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2013 Annual Meeting of Members

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe graciously opened its doors to the members of Sam Houston Electric Cooperative year after year by hosting their Annual Meeting at the Tribe’s multipurpose facility east of Livingston, deep in the piney woods of East Texas. For 10 years, the site served the members well. Yet for the Nov. 12, 2013, meeting, it was time for a bigger venue.

Sam Houston EC members congregated at the Polk County College and Commerce Center on Loop 59 in Livingston, a new facility that houses a satellite school of Angelina College. The facility, which boasts tall, vaulted ceilings and an open, airy foyer, also offers a large theater with auditorium-style seating and a sophisticated sound system.

“The new campus gives area students a chance to get quality higher education closer to home. The adjoining Commerce Center provides an ideal meeting venue,” said Mary Kate Scott, CCC, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative communications specialist, adding that the Cooperative had played a big part in bringing the campus to Livingston. “It is something that the community has needed for a long time.”

The hallways naturally guided members through the registration process and into the auditorium, where Walter Plant, in his 25th year of providing entertainment to Sam Houston EC members, was waiting with his popular renditions of country-western and gospel favorites. Taking a seat in the comfortable, padded seats, the members visited as they awaited the start of the Annual Meeting.

Before the call to order, Sam Houston EC chief communications officer Keith Stapleton asked Stephanie Williams, Alabama-Coushatta tribal administrator, to come forward to accept a $1,000 scholarship for a student. “We’ve been at the Alabama-Coushatta reservation for many years,” Stapleton said. “They helped us to grow our meeting to what it is today.”

A Story of Light
In 2014, Sam Houston EC will celebrate 75 years of serving members. To commemorate the upcoming anniversary, Stapleton recounted a history of the Rural Electrification Administration and Sam Houston EC. While much has changed since cooperatives began lighting up the rural American countryside, the cooperative purpose has remained the same.

Stapleton then presented a video produced by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which represents Sam Houston EC and more than 900 other electric cooperatives across the country.

Called “The Cooperative Purpose,” the video explains how rural electrification was born 75 years ago in a spirit of loyalty and cooperation that can be renewed to deal with today’s challenges. The video stated: “Our purpose is a mighty one: to power communities and empower our members to improve the quality of our lives. And when we live up to our purpose, we relight the American dream.”

“We’re here to celebrate and conduct the business of Sam Houston Electric Cooperative,” Stapleton said after the video concluded. “An organization founded by a small group of farmers, ranchers and homemakers—people who had a pioneering spirit and a desire to improve the quality of life for their families and neighbors. Today is about celebrating that pioneering spirit that gave birth to the electric cooperative industry—and to Sam Houston EC. It is also about celebrating those who built the first lines and those who have continued the cooperative movement ever since. May 16, 2014, will mark the 75th anniversary of Sam Houston Electric Cooperative.

Without that small group of founding members, that first light bulb would never have been lit. We’re glad you’re here to celebrate with us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you do for us.”

Thank you, veterans
Because the Sam Houston EC Annual Meeting falls on the second Tuesday of November, it often falls near Veterans Day. Every Annual Meeting day, veterans young and old show their support of the Cooperative, proudly wearing their medals and colors designating their years of service.

“We appreciate what you do, and we appreciate the opportunity to serve you,” Stapleton said, who said that Marion Henegar, a 96-year-old World War II veteran who was featured in a Texas Co-op Power article in November 2012, was in attendance, as he has been every year. Stapleton thanked Henegar and his wife, Oletha, for their loyalty to the Cooperative. They nodded as they sat holding hands.

Message from the manager
General manager and CEO Kyle J. Kuntz thanked members for attending their annual membership meeting, and reiterated the cooperative purpose.

“Powering communities and empowering members. That is the purpose for which cooperatives were created, and that’s why we still exist today,” Kuntz said. “A small group of founding members came together to bring power to the people. I think those folks would be amazed at what their little cooperative has grown to be.”

Kuntz said that some things haven’t changed since Sam Houston EC was incorporated. Sam Houston EC is still member-owned and is still committed to its founding principles. “As a member-owned not-for-profit business, we have a responsibility to listen to you, our members, to keep the lights on and the bills down,” Kuntz said.

Kuntz shared what the Cooperative had been up to in the past year. One of these projects included converting to an automated outage management system, which allows crews to respond to outages in a more timely manner. Sam Houston EC also introduced an online tool on its website, www.samhouston.net, where members can view current power outages. This feature can also be accessed from the Co-op’s Facebook page.

Kuntz also updated members on the Cooperative’s continuing effort to take down trees killed by the drought of 2011.

“We’ve taken down nearly 200,000 trees in 18 months, which has significantly improved system reliability,” Kuntz said. “While there are still outages caused by dead trees, there have been far fewer outages than would have occurred had we not cut these trees down. Our system is also a lot safer.”

Kuntz said that while the expense of the tree-removal process had prevented the Cooperative from retiring capital credits, Sam Houston EC hopes to return to a normal capital-credit retirement cycle next year. In February, Sam Houston EC’s board voted to return $2 million from its wholesale power suppliers.

Kuntz reminded members that today’s political environment presents many challenges to electric cooperatives, but members can take action to reduce the effect of regulations facing the energy industry, which can drastically increase the price of electricity. By going to www.action.coop, members can register their concerns with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sam Houston EC is also working with East Texas Electric Cooperative to diversify its power generation portfolio. The Woodville renewable power generation facility will be up and running by the summer. Kuntz said that the facility has added 250 construction jobs to the area, and once it is completed, will employ 25.

“By keeping a diverse energy portfolio, we are better able to control costs in the long term. Construction will begin on another renewable facility very soon,” Kuntz said. “The Lake Livingston hydroelectric facility will be up and running the last part of 2016. It will generate electricity only when the Trinity River Authority releases water, and the lake will not go down at all.”

Kuntz also shared that the facility will be named after R.C. Thomas Sr., a Cooperative director, who has faithfully served Sam Houston EC’s members for more than 40 years.

In closing, Kuntz thanked the directors, employees and members of Sam Houston EC.

“It is always an honor and a privilege to serve you,” Kuntz said to the crowd.

Prize time!
Every Annual Meeting of Sam Houston EC concludes with the awarding of door prizes. As prizes left employees’ hands and made their way to the hands of winning members, there was only one prize left to award: the grand prize. Winning the shiny new trail wagon was James Williams of Pasadena.

Be sure to attend next year’s Annual Meeting, slated for Nov. 11, 2014. We hope to see you there!

Thank You!

  • To outgoing board president Truitt Thomson, for your years of service.
  • To new board president W.E. Ernie Miles, for stepping up.
  • To newly appointed director Chuck Turner, for serving the members of Hardin and Liberty Counties.
  • To the Livingston High School band, for helping serve popcorn, cookies and refreshments.

In Memoriam
Sam Houston EC director Arnold Ursprung (photo), who had served the Cooperative membership since 1979, passed away in August 2013. He was honored at the Annual Meeting with a moment of silence. Thank you Mr. Ursprung, and to his family, for years of service and dedication.