Q&A with Marion Kertz of the MFA Oil Board of Directors
June 20, 2023
Written By Adam Buckallew
Q: When you look back at your time on the Board, what are you most proud of?
A: Serving as the representative for the cooperative’s southeast district has been a rewarding experience. I enjoy participating in the governance of MFA Oil and working with the management team to set our strategic direction. We’ve had many great leaders throughout our cooperative’s nearly 100-year history, and I was honored to serve as chairman of the Board of Directors for two years. It was a big responsibility, but one I proudly accepted.
Q: You have had the opportunity to serve on many different boards for a variety of organizations. How did that experience help prepare you for joining the MFA Oil Board of Directors?
A: One thing you learn quickly when you take on the responsibilities of being a board member is that there are sometimes tough decisions that need to be made. You learn how to work together with people and find consensus. But the number-one thing you must remember is why you’re there. Board members are meant to look out for the interests of their constituents. That’s the thing I always come back to when considering votes. You’ve got to do what’s best for the people you represent. That principle applies to all boards, whether you’re talking about a community bank, your church or your local cooperative.
Q: When you were elected as chairman in 2019, there were organizational changes that the Board deemed necessary. What was it like leading the Board during this period of transition?
A: There were hard decisions that needed to be made about our leadership that we, as a Board, thought were unavoidable. We had different visions for the direction we should be heading, and we had to act. That was not an easy thing to do at the beginning of my term as chairman, but it couldn’t be delayed. We knew what we needed to do for the best interest of the cooperative, its farmer-owners and its employees, and we did it.
Our Board and the company’s management team are now in alignment with a shared vision. Restoring our focus on customer service and making the company a great place to work has been a major accomplishment. There is a tremendous responsibility in stewarding this great cooperative that was created by our grandfathers and kept going by our fathers. I’m proud of the part I’ve played in positioning the company to serve future generations
Q: How important is community to a successful cooperative?
A: The foundation of the cooperative movement is built on community. When seven farmers gathered at the Newcomer School near Brunswick, Mo., in 1914, they set the wheels in motion for the formation of what we now know as MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil Company. When we band together and work cooperatively, we can achieve great things.
The MFA Oil slogan is “We Live Where You Do,” for good reason. Our farmer-owners and employees are important members of their respective communities. Many of them serve on school boards, are leaders in their churches, and volunteer in fire departments and in other organizations that serve the community. Additionally, MFA Oil gives back to our communities with grants through our charitable foundation and scholarships to local high school students. I’ve had the opportunity to present several grants to organizations in the southeast district, and it is fantastic to see the many ways we help people. Giving back makes our communities stronger, which, in turn, makes the cooperative stronger.
Q: What’s something you want more people to know about MFA Oil?
A: I wish more young people had a better understanding of the value I saw when I was their age and continue to see in cooperatives. We have a great thing going with MFA Oil. Our co-op fills an essential need as an energy supplier. The fuel we sell keeps rural communities moving. On top of that, we are given ownership and patronage in exchange for doing business with the cooperative. That’s a major perk. The more you buy from the co-op, the more you have the opportunity to get back at the end of the year in your patronage check. It’s a nice reward for doing business with MFA Oil.
Marion Kertz of Ste. Genevieve, Mo., is a retired farmer who has turned his farming operations in both Missouri and Illinois over to his two sons and nephew. He has been an MFA Oil delegate since 1997 and was elected to the Board of Directors in 2011. He served as chairman of the MFA Oil Board of Directors from 2018 to 2020.