Cooperatives “put people first”

Cooperatives “put people first”

Charity Gambill-Gwyn, Blue Ridge Electric board member, told the statewide annual meeting about her cooperative’s work with member advisory committees, local non-profit organizations, and a “sister” co-op in Bolivia. Photo by Salstrand Studios

North Carolina's electric cooperative board members and management staff in April celebrated the cooperative business model as they conducted affairs at the annual meeting of their statewide organizations held in Raleigh.

"As a sustainable business model, the cooperative model is the strongest we have," said Donald H. "Donnie" Spivey, CEO of Pee Dee EMC and president of North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC), the cooperatives' power supply arm. As the electric utility industry faces major upgrades in its infrastructure, Spivey reminded those attending that "our core mission is to focus on our members."

Expressing similar sentiments, Joseph P. Brannan, NCEMC's CEO since May 1, said, "When you put people first, you usually find the right answer." He enumerated the challenges facing electric cooperatives: an aging infrastructure, new government regulations and technology that is changing with consumer demands.

A panel of advocates described their experiences in seeing cooperatives succeed by serving their members at all turns. They included Randolph Electric's CEO Dale Lambert, Four County Electric's CEO Mitchell Keel, and Blue Ridge Electric director Charity Gambill-Gwyn. "Rural people are a cut above," Mitchell Keel said. "We have common sense, can-do attitudes. Cooperatives conduct business in a businesslike way, with less wrangling...Our boards are always focused on 'what would the members think about this.'"

Keynote speaker Martin Lowery, executive vice president at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, reiterated the values that define cooperatives as updated by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1995: self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. "We do what we do because we are driven by these values," he said. "We are organizations that younger people now can admire and take pride in working for."

The cooperatives presented college scholarships to Michaela Glen Smith of Princeton (Katie Bunch Memorial Scholarship), Austin Glock Andrews of Rockingham (Gwyn B. Price Memorial Scholarship), and Douglas Stephens IV of Cumberland County (Youth Leadership Council Scholarship).

Certificates of Excellence for safety — granted every three years for co-ops achieving safety standards during the three-year period — were given to the following cooperatives: Four County EMC (14th achievement), Pitt & Greene EMC (13th achievement), and Union Power Cooperative (11th achievement). Co-ops awarded the same certificates earlier were Albemarle EMC (13th achievement), Brunswick EMC (11th achievement), Edgecombe-Martin County EMC (11th achievement), and Tri-County EMC (7th achievement).

The following were elected officers for 2012–2013.

  • NCEMC: President Donald H. Spivey, Pee Dee EMC; Vice President Mitchell L. Keel, Four County EMC; Secretary-Treasurer Mark A. Suggs, Pitt & Greene EMC.
  • N.C. Association of Electric Cooperatives: President Tony E. Herrin, Union Power; Vice President Allen W. Speller, Roanoke Electric; Secretary-Treasurer Jeffrey B. Joines, Blue Ridge Electric.
  • Tarheel Electric Membership Assn: President David Eggers, Blue Ridge Electric; Vice President J. Michael Davis, Tri-County EMC; Secretary-Treasurer Tony E. Herrin, Union Power.

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