The Central Texas Electric Cooperative (CTEC) annual membership meeting began on an unseasonably cool August afternoon in Mason. The membership, enjoying the 80-degree weather, flooded the Mason High School auditorium to elect three directors, hear the annual report and try their chances at winning a few door prizes from CTEC and its vendors and suppliers.
CEO Bob Loth welcomed the members. Following an invocation by retired Lutheran Pastor H. Charles Eckert, Loth led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem.
Secretary-Treasurer Gerald Kaspar reported that with 128 members present in person and 1202valid proxies submitted, a quorum was convened. Motions from the floor dispensed with roll call and reading of the minutes, and Board President David D. Smith took the podium to conduct the election of directors.
Smith noted that director seats were up for election in three of the cooperative’s six districts. Nominees selected at district meetings earlier this year were: W. C. Stewart of Sunrise Beach, who was nominated at the District 4 meeting in Kingsland; Gillespie County’s Charles E. Pearson, who was nominated at the District 5 meeting in Fredericksburg; and incumbent Michael Randolph of San Saba County, nominated at the District 6 meeting in Cherokee. Smith called for nomination from the floor. No other nominations were made, and Stewart, Pearson and Randolph were elected by acclamation.
After the election results were announced, Smith told the crowd that instead of reading the annual report, he and Loth would be addressing the members in a 20-minute video presentation.
“Now I can see scowls,” he laughed, “but it really isn’t that bad, I promise.”
The video began with Loth noting that electricity is something that people take for granted. “You know that when you flip that light switch the lights will come on, and CTEC’s mission is to keep it that way.”
The video explained the seven cooperative principles. “It is your directors’ job to remain true to these principles,” Smith said. “These are what bind us together. Our unity is our strength. Our vision is to provide you with the best value-based utility services and to improve the quality of life in our community. We want to keep the lights on forever at rates that our members can pay.”
The video presentation included detailed reports about CTEC’s financial performance in 2007. Smith reported that the cooperative remained financially stable. This stability, according to Loth, enabled CTEC to return over $500,000 in capital credits to its members in 2007. Loth indicated that the cooperative has returned capital credits to its members for twenty consecutive years.
The video also reviewed CTEC’s ongoing struggle with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). Loth stated that while there had been a lot of action in the cooperative’s efforts to negotiate a contract extension with LCRA, “it seems that for every step forward, we would take a step or two back.” Smith indicated that LCRA continues to retain unilateral control over power prices and generation investment decisions. At the same time, CTEC remains obligated to purchase 100% of its power requirements from LCRA, even though the authority has not invested in sufficient generation assets to enable it to meet this obligation.
Smith concluded that negotiations with LCRA leave CTEC with two broad options: “We can sign up to continue with LCRA and accept their decisions, or invest to control our future. Your board has concluded that investment to expand into Generation and Transmission is the option that is consistent with our Vision Statement and my short-hand summary, “Keep the lights on forever at rates our members can afford to pay”.
“We are on our way out of dependence on LCRA, on their terms, and into a new independence and autonomy of our Co-op. You have entrusted us, the board and management of Central Texas Electric Co-op, to come up with the right answers. Our answers will shape the future of our cooperative.”
After the video, outgoing board members Joe A. Sagebiel and Sy Schiffman were each honored for serving twelve years on the CTEC Board of Directors.
Given an opportunity to address the members one last time, Sagebiel talked about the benefits of the cooperative model. “The advantage to being in a co-op is that by you electing directors, you’re also electing members. Our interest is your interest. It’s important that you stay involved in what is going on with your cooperative. Be active and take it seriously. It’s not a good ol’ boys club – it’s serious business.”
Schiffman followed by letting the members know that a director’s responsibilities are important. “I have taken classes with the NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) and have learned about most co-ops,” he said. “This one, I can say with no doubt, is one of the best in the nation. Our CEO, our directors, our staff and our members make it that.”
Schiffman also reminded the crowd about Operation Round Up, a program at CTEC in which a member’s electric bill is rounded up to the next dollar, with the money used to help those in the community in need. “It only averages to $6 a year, and it really helps. So far, we have allocated over $30,000. All it takes to sign up is a phone call.”
Following the departure of Sagebiel and Schiffman, there was a session of questions and answers. The meeting was concluded with door prizes awarded to lucky members.