OPALCO members made a good showing for the election with a total of 2524 ballots received (2,475 absentee + 49 on the ferry) – representing 23% of the membership (11,198 members). The successful candidates were incumbents Vince Dauciunas and Glenna Hall for District 1. The member initiated bylaw amendments were both unsuccessful: Bylaw Amendment #1 lost 1,438 votes to 904; Bylaw Amendment #2 lost 1,554 votes to 776. There were 210 members present and a total of 317 people in attendance on the WSF Hyak.
The theme of the 77th annual meeting was “Building our Co-op Future Together.” Each member received an energy savings backpack with the annual report, two LED bulbs and a solar calculator. OPALCO members were treated to a healthy and delicious bag lunch by The Galley of Lopez Island. OPALCO staff wore special shirts to honor General Manager Randy J. Cornelius, who is retiring after more than twelve years of service to the Co-op. Members gave Cornelius a standing ovation for his service. Cornelius announced that Foster Hildreth will take over as General Manager in September.
Cornelius said, “We have been grooming Foster for this transition since 2010. He is fully up to speed and very knowledgeable about all aspects of our Co-op business – in fact, his contributions to date have placed us in the impeccable financial position that we enjoy today. The membership is in good hands.”
Hildreth joined OPALCO in 2006 with a master’s degree in finance and a background in executive management. He brings particular expertise in governmental agency relations; financial team management; and tracking, budgeting and scheduling of large capital projects. In 2010, Hildreth was promoted to Assistant General Manager as a part of the Board’s succession plan. He has represented the Co-op in Olympia for the past two years and serves on the Washington Rural Electric Cooperative Association board of directors. Hildreth resides on Orcas Island with his wife and two children. His full bio is available online.
Cornelius presented the OPALCO Safety Award to Journeyman Lineman Tim Savage of Lopez Island for his life saving efforts in the line of duty when fellow lineman Kevin Zoerb came into contact with a high voltage line last September. Savage called for help and began CPR, saving Zoerb’s life. The audience gave Tim Savage a standing ovation.
Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon) thanked Cornelius for his service – and for his forward thinking vision and action over the past twelve years. “OPALCO has led the way for other cooperatives in the state,” said Morris. “I have enjoyed working with Randy – I have appreciated and respected his willingness to tackle big issues and make changes to best serve the membership and the industry.”
Incoming General Manager Foster Hildreth spoke of his commitment to base co-op decision making on what best serves our membership – now and into the future. He encouraged all members to take the member satisfaction survey to help us stay in touch with their needs and priorities. He talked about how OPALCO can help to build a sustainable future for our community by continuing to provide members access to our grid control backbone for Internet service: “If they want to pay the cost of service to connect to our fiber grid – we’ll connect them,” said Hildreth. “If a member wants Internet service through one of our local ISPs, we can help with that as well. My goal is to always look out for our members first.”
Hildreth praised the work of the OPALCO board and staff teams and the progress being made to do our part for energy savings: making our own utility plant and distribution grid as efficient as possible. Hildreth said, “This is my commitment to you: that we will always work hard and work smart to ensure that our members continue to get safe, reliable and environmentally responsible power. We will be proactive and not reactive in protecting the best interests of our members.”
Board President Chris Thomerson recognized the 2014 Nourdine Jensen Cooperative Youth Scholarship Program winners. Willow Paige and William Coe (Orcas Island High School), Gabi Carver-Hackett and Peter Kamin (Orcas Christian School) will each receive a $500 scholarship and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Youth Rally Co-op Leadership Camp at the College of Idaho this summer. Maya Burt-Kidwell was elected by her peers at the 2013 Youth Rally to return with the group as the Youth Director.
The names of six members who sent in their absentee ballots were drawn for $50 credits on their next OPALCO bills. The six lucky winners are Kathryn Moyer, Frank Buchanan, Ruth Fleming / D.E. Paulson, Kenneth Hedin, Jeff & Liz Malinoff, Robert & Mary Gardner. Congratulations and thanks for voting by absentee ballot!
More than 50 members took home door prizes, including local goods, energy efficiency tools, a Stihl chainsaw, gift certificates, gift baskets, kitchen tools and gardening sets. OPALCO’s vendors donate many of the prizes, and OPALCO purchases others; the total value of the prizes is estimated at about $3,000. OPALCO is required by the Rural Utilities Services (RUS) to hold an annual meeting each year and must have a quorum of 100 members in attendance.
Members who missed the meeting can read the 2014 Annual Report online. Copies of the publication are available in our Eastsound and Friday Harbor offices – but only as long as supplies lasts.