This summer I had
the opportunity to attend several local electric cooperative annual
meetings. I was invited to speak about the state of the cooperative
movement in Missouri.
It was a great experience
because it let me come face to face and speak with many of you, the
member/owners of these cooperative businesses. I learned a lot at the
annual meetings and want to visit with you this month about some of
First of all, I learned
that the surveys of members conducted by electric cooperatives are
accurate. Time and again those surveys have told us you believe your
electric cooperative offers reliable service at affordable rates, and
those findings were echoed to me personally by the annual meeting crowds.
of you that I met at the annual meetings this summer told me you
feel connected to your cooperative and that’s why you come to
the annual meeting. You were not there for the lunch or the door prizes.
Rather, you take seriously your role as owners of a cooperative business.
I had the benefit of seeing cooperative democracy in action at those
meetings. I saw members running for election to the board and actually
campaigning to represent their fellow consumers on important decisions
affecting the co-op.
When I talked to
the incumbant directors I sensed the pride they feel for the opportunity
to represent their neighbors on the board. I also witnessed the standing
ovations given to employees of the cooperatives by a membership that
is grateful for their hard work in keeping rates low and service
As I spoke at these
meetings I shared some of the lessons I have learned from the rural
electric cooperative pioneers I have had the opportunity to work with
in my 25 years with the program. They taught me there is a real difference
between the cooperative way of doing business and the business plan
of those utilities, like Enron, that made the news because of their
unscrupulous tactics and corporate greed.
Those utilities were
not accountable to the consumers who used their service. To me that’s
the cooperative difference. When members of the cooperative who use
service own and control the business, they are by nature going to
look out for the person at the end of the line.
I really believe
the reason we have an affordable and reliable power system in Missouri
is because of the way we are governed. I am thankful to live in a
state where electric consumers have the opportunity to control their
local electric cooperative.
the manager of the local electric cooperative, the receptionist at
the front desk, a lineman restoring power, an elected director or an
operator at one of our power plants, all of us know to whom we answer.
I was fortunate enough to spend some quality time with some of you
people, our member/owners.Thanks to all of you who took the time to
visit with me and share your feelings about your electric cooperative
this summer. It was a pleasure meeting you.
Hart is executive
vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.