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Growing up on a farm just south of Ryder, North Dakota, Dale Haugen understood the value of the cooperative structure and the importance of electricity. Little did he know the impact he would have on the electric cooperative world throughout his career.

Following high school, Haugen attended NDSU where he earned a degree in Electrical Engineering. He then began a job with a consultant engineering company that brought him to Williston to work with Williams Electric Cooperative (WEC) as they were experiencing substantial growth due to an oil boom.

After a year of working as a consultant, WEC’s general manager offered Haugen a full-time position as the cooperative’s engineering manager. Haugen saw an employer who had a great mentoring plan and continuing education program, which in turn showed their commitment to the betterment staff. “Loving the cooperative structure and western North Dakota, the decision was easy,” he recalled about why he accepted.

Throughout the next decade, Haugen saw the “bust” within the oil industry and the impact it had on western North Dakota. Towards the end of the 1980’s talk had began about the possibility of partnering with other cooperatives to create a stronger, more stable cooperative for members.

It wasn’t until Mountrail Electric Cooperative met with WEC that both boards realized that a merger would be a tremendous benefit to both cooperatives, especially their members. In 1991, a merger became a reality and was also the start of an incredible career for Haugen as Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative’s (MWEC) first general manager.

The newly formed MWEC was tasked last minute to find a general manager due to unexpected changes within the cooperative. The board took a chance and chose a young Haugen to lead the newly merged cooperatives. That decision led to many years of great leadership and growth.

“Dale wanted to learn so he took any and all educational opportunities he could,” MWEC Chairperson Bob Grant remembered, “his drive to learn and bring that back to the cooperative was key to the success of MWEC.”

Through Haugen’s 33 years as general manager, he has headed many large projects, been through many storms and has continued to pave a positive path for MWEC and all cooperatives. Through all his accomplishments he believes that MEC and WEC merger is his biggest. “Putting these two co-ops together made a great cooperative,” he said, “together they have accomplished so much, where if separate, the things we are doing today would not have happened.”

Haugen is thankful for both MEC and WEC board of directors who worked so hard to make the merger a reality. He also had a great MWEC board of directors who guided him through the most recent oil boom which led to a huge buildout of the system. “There were two options, Option A was to succeed and Option B was to fail,” Haugen stated, “the board took Option A and told me they would worry about the politics.” The board reiterated to him that their fathers and grandfathers built the co-op by investing their $5. They will find a way to continue what their families started, modernizing the cooperative to serve members with a newly built electrical system.

Having been given great support and guidance, Haugen would like to pass that on to current and future employees. His best advice would be that relationships are the core of a successful cooperative. “From working with the board to building relationships with your membership, your suppliers and community,” he explains, “creating respectful, helpful and collaborative relationships will open doors to new contacts, conversations and opportunities.”

Life will be different after retirement. Having lived and worked for MWEC the past 43 years, Haugen plans to attend more family events which includes being a supportive grandpa at his grandkids activities and maybe even a bit more traveling with his wife.

“Thank you to all the great members, employees and directors for providing my family with a  great opportunity! 43 years great!!”

Dale Career Stats

1991 – 30 (cap 42)
2023 – 131

Power (peak)
1991 - <50 Megawatts
2023 – 775 Megawatts

Miles of Line
1991 – 3800
2023 – 5500

1991 - <10,000
2023 – 23,000+

Revenue (yearly)
1991 - $30 Million
2023 - $350+ Million


Check out this story and more in the December 2023 edition of North Dakota Living Magazine.