The story behind the storyteller
Cass County Electric’s Sara Hand uses her talents to put the cooperative community in the spotlight
Written by: Kaylee Cusack, Communications Specialist, Minnkota Power Cooperative
Rural electric cooperative life has always been flowing through Sara Hand’s veins. Her parents are members of Beltrami Electric Cooperative in her hometown of Bemidji, Minn. and her grandparents are members of Red Lake Electric Cooperative. But it wasn’t until she was hired at Cass County Electric Cooperative (CCEC) that she truly began to realize what was at the heart of the co-op system – and how she could share that heartbeat with others.
“A short while after starting, I learned what a cooperative actually was, and I loved the community feel,” Sara recalled. “I was able to meet and talk to people within my same position at other co-ops, as well as so many people in other positions. All those connections really just make you feel like family.”
Sara has been in the co-op’s communications department for three years. She’s the brain behind every informative or amusing CCEC post on Facebook and Instagram, the designer responsible for the co-op’s website, and the eye behind the vibrant videos and photography you see across platforms. She has endless skills, but one main goal.
“The thing I live for in my job is telling the cooperative story,” Sara said.
Sara works across all CCEC departments to show member-consumers (and the general public) the collaboration it takes to make the lights come on every day. Every person plays a role, from the accountants to the engineers to the member services representatives. There’s nothing Sara enjoys more than digging in and learning each role firsthand.
“For example, I’m able to go out with the line crews and really showcase what they do. Honestly, before I came to the co-op, I really didn’t understand what a lineworker was,” she said. “Now, I realize how important they are to society and the cooperative itself.”
“A co-op communicator doesn’t have to only know about writing, photography, design, video and marketing. They have a highly complex job, requiring a massive knowledge base that spans the cooperative,” said Jocelyn Hovland, CCEC manager of communications. “Sara is highly inquisitive, consistently wondering how processes work, testing what communication techniques perform, and eager to learn more and share more.”
CCEC’s multimedia maven isn’t scared to strap on a hard hat and boots to get the story. Her most memorable moments have been gearing up to climb a pole in safety training – which she says is MUCH harder than it looks – and journeying through a Valley City slough to document a pole change-out.
“I took a photo of the four linemen in the water with their waders, and that picture actually made it onto the cover of North Dakota Living magazine,” she said, adding that Ducks Unlimited reached out to use the photo when they saw all four lineworkers were sporting Ducks Unlimited waders. “Just knowing that I took a photo that a lot of people liked and wanted to use – that made me feel really good.”
Hovland says Sara’s enthusiasm for the cooperative and the energy she creates in the community gives her co-op team something to aspire to. “I admire her drive and attitude. We couldn’t do all that we do without her here,” she said.
Recently together with her husband Brady, they purchased Kones Kreamery, a gelato and boba tea store in Fargo, so naturally Sara assists with the creative side. As an avid animal lover, she fosters kittens at the home she shares with her forever cat, Echo. But for those moments when she sets aside career and community commitments, her heart is with the great outdoors.
“The Minnesota girl in me sometimes misses my Bemidji trees, so I thoroughly enjoy going for a good hike or walk outside and just feeling the fresh air,” she said with a laugh.
Sara has been with CCEC since October 2018 and was recently promoted to Communications Specialist.