Missing the Great Local Co-op Annual Meetings

By Kent Singer, CREA Executive Director

One of the unique characteristics of the electric co-op business model is the annual meeting of the consumer-members of the co-op. Electric co-ops are controlled by the consumer-members they serve, and those consumer-members have an opportunity every year to attend the annual meeting and learn more about what’s happening with the local electric co-op. In Colorado, as in most states, annual meeting season starts in the spring and continues through the end of summer.

In the world of electric utilities, only electric co-ops have a meeting every year where the consumers of the utility can meet with the management and board. These meetings are not only a celebration of your electric co-op, they’re also a celebration of the community served by the co-op. In many cases, co-op annual meetings include sharing a meal and/or some entertainment, but they always include great conversations.

As the manager of the Colorado Rural Electric Association, the statewide association that represents the interests of all of Colorado’s electric co-ops, attending co-op annual meetings is one of the best parts of my job. Every year, I attend many of the annual meetings of our member co-ops all over Colorado.

This year is different. With the limitations on getting together due to the COVID-19 pandemic, electric co-ops have made alternate plans. In some cases, the annual meetings have been conducted via telephone town halls, other co-ops have hosted video presentations and some co-ops postponed or canceled their annual meeting for 2020. Co-ops realize that the most important consideration is the health of their consumer-members and they have had to put that concern foremost.

But I gotta tell you, I miss these get-togethers.

I miss hearing the national anthem. I’ve heard the anthem sung by local high schoolers, by professional singers, by choirs and sometimes via audio and video recordings. Regardless of how it’s presented, when hundreds of people stand and sing the anthem, I get a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

I miss the reports from the Youth Tour kids. In case you don’t know, every year the co-ops sponsor high school kids on a trip to Denver and then on to Washington, D.C., where they learn how our state and national governments work. At the following year’s annual meeting, the kids give a report about what they saw and learned on the trip. My favorite quote from a Youth Tour attendee: “We stood on the step outside the Colorado Capitol that marks 1 mile high, you know, 14 thousand feet.”

I miss the entertainment. I’ve seen magicians, comedians, singers, bands, guitar players, scenes from plays acted out by students, you name it. “America’s Got Talent” has got nothing on Colorado’s electric co-ops.

I miss the co-op swag. Co-ops almost always provide a small gift to the members; as a guest I’m usually given the same gift. I have collected insulated bottles, hats, picnic blankets, barbecue utensils and backpacks. My favorite? An ice cream scoop from Holy Cross Energy.

I also miss driving across this beautiful state to attend the meetings — from the eastern plains to the Great Sand Dunes, from the San Juan Mountains to Rocky Mountain National Park, from the Collegiate Peaks to Rabbit Ears Pass. Our electric co-ops serve the most spectacular territories anywhere in America.

But mostly, I miss you, Colorado’s electric co-op consumer-members. You are the folks who make the electric co-op program work. You are the backbone of not only our electric co-ops, but also of this great state and I know that you and your communities will come roaring back from our current challenges.

And when you do, your electric co-op will once again host a party, and I’ll be there to help you celebrate.

Kent Singer is the executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association and offers a statewide perspective on issues affecting electric cooperatives. CREA is the trade association for your electric co-op, the 21 other electric co-ops in Colorado and its power supply co-op.