October 3, 2016
by Great Lakes Energy President/CEO Bill Scott
Every October, cooperatives from all sectors across the country celebrate National Cooperative Month. The purpose is to recognize the cooperative difference and remind you, our co-op members, about Great Lakes Energy’s unique relationship with the people it serves.
I must admit that occasionally I, too, am confused by the many different “days” and “months” that are celebrated, but National Cooperative Month is truly an opportunity to celebrate our unique business model. It is based on the seven cooperative principles geared to benefiting the members, who are also the owners, of the cooperative.
Let’s look at one principle, Democratic Member Control, more closely. One way members can take an active role in their cooperative is by exercising their voting rights and electing people who can effectively represent them on the co-op’s board of directors.
At Great Lakes Energy, nine members serve on the board. Each year elections are held to fill the positions of three directors whose three-year terms expire.
Great Lakes Energy members voted in 2014 to change the director election process. Voting at-large for directors within the co-op’s 26 counties was replaced by district elections. Nine geographic districts, one per director, were created. The transition to district elections is now complete with elections in three districts in 2014, three more in 2015 and the final three districts this year.
We have seen a modest increase in voting as a result of district elections, which reinforces our belief that when members know local candidates within their district, they are more apt to vote. The change also brought in new board members from new areas who we expect will bring ideas to the board on how their cooperative can better serve the members they represent.
Being one of the largest electric cooperatives in the United States doesn’t change our belief that maintaining a strong local connection with members is and will always be important to our continued success.
We will again celebrate co-op month in October with prizes and gifts for our members while supplies last. Members must visit a GLE office in person to pick up their gifts and register for prizes. Find more details in the October issue of PowerTalk and Michigan Country Lines.