by Tom Purkey, Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association
I always look forward to the late summer and early fall months. Personally, as a big football fan, I get excited in August when the pads start popping, high school and college athletes begin fall practice and professional teams play their final exhibition tune-ups.
The next three months are also full of rewarding moments in my work at the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. I have the pleasure of visiting with electric cooperative members all across Tennessee as they come together to attend their respective cooperative annual meetings. I’ve attended some of these co-ops’ meetings each of the past 19 years I’ve been general manager of the statewide organization. Since TECA represents 23 co-ops across the state, it’s impossible for me to visit each annual meeting because sometimes several are scheduled for the same day.
With many of these meetings held on Saturdays, through the years I’ve been on the road and missed the original television broadcasts of some exciting Southeastern Conference football games. That’s not a problem anymore since programs can easily be recorded.
Co-op annual meetings remind me of county fairs or university homecoming celebrations. I’m getting excited just thinking of the many happenings I’ve come to expect at these events: facepainting for the kids, visits by electric cooperative mascot Louie the Lightning Bug, homemade fried pies, barbecue sandwiches, cold drinks in a tub of ice, ice cream, chips, bucket truck rides, local bands, magicians, local craft artists and electrical safety demonstrations, to name a few. Members enjoy renewing acquaintances and discussing current news and politics.
Of course, the business session is what makes your electric cooperative’s annual meeting the most important day in its year. That’s when your co-op renews the democratic principles on which it was founded. Members get to meet their board, which consists of members they elected to serve the membership. They learn about their co-op through reports by the CEO and board. Members even get to vote on bylaw changes in addition to electing directors, though some co-ops perform these electoral duties at district meetings prior to the annual meeting.
I also enjoy the trip from Nashville to the respective towns where the annual meetings are conducted. It provides a chance to see the rural areas, their local happenings and farmers harvesting their crops. It’s a fun time to get away from the city and see the people who live in rural Tennessee and who enjoy the benefits of electricity provided by electric cooperative lines.
I hope to see you on my annual meeting visits this year. From Somerville and Dyer to New Tazewell and Mountain City and several more exciting towns in between, I’m really looking forward to another round of trips to service areas across the state.
My mind will be focused on the important business being conducted at your annual meeting, knowing that my recorded football games will be waiting for me at home.
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