Non-profit Organizations Play a Key Role in Setting Policies That Benefit our Community

(This article was written for Local First’s June 12, 2021 Herald Column)

One of the most important roles of non-profit organizations is to advocate for overarching policies and goals on issues that impact the community. While promoting these policies, non-profit organizations communicate with key decision makers and leaders who are then trusted to implement these policies on behalf of the greater community. We entrust our non-profit organizations to lead the charge on issues such as the environment, housing, the local economy, and social justice. It is then our choice as an individual to support those organizations that propel our worldview into action. This is not partisan politics, it’s democracy in action. 

Take the La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) Board of Directors annual election, for example. There are three directors in each of the four districts, and every year one of these directors is elected for a three-year term. The LPEA Board of Directors play a key role in implementing policies to ensure their mission to provide its members safe, reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost while being environmentally responsible. LPEA is a non-profit, member-owned cooperative. As owners of LPEA, we, the members, play a critical role in communicating our priorities to the decision-makers and leaders who move LPEA forward. 

Over the last decade, our community voice in prioritizing local, clean, and renewable energy has become increasingly louder. We live in this remote corner of the southwest because we love the land, water, air, and environment that surrounds us. We have chosen to live here even though the cost of living is a challenge because we have placed our quality of life at the top of our priority list.

It is therefore our duty to support the leaders at LPEA who will not only listen to our priorities as a community, but implement those on a day-to-day basis. By supporting the board candidates that will be the most effective at implementing local, renewable energy goals we are making our home a better place to live. These goals need not follow party lines and the LPEA election for a non-profit Board of Directors is not based on party affiliation. In a May 14th letter to the editor, Davin Montoya stated that non-profit organizations endorsing or supporting our community leaders at LPEA is “corrupt.” This could not be further from the truth. The moment we take away the voice of our non-profit entities in supporting community leaders that best represent our goals, we take away our freedom of speech and the underpinning of democracy itself. Our American democracy is founded on freedom of speech and nonprofit organizations represent the primary vehicle for these freedoms in a democracy that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Non-profit organizations engaging in the LPEA election bring transparency and accountability to these elections and raise the profile of their importance to our lives. 

In 2019, LPEA adopted the following goal as a response to an outpouring of community support: Reduce its carbon footprint by 50 percent from 2018 levels by year 2030 while keeping members’ cost of electricity lower than 70 percent of Colorado cooperative peers.

Local First and other non-profit organizations represent key community ideals and have not only the right, but the responsibility, to support the LPEA board candidates who are most committed to making this goal a reality. It’s hard work and not for the faint of heart. Local First works on behalf of its members and the business community to:

  1. Keep energy dollars local by ensuring businesses entrepreneurial investment opportunities while creating competitive, high quality, local jobs.  
  2. Stabilize energy costs for citizens and businesses as the cost of fossil fuel energy continues to fluctuate 
  3. Protect our quality of life by keeping Durango’s air, land and water resources healthy.

The most important thing we can do to ensure that our member-owned rural electric cooperative makes the right business decisions for our community is to exercise our right as owners by voting in the upcoming LPEA election. The candidates that Local First thinks will bring the leadership, vision, and priorities needed to the LPEA Board are: District 1: Kirsten Sheehan, District 2: Mark Walser, District 3: Ted Compton, and District 4: Tim Wheeler. Ballots for the LPEA election are in the mail, and most likely already at your doorstep. Enact your right to vote by 4pm on June 16th. This election is as important as any local, state or federal election you receive a ballot for. Don’t miss this chance to keep La Plata County an amazing place to live.

Monique DiGiorgio is executive director of Local First Foundation in Durango. Contact her at