Their national meeting energizes electric cooperative delegatesBy Michael E.C. Gery
Nearly 9,000 representatives of the nation's electric cooperatives and allied organizations set policy, discussed issues affecting their business, learned about industry technology, and elected and honored leaders during their annual meetings held in New Orleans in February. The setting hosted annual meetings of national organizations that serve financial, insurance, branding, technology and other electric cooperative interests
In his final speech to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's 71st annual meeting, CEO Glenn English, who retired after 19 years at the helm, reminded co-op managers, directors and staffers that they're in charge of more than wires and poles. They are heirs, he said, to a cause that has enriched lives and communities for more than 75 years.
"There are many battles ahead," he said. "You can win those battles if you engage your members and build the loyalty that is the foundation of political strength. You can win those battles if you ask them to help out and point out to them what is at stake."
As the meeting drew to a close, NRECA's incoming CEO Jo Ann Emerson spoke about the enthusiasm and understanding she brings to the job. [See Inspired to lead Co-op Nation]
At well-attended forums during the three-day convention, participants heard discussions on effective board management, rural broadband, empowering members, the 113th Congress, and the future of power supply.
North Carolina's own Erskine Bowles, addressing the Cooperative Finance Corporation's meeting, unveiled the Campaign to Fix the Debt (www.FixTheDebt.org). "We created this mess," he said. "We have the responsibility to clean it up." Five areas needing most attention, he said, are too much health care spending, disproportional defense spending, an inefficient tax code, insufficient planning for Social Security, and compound interest on the debt. His remarks drew rave reviews, even though he prefaced them with his description of what it was like to run the UNC system for five years: "It's like standing in a cemetery. There are lots of people under you but nobody's listening."
Among North Carolina participants in the spotlight were Roanoke Electric's CEO Curtis Wynn, NRECA board member; Randolph EMC's CEO Dale Lambert, Legislative Committee; Pee Dee EMC's CEO Donnie Spivey, Regulatory Committee; Union Power Cooperative's David Gross and Jeremy Black discussing using GPS technology to see and analyze operations; Wake EMC's Matt Vernon discussing the use of mobile app technology; Wake EMC's Don Bowman discussing distribution automation; and Tom Laing of N.C. Electric Membership Corp. discussing consumer-member preferences and behavior. Wake EMC's CEO James E. Mangum, a board member of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, was elected to fill an unexpired term on the board of the National Information Solutions Cooperative that develops, implements and supports software and hardware solutions for cooperatives.