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In This Together
At co-ops’ annual meetings, it’s clear that all members have a say

Keith Stapleton, chief communications officer for Sam Houston Electric Cooperative, hands the microphone to 94-year-old Marion Henegar, the oldest veteran present at the co-op’s annual meeting in November. Henegar, a communications sergeant onboard aircraft, served during World War II in the Army Air Corps with the 438th Troop Carrier Group.
IMAGE: Ashley Clary-Carpenter

When it comes to having your say, annual meetings are a big deal at many electric co-ops. They serve as the co-op’s most important business meeting each year when co-op bylaws specify an election of board members and a report from the general manager, who is hired by the board to serve as the co-op’s CEO.

Many co-ops combine the business of the annual meeting with an opportunity for fellowship, with refreshments, entertainment, door prizes, games for children and sometimes, meals.

As always, there are many opportunities to ask questions—or air gripes as sometimes happens—during a formal Q&A session with the general manager, or in informal, private discussions.

After Sam Houston EC’s meeting last November, with nightfall descending, co-op General Manager/CEO Kyle Kuntz was among the last to leave. He fielded questions from a member who wanted to know the requirements for running for a board seat. And he spoke with another member who asked about the challenges of providing electricity from alternative sources and keeping rates affordable.

More than any other time, the annual meeting is where it’s clear that all members have a say; it’s their co-op. “Democracy is messy,” Kuntz said, but it is a key that makes co-ops different.

An electrical engineer trained at Texas A&M University, Kuntz is one of the many employees who have made their co-op their life. He started out at Sam Houston EC in 1982 and rose to become general manager in 2002. He stayed even though he could have received much higher pay at a bigger utility. But he prefers the co-op, where he can nurture the strong personal relationships he has with members and communities.

“We run this as a business. But in reality we’re a big family,” he said.

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Charles Boisseau is an Austin-based writer.


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