A publication of Appalachian Voices

A publication of Appalachian Voices

Advocates Increase Powell Valley Electric Co-op Member Participation

A citizens group is calling for transparency at their electric cooperative, and helped to generate the second-largest voter turnout in recent history at the co-op’s annual meeting

people in line

PVEC members line up to vote at the 2018 annual meeting. Photo by Lynn Tobey

All three reform candidates for Powell Valley Electric Cooperative’s board of directors lost their elections at September’s annual meeting in Sneedville, Tenn. But Lisa Strickland with PVEC Member Voices — a citizens group that encourages member participation in their co-op — remains optimistic.

“There were no failures, because the number-one thing that happened was that awareness was raised,” says Strickland.

Strickland notes that even before the annual meeting, the co-op — which serves part of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia — had started developing a more informative website in response to member-owner requests. At the meeting in September, more than 1,200 Powell Valley member-owners voted, the second-largest voter turnout in recent history.

At the meeting, Strickland brought forth a motion that the co-op “make a concerted effort to educate their member-owners.” The board passed the motion, and has worked with PVEC Member Voices to add a district map, board meeting information and notifications regarding right-of-way herbicide spraying to their website.

The co-op also adopted an open board meeting policy. Strickland acknowledges that there is still a lot of work to do toward increased transparency. Member-owners have to submit a written notice 20 days prior to a monthly meeting if they plan to speak, and the policy for open meetings could be revoked at any time since it is not in the co-op bylaws.

Additionally, Powell Valley Electric intervened in a Virginia State Corporation Commission case against three member-owners of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative who are challenging their coop’s policies . Strickland stated that PVEC Member Voices will decide what path to pursue toward co-op reform in the new year.

“There should be an equal partnership between the members and the board and management,” says Strickland. “We are, after all, a community; we’re all going to rise or fall together.” — By Kevin Ridder

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