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Co-op annual meeting tradition

WHY DOES YOUR ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE hold an annual meeting?

The colorful tradition includes many enjoyable memories, entertainment, door prizes and giveaways, such as the iconic bucket with lightbulbs. But at its heart, the annual meeting reflects the cooperative business model. From the beginning of Kentucky co-ops in the 1930s to today, co-ops remain uniquely accountable to their consumer-members.

When a consumer signs up for electric service at their local electric cooperative, they become a part owner of the cooperative, often referred to as “consumer-members” or simply “members.”

The members of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives have a voice in how their local co-op is operated. Whether a consumer-member prefers to run for a seat on the democratically elected co-op board or chooses a representative by voting for a fellow member on the board, each member’s voice is important.

Throughout the year, co-ops take their accountability to their consumer-members seriously, publishing important updates in Kentucky Living, posting immediate information on social media and being transparent and available to members who have questions about their co-op.

Members attend Meade County RECC’s 2021 drive-thru annual meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Wade Harris
Nolin RECC President & CEO Greg Lee addresses members at the 2019 annual meeting. Photo: Joe Arnold
South Kentucky RECC members gather for the 2019 annual meeting in Somerset. Photo: Joe Arnold
Consumer-members at Jackson County RECC—now Jackson Energy. Photo: EKPC Archives
Miss Kentucky Rural Electric Beauty Pageant at Grayson RECC in Carter County. Photo: Grayson RECC Archives

The bylaws of each cooperative spell out how co-ops conduct elections and when the co-op needs to conduct a meeting of members. Kentucky co-ops have adjusted to the needs and realities of each generation.

For decades, the Annual Meeting and Electric Farm Show Caravan attracted members from near and far. Part carnival, part tradeshow and part business meeting, the event featured entertainment, attendance prizes and contests from cake baking to tractor driving. Thousands of people crowded under huge tents to witness the showcase of modern appliances and the latest electrical devices for home and farm.

For 40 years, each co-op hosted a beauty pageant with local queens sent to compete in the Miss Kentucky Rural Electric Beauty Pageant in Louisville.

The caravan gradually faded as member tastes and entertainment options evolved. But one thing that has never changed is the commitment to co-op democratic values and member engagement. Co-ops give members the latest updates on co-op operations. This preserves the one member-one vote standard, electing directors to represent member interests and guide co-op management. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, each local co-op’s democratically elected board decided how best to responsibly communicate and serve its consumer-members. At many co-ops, annual meeting registrations actually increased as members took advantage of the opportunity to stay in their vehicles while registering and picking up co-op information and giveaways. 

Who knows how annual meetings may further evolve to meet the realities of the next generation? No matter what they look like, when Kentucky co-ops plan their 100th annual meetings in about 15–20 years, the legacy of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives is sure to keep them dedicated to members. 

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