By Ron Fitzwater
Feb. 20, 2012. LENOIR, NC — In recent weeks, regular attendees to Blue Ridge Electric’s annual meeting began to receive notification that major changes were being made to the company’s annual member-owner meeting.
In a Feb. 20 press release, BRE Director of Public Relations Rene Whitener explained, “A combination of declining annual meeting attendance coupled with last year’s positive member response to a new convenient “vote by mail” option for director elections has led Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation to announce a new format for this year’s Annual Membership Meeting as well as additional director voting options.”
According to Whitener, the main reason for the annual meeting was to provide an opportunity for members to vote on the officers that would run the company and learn about changes and improvements being made. Over the past few years the number of participants steadily shrank and beginning last year a new voting process was tested out.
“Last year the cooperative added a vote by mail option which resulted in an overwhelming response of 9,000 members voting by mail. Typically, only around 1,000 members attend the annual meeting and voted for directors. This year, members will be given the option to vote on the Internet in addition to voting by mail or during the annual meeting.”
On Thursday, June 14, beginning at 7 p.m., the member meeting will be held at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center in Caldwell County and will be strictly business. Key board and staff members will deliver business reports and the results from the director elections will be announced. This new format according to Whitener will realize significant “Cost savings by eliminating expenses associated with past annual meeting formats for: food; facility rentals including chairs, tables and other items; registration prizes, entertainment, and staff labor.”
Cost savings were hi on the list of reasons to change the meeting format but from the top down BRE executives feel the changes bill benefit members as much as the company.
“We believe last year’s overwhelming response to the new modern, convenient voting option sent a signal that our members want to be involved if given the opportunity, so I’m pleased we’re able to offer options that help members participate in the most important business of their cooperative,” said Doug Johnson, chief executive officer. “Just as it’s necessary to modernize and change in other ways—whether it’s with new line trucks or using operational technology that helps us better serve members—our focus as a member-owned cooperative will always be on providing the best service while keeping costs as low as possible for our members,” he added.
Not all prizes will be eliminated as part of this change. Because voting by mail or Internet helps hold down costs even further, BRE members who vote by either of these methods will be eligible to win an HD TV. One winner for each of the company’s four districts will be selected.
BRE encourages members to look for their director election kit that will be mailed in mid-May. Information is also being provided in the member newsletter: Membership Matters, and in Carolina Country magazine.
Blue Ridge Electric serves some 74,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, and Alleghany counties as well as parts of Avery, Alexander and Wilkes counties. For more information, visit www.BlueRidgeEMC.com.
Photo by Ron Fitzwater.