Electric cooperatives from Virginia, Maryland and Delaware were well represented as the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association held its first post-pandemic annual meeting, March 7-9 in Nashville.
Directors and CEOs attended a variety of breakout sessions and heard from speakers on top issues of the day at the Music City Center. NRECA organizers said about 4,800 co-op participants attended the annual meeting, now called PowerXchange.
“The information provided was excellent and something we’ll all take back to our co-ops,” said Brian Mosier, president and CEO of the VMD Association. “But it was just as important to be able to interact with people face-to-face in an open manner for the first time in two years.”
The meeting opened on May 7 with NRECA CEO Jim Matheson outlining the challenges that co-ops are facing in the political arena. He said as long as co-ops remain true to their mission of serving their members, and not special interests, they will encounter success in their policy goals.
“Today, our reputation in Washington is more durable than ever. When policymakers look at every other organization in the energy industry, they see a partisan set of special interests. They see a friend or a foe, based on their politics,” Matheson said. “But when they look at America’s Electric Cooperatives … they see communities. They see people. They see you. As a result, in Washington D.C., we stand out.”
Several breakout sessions held March 7 and 8 took a close look at using co-op staffers as ambassadors for the cause, maintaining a resilient power supply, and putting your co-op forward as a leader in the community.
Peter Muhoro, chief strategy, technology and innovation officer at Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, was part of a panel promoting the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion.
“It’s really about our values as a co-op: caring, integrity, service and respect,” he said, noting that diversity must go beyond race to include factors such as age, religion and thought. (For more on Muhoro’s presentation, visit electric.coop.)
VMD representatives also attended the annual NRECA International Lunch, which celebrates the accomplishments of cooperatives electrifying overseas villages, such as the 2019 VMD trip to Bolivia. At the lunch, Dan Waddle, senior vice president of NRECA International, announced overseas projects will resume later this year after a pandemic-induced hiatus.
In his address, NRECA President Chris Christensen of Montana, a rancher and educator, stressed the importance of being open to learning, even when you think you know it all.
“As lifelong learners who have experienced and overcome challenges in our professional and personal lives, we all have something to offer. We all can learn from each other,” he said. “It’s that diversity of experience that allows us to work together to tackle common challenges. Some are specific to the electric cooperative network. Others are consistent across the entire electric sector, and we can share common solutions just as broadly.”
Christensen also keynoted the ACRE Breakfast, where about 300 co-op leaders met to support the Action Committee for Rural Electrification, the political arm of co-ops. He urged co-ops to continue to reach out to the eligible ACRE participants to ensure the collective cooperative voice remains strong.
—Report by Steven Johnson, Vice President, Communications, VMD Association
Above photo: NRECA CEO Jim Matheson opens the 2022 annual meeting in Nashville. (Photo By: NRECA News)