
On the plus side, many Minnesotans care enough about the places they love to get involved in an effort to keep them going. Add the new blood—people moving to Greater Minnesota to raise families in a safe and nurturing environment—and you have good material to work with.
Then comes the flip side of the coin: knowing when to relinquish control. It rests on one generation, as it raises up another to take its place, to point the younger ones in the right direction and let them walk on their own. Therein lies great satisfaction, and the knowledge of a job well done.