spent several days of the past two months traveling east and west,
north and south in Kentucky, rediscovering the difference between
electric cooperatives and other businesses.
Summer is electric co-op
annual meeting season in Kentucky. From Hickman to Prestonsburg,
from Tompkinsville to Dry Ridge, thousands of people attend these
summer celebrations at the 25 electric distribution co-ops around
There’s a business meeting at
these events, but to tell you the truth, that’s not why most
people come. They come for a pleasant evening that’s different in
There’s often food available
and door prizes for attending. They might be held in an
auditorium, a school gym, or outside under a big tent. There might
be a gospel or bluegrass band. Some have exhibits to check your
blood pressure or show you how to be safe around electricity. For
the kids there might be a clown, magician, or face painting.
There’s a business session
that’s the reason for the annual meeting, but that doesn’t mean it
dominates the gathering. The business sessions are important,
reporting on the essential nuts and bolts of the cooperative. The
point of the business session is really that the meeting is held
in public, in front of a group of people who, because they buy
electricity from the co-op, are members and owners of the
I can’t think of many other
businesses that do that, and that’s the symbolism that always
strikes me as I visit these community gatherings. Annual meetings
for most businesses are exclusive affairs of the few largest
shareholders. Customers are not invited.
Co-op annual meetings emphasize that these businesses
are local, and that they have a special relationship with their members and the
community. They are a way to congratulate the members for a successful year of
being a part of a unique and important business. Co-op annual meetings are serious
ways to have some neighborly summer fun.