Take it from political analyst and former Republican official Tom Davis. Electric cooperatives have a tool at their disposal that few organizations or associations can match: the annual meeting.
“Get your members of Congress out to your annual meeting. Let them see the numbers,” Davis said. “Members [of Congress] respond to that.”
After attending one such co-op meeting while he was in Congress, “I knew this was not a group I was eager to tick off. So when they come to me, I’m going to try to accommodate them,” he said.
Davis represented Virginia’s 11th District for seven terms and headed his party’s congressional campaign committee. Now, he is rector of George Mason University in northern Virginia, where he also teaches political science.
And extending a political invitation for a congressman to appear at a local co-op’s annual meeting is a great way to get on the radar. Davis said co-ops became a priority for him when he first attended a packed annual meeting of Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, Manassas.
Co-ops have been taking that to heart in 2016 by bringing congressman and senators to address annual meetings or other co-op staff events. A sampling:
North Dakota: The leader in the clubhouse might be Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven. Hoeven keynoted the annual meeting of Central Power Electric Cooperative, Minot, in March. He followed up April 1 with Minnkota Power Cooperative, Grand Forks. “We are working to achieve greater regulatory certainty for our electric cooperatives and other businesses in North Dakota and nationally,” Hoeven said. “North Dakota’s electric cooperatives do a great job providing reliable and affordable energy for homes and businesses, and we’ll continue working to make sure that they have the tools they need to continue powering our homes and businesses.” The state’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, spoke at a social March 31 hosted by Minnkota Power.
Kansas: In March, Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of Lyon-Coffey Electric Cooperative, Emporia. Moran saluted the veterans in the audience, a nice tie with NRECA’s veterans’ hiring campaign. He urged audience members to work with his office if they know of a vet in need. “We have to know so that we can go to bat to make certain that these individuals are cared for and treated in a way that they are certainly entitled to.”
Wisconsin: At Barron Electric Cooperative in Barron, Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy spoke in April at the 80th anniversary of the co-op. Duffy has attended other co-op events in the past, such as a community solar array dedication. “This partnership helps me do my job better to assist in keeping your rates low,” Duffy said.
Arizona: Even if scheduling issues prevent elected officials from attending annual meetings, co-ops can invite them to swing by their offices and take a look at day-to-day operations. In Bullhead City, Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain addressed board members and employees of Mohave Electric Cooperative in March, saying he had “a great discussion” at a town hall-style event.
Missouri: Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler spoke with employees of Sac Osage Electric Cooperative in late March. At the co-op’s El Dorado Springs headquarters, she praised the “hardworking folks [who] keep the lights on for thousands of Missouri 4th District families, rain or shine.”
Steven Johnson is a staff writer at NRECA.