Landmark 75th NRECA Annual Meeting is hailed by participants from across the country
PublishedMarch 3, 2017
Michael W. Kahn and Steven Johnson
A Celebration of Cooperatives
2017 NRECA Annual Meeting - Photo Gallery
Zuraidah Hoffman, NRECA International communications manager, discusses the electrification program at the annual meeting. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Pam Silberstein of NRECA shows off the PMA Pit Bull button used during the battle to prevent the sale of the federal power marketing administrations. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Megan Gilman, chair of the Holy Cross Energy board, makes a point during debate on resolutions at the annual Business Meeting. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Voting delegates cast their ballots during the NRECA Business Meeting on Feb. 28 in San Diego. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
CoBank announced a $300,000 contribution to the NRECA International Foundation in continued support of its rural electrification efforts in developing countries. From left, NRECA CEO Jim Matheson, CoBank CEO Tom Halverson and Dan Waddle, senior vice president, NRECA International. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Andrew Cotter of NRECA outlines the possibilities involved with energy storage during a confab at the annual meeting. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
The TechAdvantage & Expo attracted a big crowd to check out the latest in innovations for utilities as part of the annual meeting. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Ainsley Decker of Touchstone Energy breaks up dirt clumps in the front yard of a house undergoing work during the Community Service Project. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
A job well done: Volunteers from co-ops across the country show off their handiwork at the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives® Community Service Project. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
The San Diego Convention Center hosted the landmark 75th NRECA Annual Meeting; the meeting was last there in 2012. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
A bar code scanner helped expedite the check-in process for the thousands that attended the NRECA annual meeting. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Lester Beall designed some memorable posters on behalf of rural electrification in the 1930s. In San Diego, they were recreated and updated as part of the 75th annual meeting celebration. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
All kinds of health screenings, such as vision and blood pressure, were part of a health fair booth NRECA featured at the annual meeting. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Geoff Oldfather, president of the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives® Board of Directors, gives a thumbs up with Kevin Bernson of Shelby Electric Co-op. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Mike Guidry (c) and F.E. (Wally) Wolski (r) are joined by their spouses and Bob Patton, longtime NRECA training and education director. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
This shirt, worn at the Welcome Reception sponsored by CoBank, says it all. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
The CoBank Welcome Reception at the annual meeting featured food, friendship and a little two-steppin'. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Sweethearts of Swing warm up the crowd before the first general session of the 2017 NRECA Annual Meeting in San Diego. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
One of the inspiring moments of any NRECA annual meeting is the parade of state flags by members of the Youth Leadership Council. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Incoming NRECA President Phil Carson speaks against a backdrop of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed the rural electrification program into law. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos).
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss provides some perspective on the chief executive during the annual meeting. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
No, Touchstone Energy's Josh McGhee isn't declining a penalty. He is talking about how to get young members involved in your co-op. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
Mike Whelan is synonymous with ACRE®, the political arm of co-ops. Whelan is retiring and gets a big round of applause at the annual meeting during his final ACRE® breakfast. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
The annual meeting concludes with Mel Coleman passing the president's gavel to incoming President Phil Carson, with Vice President Curtis Wynn and Secretary-Treasurer Chris Christensen joining in. (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)
“This is what it’s all about,” said Thomas Hart, a former lineman with an investor-owned utility and now a director for six years at Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative, Auburn, Illinois.
“It’s just not the same as the investor-owned. I’m not saying anything bad about them,” said Hart, who has four family members in the trade including a nephew who is a lineman at RECC. “But the spirit and everything; it’s a whole new ballgame with co-ops.”
One of the few downers in San Diego was the weather. Something approximating a monsoon passed through southern California on Feb. 27, keeping people indoors at the convention center or scurrying to catch buses to nearby hotels.
“Didn’t have to take a shower for two days,” quipped Robert Burk, board chairman at Indian Electric Cooperative, Cleveland, Oklahoma, who’s served on his local board for 16 years and attended about a dozen NRECA annual meetings.
Still, the quality of the programs overshadowed the nearly three inches of rain that flooded some city streets. Burk said he had a special interest in sessions focusing on technology. “It’s one of the big interests right now, especially cybersecurity.”
Dan White, a director at Southwest Rural Electric Cooperative, Tipton, Oklahoma, was familiar with the annual meeting routine—he’s been a director for 42 years and estimated he’s been to an annual meeting almost every year.
“Probably 41. I missed the first one because I was working at the cotton gin and couldn’t get off,” he joked.
White enjoyed a presentation by Mark Faulkenberry of Anadarko, Oklahoma-based Western Farmers Electric Cooperative at a breakout session on rethinking rate strategies, a subject that he said is as relevant today as when he signed on as a director.
“When it’s hot, we sell a lot of electricity. When it’s cool, we don’t.”
Broadband technology was on the mind of Larry Swanson, a director at Maquoketa Valley REC, Anamosa, Iowa, who has attended 18 to 20 annual meetings.
“We’re starting to install fiber to the home at our co-op, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to go to that one—to see what some of the perspectives are on it,” he said.
Not all the big stuff happened at the podium or in front of the crowd. Danny Gard, Jr. said one of his highlights was going to the NRECA health screening booth and getting answers to questions he had about his health insurance through NRECA.
“It was very touching to see a standing ovation—a long standing ovation—for Jo Ann Emerson as her husband received the recognition on her behalf,” said Sean Vanslyke, CEO of SEMO Electric Cooperative, Sikeston, Missouri. “It’s heartfelt.”
Michael W. Kahn and Steven Johnson are staff writers at NRECA.