Big Country. Small world.
Joe and Maria Moreno were enjoying barbecue from Rough Creek Catering before Big Country Electric Cooperative’s annual meeting in Stamford when Al Mayberry and his wife sat down in a couple of empty chairs across the table from them. The two retired couples were drawn to the annual meeting—they attend most years, they said—as strangers connected by their co-op.
Turns out they have more in common than they realized.
Mayberry lives east of McCaulley but mentioned that he was born in Rotan. Maria’s eyes lit up at hearing that. She was born outside of Hobbs but considers herself as being from Rotan, where she and Joe live after moving from Fort Worth. She remembers the McCaulley girls basketball team beating her and her Hobbs teammates. “They had all these tall girls, and we were short,” Maria said.
The reminiscing continued.
“Do you remember Dr. Callan?” Mayberry asked.
“Sure, he was my doctor,” Maria said. “He delivered me. The old Dr. Callan.”
“He’s the one who delivered me,” Mayberry said.
Small world, indeed.
Big Country EC’s annual meeting traditionally brings old friends together to catch up, hear about co-op business and maybe win a door prize. But it’s also a place to make new friends.
Three other new friends were introduced to members during the meeting, April 25 at Stamford High School. Collin Guynes of Snyder ISD, Hailey Moore of Roby CISD and Callie Hargrove of Borden County ISD are winners of the co-op’s annual Government-in-Action Youth Tour trip to Austin and Washington, D.C. They will join more than 150 other Texans for the 10-day trip in June. The Big Country EC students won the trip by producing videos, which were shown during the meeting.
Youth Tour is an example of Education, Training and Information, one of the Seven Cooperative Principles by which all co-ops operate.
Another cooperative principle is Democratic Member Control, demonstrated by the annual board elections, which this year featured a few wrinkles that Don Richards, Big Country EC’s attorney, thoroughly explained.
Incumbent D.H. “Dickie” Sloan was the lone candidate named in District 1 by the nominating committee January 10. He died March 1, though, and the board of directors decided to leave that seat vacant until next year’s election.
Kenneth Buerger and incumbent Matt Mueller were nominated in District 2. Buerger was later discovered to reside outside of the district’s boundary, making him ineligible for the election even though his name was on the ballot. Mueller won by acclamation.
District 3 featured a true contest between Zachary Logan and incumbent Carl Marugg, who was reelected at the meeting.
Mark McClain, the co-op’s general manager, noted an empty chair on the stage when he introduced the directors. That chair was for Sloan, who had been a director since 2007. “We appreciate all that Dickie did for us in his common-sense thinking and leadership that he provided to Big Country Electric,” McClain said.
Roger Blackwelder, board president, agreed: “He was always the one that asked the most pertinent question when we would deliberate something.”
McClain recognized employees who celebrated service anniversaries: Mark McClain and Cary McClintock, 25 years; Fred Sharrock and Eileen Goodgame, 20 years; Mike Snead, 15 years; and Baleria Frausto, Mason Guerra, Brian Niedert and Kyle Ponder, five years.
McClain’s report on the state of the co-op focused on transparency. He said he hoped employees’ honesty, integrity, servant leadership, strong work ethic and commitment to a strong safety environment were evident to the membership.
“We must be free from pretense or deceit,” McClain said. “We seek to be frank in our conversations without any hidden agendas. We try to be easy to understand.”
That frankness was on display moments later when Blackwelder discussed a rate increase that will be phased in over three years, starting in November. He said at least one-third of the board’s monthly meeting time involved discussions of financial matters. “We started seeing the trend was not in the direction we wanted to see,” he said.
Blackwelder said Big Country EC needs to bring in an additional $2 million per year to maintain its margins and meet financial goals. A cost-of-service study recommended a rate increase, which the board approved at its April meeting.
“We feel like all the members want us to keep this cooperative viable, keep it in good shape and continue to provide reliable electric service,” he said.
The meeting ended on a high note, as it always does, when 47 members took home door prizes. Alton Smith of Rotan won the grand prize, a $1,000 bill credit.
Mayberry, the member who discovered he was brought into this world by the same doctor as the stranger sitting across the table from him, said he’s been attending co-op annual meetings for as long as he can remember.
“I think it’s good to stay abreast of what’s going on,” he said.
Mayberry is retired after an interesting and varied career. When he graduated from Sul Ross State University, he became an assistant county agent in East Texas. Then he realized Hawkins County had more than 500 dairy farms, so he decided to join that crowd. After 30 years as a dairy farmer, he took a job as a guard at the Price Daniel Unit, a state prison in Snyder. “They were pretty desperate for guards,” he said.
He didn’t hesitate when asked which were easier to handle—cows or convicts.
“Cows, by far,” he said.