One of the seven cooperative principles our member electric co-ops apply to guide their business practices is Democratic Member Control. The practical intent of this principle is that cooperatives are to be democratically self-governing organizations controlled by their members.
When you actively participate in your cooperative, you have the opportunity to influence policy and help direct the way decisions are made to run the utility of which you are a part-owner. Your participation includes the chance to elect fellow members to represent you on the co-op board of directors. You even have the opportunity to run for the board yourself if you have the time and motivation to devote to co-op governance.
Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives have equal voting rights giving each membership—each account—one vote, so no one has more voting power than his or her neighbor. This principle is as fundamental to your cooperative as is your right to vote as a United States citizen. In each case, you are voting for an individual to represent you, whether running your local electric utility or representing you at the local, state, or federal level of government.
The season for annual meetings that state law requires all member-owned electric cooperatives to hold will soon begin. Annual meetings in Wisconsin take place from March through October, all scheduled based on the cooperative’s fiscal year. Through these annual meetings, members obtain updates on how well the co-op is doing financially, learn what new projects may be planned for the coming year, voice their opinions on co-op policies, and elect individuals to the board of directors. Many annual meetings include a pancake breakfast or a lunch or dinner, so there’s time available to socialize with neighbors and other members.
As your cooperative’s annual meeting date approaches, you’ll be notified through this magazine or an individual mailing including the time and date, place, qualifications for nominations to the board, and an agenda for the meeting. It will also tell you if there are any proposed changes to the bylaws, which are the governing documents of the cooperative, along with detailed financial information so you can be thoroughly prepared for the meeting as an informed member making decisions by majority vote.
One result of strong member participation is that the second of the seven cooperative principles usually comes into play, that being “Concern for Community.” Because you’ll participate in making policies that guide the operation of your cooperative, it’s very likely the co-op will work for the sustainable development of your community. Your democratic participation is a win for both co-op and community, so take a few hours out of your busy schedule and attend the annual meeting. It’s where you can make your voice heard.