An American Classic

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

In this electronic age, the electric cooperative annual meeting may seem merely an old-fashioned, face-to-face reminder of how business used to be conducted. Yet it remains both refreshing and resilient, an American classic that proudly celebrates what’s possible when neighbor joins neighbor in common cause.

The desire to assemble is as old as humankind. To communicate. To commiserate. To celebrate.

We gather to share news and air views. To make good times great and bad times better. The best gatherings seem to center on food. Sharing a meal, after all, is one of the most basic human instincts, deeply rooted in our DNA. We have the urge to reach out and offer to others food that sustains the body, and conversation that feeds the mind, sometimes the soul.

After all, and perhaps above all, we’re social animals. Tweets and posts are fine, but they’re no substitute for spending time with others, especially family, friends and neighbors.

For Americans, gathering together is more than an urge. It’s a right. Guaranteed by the Founding Fathers is our right to assemble with others, freely and peaceably. And have we ever taken advantage of this precious guarantee.

Over the centuries, the melding of our natural inclination to get together and our national right to do so has given birth to several classic American gatherings. The town hall meeting. The protest march. The public square debate.

And the electric cooperative annual meeting. Yes, annually for over 75 years now, thousands upon thousands of rural, small-town and suburban citizens have gathered in almost 1,000 communities across the country, in 47 of our 50 states, to make decisions about their consumer-owned utility. They gather in co-op meeting rooms and garage bays, in school auditoriums, at open-air pavilions and county fairgrounds, and in civic centers and community colleges. They share fellowship and food with neighbors, oftentimes to the spirited sounds of gospel, bluegrass or country music, from lively local performers. 

They listen to reports from management about the financial and operational condition of their utility. They elect the board members who will represent their interests, and they vote on amendments or additions to the bylaws that govern this utility that they own.

The electric co-op annual meeting is an old-fashioned exercise in democracy both refreshing and resilient, a living reminder of a time when civics was still widely taught in school; when neighbors would gather face to face to catch up on news; and when citizens would get together to make important decisions about their shared welfare. About the community they called home. 

As a locally owned and controlled business, the employees and board members of your electric cooperative really do share a home with you and all the other folks they serve.

Annual meeting season in our region begins in early June, as spring’s gentle warmth wanes under the withering march of summer’s searing heat. It continues till late September, when fall’s chill cools the land and paints the leaves. During this stretch, each of Virginia’s 13 local electric cooperatives will hold its annual members meeting.

You’re invited — indeed encouraged — to attend your cooperative’s get-together, and to take part in the business of your business.

You’ll hear important reports about high-tech issues affecting your cooperative. And just as importantly, you’ll become part of a decidedly low-tech, classic American gathering, one that celebrates what’s possible when neighbors join together, in common cause, whether to raise a barn … hold back a rising river … or spread power across the land. 



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