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2015 Annual Meeting of Members

2015 Annual Meeting of Members

They started trickling in hours before the Sam Houston Electric Cooperative Annual Meeting was scheduled to start. The Co-op’s members came because they have the privilege and right, as member-owners, to elect the board of directors and participate in the business meeting. They’ve been doing so in Livingston for 76 years.

They came to visit with old friends. They came to have a chance to win one of the dozens of door prizes. And they came because the cozy auditorium at the Polk County Commerce Center once again featured the gospel and country-western singing of Walter Plant, a local favorite who has been serenading Sam Houston EC members for 27 years.

Joe Mullin is a relatively new member of Sam Houston EC after moving to East Texas from Hutto in March 2014. He’s a fan of electric co-ops. “I like them a lot better,” Mullin said. “The employees are a lot closer to the customers. It’s more like a family.”

As the 2015 meeting, moved from its usual mid-November date to June 9, was about to begin, Plant started singing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

It certainly resonated with the Sam Houston EC members, some 1,200 of them, who rose to their feet and joined in singing about how they are “proud to be an American.”

Getting Down to Business
When the final notes from Plant’s keyboards drifted away, Keith Stapleton, Sam Houston EC’s chief communications officer, greeted members and kept the excitement going with the announcement of some of the early-bird prizewinners. There were 10 early-bird winners in all, including Sharon Wallace (photo) of Huntsville, who won a golf cart. George Green of Shepherd won a $2,000 bill credit, and Robert H. Greeley of Point Blank won an LG 55-inch LCD television.

Stapleton thanked the many people who worked behind the scenes to organize and execute the Co-op’s Annual Meeting, including the Livingston High School band boosters, who helped serve refreshments to the members.

He then invited the 11 directors to the stage, and as they were settling into their seats, Stapleton announced that Sam Houston EC awarded $84,000 in scholarships in 2015. The scholarships are funded with unclaimed capital credits.

Stapleton called the meeting to order and invited Director Don Boyett to offer the invocation and lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Plant then sang the national anthem, and the members settled back into their seats.

“Your participation is vital to the success of Sam Houston EC, and we appreciate you taking time out to attend your Annual Meeting,” Ernie Miles, the board president, told them.

Kyle Kuntz, general manager and CEO, reviewed the director election procedure for the 2015 meeting, and John T. Wright, the Co-op’s attorney, announced that both incumbent candidates Milton Purvis and Robert Boyd ran unopposed and were re-elected.

The General Manager’s Report
The election concluded the business portion of the meeting, Kuntz said. He went on to remind members that Sam Houston EC was just one year removed from a major milestone celebration, its 75th anniversary.

“From no wires, no poles and no lights in 1939, to 6,000 miles of line and service to more than 70,000 homes, businesses, churches and farms in 2014, electricity transformed life for those early Cooperative members and continues to transform lives today,” Kuntz said.

He noted that wholesale power costs have come down after climbing to a record peak demand during a cold snap that gripped much of Texas last winter.

“As those wholesale costs improved, we were able to pass along the savings to you,” Kuntz said. “And almost midway through 2015, the Cooperative is in a financial position that is even stronger than in recent years.”

In May, East Texas Electric Cooperative, Sam Houston EC’s generation and transmission provider, broke ground on the R.C. Thomas Hydroelectric Facility, a 24-megawatt power facility that will create clean, renewable energy on nearby Lake Livingston.

“It will be a run-of-the river facility, which means that it will use only a portion of the water that the Trinity River Authority normally releases from Lake Livingston,” Kuntz said. “And it will not, under any circumstances—during construction or once it’s in operation—affect the water level of the lake.”

Kuntz said the hydroelectric plant, expected to go online by 2018, and a new 49-MW power plant fueled by wood chips near Woodville give Sam Houston EC renewable energy options in the face of the pending Environmental Protection Agency mandate to reduce carbon emissions, such as those from coal-powered generating plants.

Giving Back
One of the Seven Cooperative Principles is concern for the community, and Kuntz shined the spotlight on Sam Houston EC’s charitable achievements in 2015.

Kuntz thanked the more than 1,000 Sam Houston members who participate in Operation Round Up. These members round their electric bills up to the next whole dollar and donate the difference to Operation Round Up, which allows Sam Houston EC to serve folks in need in its 10-county territory.

In addition, Co-op employees raised nearly $9,000 to support the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life and made Christmas brighter through the Empty Stocking program, Kuntz said.

Members Speak Up
When Kuntz offered to take questions from members, the conversation quickly turned to the severe storms that pounded the region in April. Some members thanked Kuntz for the Co-op’s diligence in restoring power quickly. Others wondered why the response wasn’t quicker for them. Kuntz explained that Sam Houston EC’s crews were faced with 39,000 outages and couldn’t restore power to everybody at once.

One member asked why electric bills didn’t go down when gas prices dropped. Coal prices didn’t fall, Kuntz explained, and burning coal is what generates most of the electricity for the Co-op.

After fielding questions, Kuntz adjourned the meeting.

Grand Finale
The members buzzed with excitement as Sam Houston EC communications specialist Mary Kate Pedigo, began reading off the names of door prize winners. Her colleagues at the Co-op scurried about the auditorium, handing out dozens of prizes—bill credits, gift cards, a Kindle reader, a blender, Powerslayer wall chargers and many others.

Longtime co-op member Tammy Caldwell went home with a Keurig coffee brewer. She’s on somewhat of a roll: Last year she won a 14-gallon wet/dry vacuum. “That was the first time we ever won something,” she said. “We were thrilled. We come to the meetings because we like to visit with people and get out of the house.”