To hear an audio recording of the event, please click here.
Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative members voted in unprecedented numbers en route to re-electing two people to the board of directors, as announced at the 84th annual membership meeting on Thursday night, August 13.
SVEC’s board of directors and select staff gathered with masks on and proper social distancing in a large meeting room at the headquarters in Rockingham. More than 130 members registered to participate in the event via phone. Over 5,100 members returned proxy cards or voted online for director elections to help the cooperative meet quorum requirements.
“The event was a safe, effective alternative to an in-person gathering,” SVEC Board Chair Larry Howdyshell said. “We are thrilled with the participation level of our members in the voting process. I am happy that over 93% of members surveyed in relation to the new process indicated that they were very satisfied or satisfied with the voting process.”
To increase participation in director elections, the board last year voted to introduce new ways for members to cast ballots by adding online and mail-in options. When COVID-19 led to the shift from an in-person meeting, that meant the new methods were especially timely additions to annual meeting practices.
And members voted like they never have before with 7,197 ballots cast, representing over 9% of the total membership. Fewer than 400 members voted in each of the previous two elections, when the only method to cast a ballot was to attend an in-person annual meeting. It is worth noting that the SVEC Board of Directors is not able to vote proxies in relation to the election of its directors. The election results are tallied from individual member selections of a given candidate.
SVEC corporate attorney Dale Davenport announced at the meeting that members re-elected to the board Vice Chair Suzanne S. Obenshain and Stephen W. Burkholder. A specific breakdown is as follows:
SEAT A Web Paper Votes Percent
Stephen Burkholder 1,656 4,891 6,547 100.0%
SEAT B Web Paper Votes Percent
Suzanne S. Obenshain 1,167 3,782 4,949 71.1%
Sally Newkirk 651 1,361 2,012 28.9%
The rest of the meeting provided members with customary business updates with reports from Howdyshell and President and CEO Greg Rogers, a question-and-answer session and the ever-popular announcement of 12 winners for a $250 bill credit.
In his remarks, Howdyshell emphasized the local connection of an electric cooperative.
“It’s important to remember that board members, just like [SVEC’s] employees, are your neighbors. We’re all a part of the cooperative and the Valley just like you,” he said. “We will continue to support you and the communities we serve.”
Rogers highlighted four areas: SVEC’s financial standing, its response to COVID-19, broadband status and solar energy progress. On the topic of finances, Rogers pointed out that the board recently took the unprecedented step of retiring more than $3.6 million in capital credits for members who had service in 2019, which was a shift from the typical retirement in which years are combined.
“By taking this approach to retiring capital credits, our board ensured that more members would get more money back, and sooner, in the wake of this difficult financial time for all,” he said.
Learn more about capital credit retirements by clicking here.
While the State Corporation Commission’s order banning disconnection of electric service remains in effect, Rogers urged members to pay what they can on their bills, to avoid a larger balance due later.
For broadband, he announced that SVEC’s board will be further reviewing its options during a strategic planning session later this month.
“We have been researching how installing fiber for our electric needs may or may not intersect with playing a role in distributing broadband to our members who need it,” Rogers said. “We have completed a broadband feasibility study and are waiting to finish a second one, to provide a comparison on costs to implement a broadband project on our system.”
As for solar energy, he said the cooperative is excited about a second set of arrays installed at its headquarters. These solar installations will serve as educational tools for the co-op and members.
“We look forward to inviting you to come see and learn about these arrays, once we are able to again safely get together,” Rogers said.
Door prize winners, who will be notified directly, were the following:
- Larry & Barbara Whitecotton of Blue Grass
- Garlan and Sylvia Yoder of Harrisonburg
- Allen Louderback of Luray
- Patricia Dellinger of Edinburg
- Nancy Dean of Westminster, Md.
- Deborah Gaczewski of Stephenson
- Mary Hawkins of Dayton
- Ellen Goodhart of Winchester
- Jarman and Martha Fretwell of Waynesboro
- Billy Crist of Timberville
- Albert and Margaret Lee of Berryville
- David and Twila Stoltzfus of Harrisonburg
Thank you to all members for helping make the 2020 annual business meeting a success!