Another record crowd of United Cooperative Services members and guests turned out in October to savor all of the festivities rolled out at the electric cooperative’s 2016 Annual Meeting of the membership (marking the company’s 78th year of operation) at the Glen Rose High School Auditorium.
Drawn by the day’s clear blue sky and mild temperatures, more than 2,000 people attended the event, which in addition to the co-op’s annual business meeting, included the traditional health fair, Touchstone Energy hot-air balloon rides and a children’s bounce house, a barbecue lunch, musical entertainment and, of course, the eagerly awaited portion of the meeting devoted each year to prize drawings.
The meeting is set each year to coincide with National Co-op Month, which is observed every year in October, and this year celebrated under the theme, “Cooperative’s Build.”
Voting on site and by mail-in ballot, two directors on United’s governing board were re-elected to three-year terms. Ed Cardin was re-elected to represent the co-op’s members in District 6 (Granbury and Northeastern Hood County area), and Larry Bays was re-elected to represent the members in District 7 (Northeastern Erath County, Lingleville area).
“United is well known for being a progressive electric cooperative, not just here in Texas, but across the nation, which is a reflection of our board’s commitment to serving members with safe, innovative, reliable and affordable electric service,” said incoming United CEO Cameron Smallwood. “They review every process the cooperative has, and United has flourished with their leadership and commitment to quality.”
As is tradition, the meeting not only celebrated the cooperative business model and the unique business relationship employees and members have shared since the cooperative was first founded, but also the philosophy that ensures the cooperative’s vision is always centered on sustaining its mission to serve the membership effectively and reliably.
“Seventy eight years ago, I doubt our co-op pioneers had any idea where their efforts would lead,” said Patsy Dumas, United board president. “But they built a strong foundation for what I truly believe is one of the most exceptional companies anywhere.”
“Through our quarterly member satisfaction surveys, members have rated United not just the highest among Texas electric utilities, but higher than any utility business across the nation,” she said.
Because of those consistently high member appraisals, Dumas reiterated her opinion that United Cooperative Services was the very best electric distribution cooperative in the country, and that it would remain so well into the future because of the cooperative’s member-centric service ethic and culture.
“United will continue to build upon the success that our co-op forbearers began so long ago,” Dumas said. “We will continue to honor the principles of the cooperative business model and to battle the legislative and regulatory pressures that threaten to drive up the cost of electric generation. We will continue to strive for even higher satisfaction scores by doing what is right. And we will always be focused on the most important aspect of this business in any decision we make—serving United members exceptionally well.”
Smallwood took center stage and introduced himself and his family to meeting attendees, and added to Dumas’ comments when he alluded to his belief that another reason for the cooperative’s enduring success can be attributed largely to the fact the co-op and it’s members have worked together to make United what it is today.
“Our sole purpose at your cooperative is to serve you to the best of our ability” he said. “We are always looking for new and better ways to bring our members greater value and service, and to exceed our members’ expectations.”
Smallwood noted such an effort is made possible only because of three components: United’s Board of Directors, United’s 152 employees and its 60,000 members. While many attendees weren’t around when electricity was brought to United’s service area, the legacy of providing a better way of life hasn’t ceased for the cooperative. The challenges have changed over the decades. First, the main goal was to get the electricity to the rural people who formed our cooperative. Then, as time passed and electricity became an expectation rather than a luxury, the challenge was to get it to the people with greater reliability and affordability.
Smallwood explained how United emphasizes productivity and efficiency to ensure costs are controlled as effectively as possible. United serves 525 meters per employee at a cost (Operation & Maintenance-O&M) of $318 per meter, while other cooperatives of like size serve 409 meters per employee at a cost (O&M) of $376 per meter.
He also provided an overview of the cooperative’s current milestone in safety (currently 1.6 million employee hours without a lost-time injury), United’s recurring effort to meet members face-to-face through member advisory, community and focus group meetings, as well as some of the co-op’s new or potential projects including the recent launch of United’s Rush Hour Rewards program and a United community solar farm, respectively.