For folks new to Horry Electric Cooperative (and for those old hands who might need reminding), let me introduce you to the Second Cooperative Principle, “Democratic Member Control,” which is just one of seven guidelines that govern cooperative operations. That means you, as a member of Horry Electric, ultimately select who represents you on the co-op’s board of trustees and determines the strategic direction of our local, not-for-profit business.
One of the main duties of trustees involves hiring a CEO to oversee the day-to-day responsibilities of running Horry Electric and ensuring that you receive a safe, reliable, and affordable supply of power.
The duties of our trustees don’t end there. They must constantly consider policies affecting the co-op. For example, how much must we spend on maintenance? If we need a new substation, how will we build it? How will we finance it? How often do we update our technologies and facilities to stay efficient?
It’s not an easy task. Responsibilities stack up, and time commitments are considerable. Besides attending hours of meetings every month, each trustee must proactively educate himself or herself about the complex business of electricity production and distribution. Trustees also spend lots of their free time boning up on the intricacies of strategic planning and financial decision-making. To help prepare them for these responsibilities, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has a training program that, after successful completion, designates and certifies an individual as a Credentialed Cooperative Director.
But the learning doesn’t end there. Numerous other classes and seminars cover topics that must be part of each trustee’s pool of knowledge. And after all that education, sorting through difficult choices remain.
Like any successful democracy, this decision-making process does not operate in the dark. We keep you informed about the financial condition of the co-op, tell you when situations arise that could affect your bill or service, and educate you about the issues involved. We do this in a variety of ways. This blog, South Carolina Living Magazine, our Facebook fan page, in letters or other communication included with your bills, and, most importantly, during face-to-face conversations, whether at our annual meeting or other events, or even just a conversation in the local supermarket.
In a democracy, member participation is crucial. That’s why it is important for you, if you care about how your co-op operates, to attend the Annual Meeting each April. After all, it’s YOUR co-op.
That’s the cooperative difference.
NOTE: This is the second in a series of articles about The Cooperative Difference, which highlights the seven guiding principles of cooperatively owned and operated businesses.