Pandemic causes mass cancellations of co-op annual meetings

Electric cooperatives exist to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy to their consumer-members. Equally important is their mission to enrich the lives of all members and serve the long-term interests of local communities.

Every year, the electric co-ops across Illinois conduct an annual meeting of the membership. However, 2020 has proven to be anything but a typical year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, more than a dozen Illinois electric cooperatives have made the difficult decision to cancel their annual meetings. For many, this is the first time canceling the decades old tradition.

“Our concern for our community extends to the overall health and welfare of members,” says Mike Smith, president/CEO of McDonough Power Cooperative. “We are deeply saddened to have to cancel the annual meeting for the first time in our cooperative’s history. It’s a tradition we value and cherish.”

An electric co-op is controlled by consumer-members who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. The purpose of an annual meeting is to hold the election for the board of directors, hear from co-op leadership, share important financial information, vote on other matters such as bylaw changes and much more. An annual meeting is often a community gathering where neighbors can meet new neighbors or catch up with old acquaintances.

“Our members and employees will always be our number one priority,” says Shane Hermetz, general manager of Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association. “Ensuring the continued safety of members and employees alike is a daily process and we look forward to the day we see each other again at an EECA annual meeting of members.”

Corn Belt Energy President/CEO Don Taylor says, “We’re not only looking out for the best interest of our members and the public but also taking careful and necessary steps to ensure the health and well-being of our employees so we can continue meeting the needs of our members through this period of uncertainty.”

While two electric co-ops held their annual meetings early in the year before the pandemic reached Illinois, others decided to postpone to a later date. Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative plans to hold its annual meeting at a drive-in theatre in Gibson City where members can listen to the meeting from the comfort of their vehicles. Jo-Carroll Energy plans to cap the number of in-person attendees at 50 to meet a quorum and stream the meeting online, while Rock Energy plans to scale back its meeting to a 30-minute business meeting.

All cooperatives serve both an economic and social purpose. While safe, reliable and affordable electric power is crucial to their mission, improving the quality of life for all members is at the core of what they do every day. Be sure to check with your electric co-op on its annual meeting status.