Usually, Big Country Electric Cooperative’s members are eager for the doors to open at the annual meeting. But at this year’s meeting, April 19 at the Coliseum in Snyder, members and guests lingered outside, where the Snyder Wheels Car Club displayed cars old and new in the parking lot. The collection included classic Chevys, Fords and even a truck. Members young and old peered inside the vehicles, careful not to touch the shiny paint that glistened in the sun.
Some other sparkles were on hand at the meeting, too. Revolution, a group of high school-aged string musicians, entertained the crowd for more than an hour. The girls of the group wore sparkling red shirts, played familiar songs and original arrangements, and trotted across the stage in violin “battles” with one another. Their passionate music filled the room. “We have them every few years, and they are just great,” said Sarah McLen, key accounts executive for Big Country EC. “They have a good mix of songs that appeals to everybody. It seems like everybody likes them a lot. And we just had to have them for our 80th anniversary this year!”
Members also enjoyed the traditional annual meeting dinner, which was served by members of the Scurry County 4-H Horse Club. Rough Creek Catering supplied the meal.
But before dinner, members walked through a maze of vendors and sponsors on their way to registration. One table was manned by staff from Cogdell Memorial Hospital in Snyder; a staff member took complimentary blood pressure readings. Another table was manned by Western Texas College, one of only a handful of colleges in Texas that offers a lineworker training program. Other tables included Air Methods, a provider of emergency air medical transport; Wi-Power, a local provider of high-speed internet; and Texas Co-op Power, which had a putting green set up and gave out Texas wildflower seed packets. A booth from Mr. Mc’s Peanut Brittle was inside.
It was all part of an evening chock-full of fun for members. The business portion of the meeting included some jovial and heartwarming moments, too.
Robert Pippin, the co-op’s safety coordinator, was recognized with a Lifesaving Award from Texas Electric Cooperatives, the co-ops’ statewide association. The annual award is given to those who help save someone’s life in a time of emergency—usually by administering first aid.
Pippin was on a mission trip in Belize, where he helped other church members build additions to several churches in small, rural towns. While on one job site, a child began choking on a fruit pit. Pippin rushed over to the boy and performed the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging the pit and saving the child. The people of the village had never heard of or seen the thrusts being performed before, so Pippin spent time during the rest of the trip teaching people how to do it.
Big Country EC General Manager Mark McClain introduced a video that chronicled the heroic act.
“He was a true lifesaver,” McClain said. “And I think it speaks to the culture of safety we have here at Big Country—we all want to go home at night and Robert is proof of that.”
A few other videos were played, including three from the winners of the Government-in Action Youth Tour contest. Each year, Big Country EC selects three high school students from its service area to attend the all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. The students travel with counterparts from other co-ops across Texas and meet up with more than 1,700 students who have been chosen from co-ops across the country. The trip is filled with exciting experiences, and the students make lasting friendships. Many attendees have called it the trip of a lifetime.
The 2018 Youth Tour winners are Jessy Villagomez and Mikel-Ann Terry from Roby and Kameryn Mathis from Haskell.
The contest calls for participants to submit a video on a given subject about the cooperative world. Judges select the best videos, which win their respective creators the trip to Washington.
In addition to the Youth Tour and Lifesaving awards, the membership participated in the business of the cooperative by voting on directors, who represent the views of the members in making decisions for the co-op. Steve Moore, District 7, and David Beaver, District 9, were re-elected by acclamation. Danny Helms was re-elected in District 8. Each will serve an additional three-year term on the board.
Wholesale power costs are among the biggest factors affecting members’ electric bills. Big Country EC is a member of Golden Spread Electric Cooperative, a power generation and transmission cooperative. Golden Spread EC serves several electric cooperatives in West Texas and the Panhandle. Golden Spread CEO Mark Schwirtz was in attendance and gave a brief overview of Golden Spread EC’s accomplishments in 2017. The biggest feat was energy independence.
Prior to Golden Spread EC finishing construction on its gas-fired power generation turbines, it had to purchase power from other providers. Now, with its instant-start gas turbines, Golden Spread EC is generating much energy internally. This is cost-effective for member cooperatives and helps maintain stable electricity rates.
At the end of the meeting, while everyone waited on election ballots to be counted, Board President Roger Blackwelder spoke for a few minutes.
“I think we have over 800 people here, which is the most since I’ve been serving on the board, which has been a few years now,” Blackwelder said. “I can’t tell you how much we enjoy seeing each and every one of you. We have people that come from all over the area, just to be at this meeting. It’s great!”