What's In A Name?

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

For the several thousand of you who only recently moved into the service territory of an electric cooperative, you may be wondering (many things), but upon opening your mailbox door you may have wondered, first, what’s the deal with this magazine that I didn’t order and, second, where did it come from, and third, upon solving that mystery by looking inside, generating another mystery, to wit: Why is my utility sending me a magazine?

Well, it all has to do with the fact that your utility isn’t just a utility, it’s … a cooperative utility. Meaning that your utility is really your utility, owned by you and also equally owned by everyone else who receives electricity from the cooperative. Each of you is thus a member-owner of your local electric cooperative, of which there are 13 in Virginia, and over 900 across the country, serving some 30 million people in 47 states.

But, you may be saying, even so, Why a magazine? Well, as a member-owned and member-driven organization, your cooperative is obligated to keep you informed about your business. It’s similar to the obligation that an investor-owned corporation has to its stockholders, all of whom receive an annual report describing the financial condition of the corporation.

Difference is, with a cooperative, you’re both an owner and a customer. And through the pages of Cooperative Living magazine, Virginia’s cooperatives since 1946 have been providing member-owners like you with information about your business. Cooperative Living’s pages regularly include information about your co-op’s annual members meeting (to which you’re invited), its bylaws, any proposed bylaws changes, services offered or contemplated, the staff members who serve you, developments affecting your business, and interesting people and places in your cooperative’s service area.

So, in a very real sense, this magazine is a regular update, published 10 times yearly, about the state of your utility. Virginia’s electric cooperatives have worked hard over many decades to establish a reputation for honesty, integrity, commitment to the communities we serve, reliability, and always striving to put the best interests of our member-owners first. We’ve tried hard in this process to build a good name, and this magazine is part of that effort.

Other types of utilities must constantly balance two different goals: maximizing profits for their stockholders and holding down prices for their customers. As cooperatives, we have no such dilemma. Our only objective is to provide you, the customer, with the best possible service at the lowest possible cost, and then, if any funds are left over at the end of the year, to provide you, the owner, with the return of those funds, usually called patronage capital, or capital credits, as the financial condition of the cooperative permits.

Just how important is it to us as electric cooperatives to keep our good name? Well, please sample some of the quotes below, with which we agree, expressing the views of some of the best minds in history on the subject.

“A good name is better than riches.” Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote.

 “A good name is better than precious ointment.” Ecclesiastes, chapter 7, verse 1.

 “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Proverbs, chapter 22, verse 1.  

 “A good reputation is more valuable than money.” Latin writer Publilius Syrus (42 B.C.).

 “(A) Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls.” William Shakespeare, Othello.

Virginia’s electric cooperatives serve some of the fastest-growing corners of the Commonwealth, and thus thousands of individuals, families and business owners each year join the “cooperative family” as new member-owners. To those of you who are new members, we warmly welcome you. And to those hundreds of thousands of other, existing members who have been a part of their electric cooperative for years or even decades, we thank you for the keen level of involvement and support that have made electric cooperatives some of the most successful member-owned businesses in the world.

And in a world of great uncertainty and turmoil, we hold dear the fact that our ultimate, indeed our only, success hinges on our ability to serve you reliably, responsibly, and well. As Shakespeare’s Iago said in Othello, a few lines after those quoted above, the loss of one’s good name “makes me poor indeed.”

Our good name is invested in your satisfaction, and we’re committed to hold tightly onto the first by continuing to focus solely on the second, today, tomorrow, and always.


Home ] Up ] Cover Story ] Down Home ] Reader Recipes ] Food For Thought ] Cooperative Citizen ] [ Editorial ]