- Transformative Leader In a cooperative career that began in 1976 with a staff assistant job in Harlan, Iowa, Petersen’s exclusive mission was to strengthen rural electric co-ops. For 26 years, he piloted CFC with a steady compass set to service, helping to transform CFC from a primary lender into a $27 billion, mission-focused financial services cooperative.
- Relentless Advocate Petersen was a relentless advocate for cooperatives on Wall Street, before government agencies, and in classrooms. Thanks to his advocacy in the financial world, major investors, banks, and credit rating agencies learned to trust cooperative businesses and invest in them. As a result, CFC was able to obtain enough capital to fully support the lending needs of its member-owners in rural America.
- Financial Innovator Petersen cultivated a culture of innovation at CFC. Under his direction, CFC developed financing programs to expand credit options and keep costs low for rural electric cooperatives and their communities.
Show your appreciation for Sheldon’s work by adding your name as a “Friend of Sheldon Peterson.” Your name will appear on the Sheldon Peterson page of Heroes.coop and in the Hall of Fame Commemorative Program. The Hall of Fame will be held on October 5, 2023 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Retired Governor and CEO, National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC)
A charismatic leader with a passion for the cooperative business model, Sheldon Petersen’s vision and commitment to strengthening rural electric cooperatives helped transform the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) into a $27 billion, mission-focused financial services cooperative.
Born and raised in western Iowa, Petersen started his cooperative career in 1976 as a staff assistant with Nishnabotna Valley Electric Cooperative in Harlan, Iowa. In 1980, he became general manager of Rock County Electric Cooperative Association in Janesville, Wisconsin, before joining CFC in 1983 as an area representative where he provided financial management consultation to rural electric cooperatives.
In 1995, Petersen was promoted to CEO, where he established a strategic vision for CFC to be electric cooperatives’ “most trusted financial resource.” Under his leadership, CFC helped to preserve and strengthen cooperatives that would otherwise not exist, while cultivating a culture of innovation that saw CFC develop new financing programs to expand credit options and keep costs low for rural electric cooperatives and their communities.
Petersen’s relentless advocacy of the cooperative business model to investors greatly expanded the influence and reputation of cooperatives on Wall Street to benefit rural Americans. Petersen also ensured that CFC and its affiliate, National Cooperative Services Corporation, became a major supporter of NRECA International’s efforts to bring electricity to remote communities around the globe.
He also actively supported the formation of new electric cooperatives, such as Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative in Hawaii, and ensured CFC became a committed supporter of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Cooperative Development Centers, which provide technical assistance to help develop new cooperatives and support existing ones.
Petersen retired from CFC in 2021 but he continues to maintain close ties to the electric cooperative network. In 2022, he was presented with the prestigious Clyde T. Ellis Award, which honors those with a legacy of exemplary contributions that support the principles and progress of rural electrification and the development and use of natural resources.