Co-ops grapple with taking care of business post-pandemic
When Co-Mo Connect held its 2020 annual meeting on May 21 things looked a lot different than the previous year’s gathering. Just a handful of people attended, with the meeting limited to directors and key staff. Instead members watched live on Facebook, the cooperative’s website or on Co-Mo Connect Channel 93.
Like a lot of events, annual meetings for Missouri’s electric cooperatives have had to change in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bans on large gatherings forced electric cooperatives to be creative in order to take care of the important business of the cooperative.
“The annual meeting is a special time for co-op members to gather, hear from co-op leadership and, perhaps most importantly, vote to elect board members,” Co-Mo CEO Aaron Bradshaw told members. “The annual meeting was different this year, but that does not change the fact that Co-Mo is run by a democratically elected board of directors that is given the privilege of serving because of your vote.”
Co-Mo members voted using mail-in ballots. With no opportunity for the usual speeches from board candidates, members could log on to the cooperative’s website to watch candidate videos or dial a phone number to listen to their speeches.
At SEMO Electric Cooperative, the meeting normally held in May was moved to July 2. It too will be a lot different than the well-attended affair usually held in the Miner Convention Center.
“We are trying to squeeze the COVID-19 lemon for lemonade and plant the seeds for the future,” says SEMO CEO Sean Vanslyke. “We are working with a local radio station to simulcast the event and we will be live on Facebook. Members will be able to stay in their vehicle for the entire event, which will include entertainment and a $25 bill credit, and vote with their horn.”
Lewis County Rural Electric Co-op is taking a similar approach when its annual meeting is held. It will be a drive-thru meeting, which will allow members to register, receive a $20 bill credit, printed copies of the financials and reports of the officers and manager, in addition to voting for directors and a bylaw amendment all from the comfort and safety of their cars.
Some co-ops will use iPads or online voting set up by the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Electronic voting was used last year at Ralls County Electric’s annual meeting with good results. The votes can be instantly tallied, saving time and eliminating any possible human error.
Whatever the format for your co-op’s annual meeting, members are encouraged to take part. Taking care of business and voting for directors is a vital part of every cooperative.