Doing the board’s work

Colleen Eidemiller (center) says listening to what other Pioneer Electric Cooperative members have to say is both the most important and most enjoyable part of her job on that co-op’s board of directors.

Being a board member for an Ohio electric cooperative comes with a sense of pride in service to one’s community. Board members, after all, are the link between owner-members of the cooperative and the services those members receive from the cooperative, and they take that responsibility seriously.

A commitment to service

Harold Cooper has been a member of Lancaster-based South Central Power Company’s board since 1998. He’s also a prominent farmer and is a lieutenant in the Pebble Township Volunteer Fire Department (he served as chief for 19 of his now-30 years there). He says there’s rarely a day when he doesn’t talk about co-op business with his neighbors when he’s out and about in Waverly or elsewhere — even his fellow volunteer firefighters strike up conversations with him about electric service when they get together.

“I feel like I can directly affect how the cooperative operates, and I enjoy being the link between the co-op and my neighbors,” Cooper says. “I can take their concerns right back to the board and we can act right away if we need to. It’s something you would never see happen at one of the big utility companies.”

That local control — rather than control by investors who are hundreds or thousands of miles away from the community — is the cornerstone at the foundation of electric cooperatives.

“We are there to look out for our members’ best interests, not to make a profit for shareholders,” Cooper says. “We work to provide a service that is dependable and community-oriented, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that. We’ve made several improvements to our lines and the service in my area. Everyone is very appreciative of that.”

In it for the right reasons

Colleen Eidemiller has been on the board at Pioneer Electric Cooperative in Piqua for 11 years and has been a member of the co-op for 17 years. She saw the co-op’s focus on service within the community — from safety programs and business development to scholarships and in-school electric demonstrations —  and was inspired to run for the Pioneer board.

“We give back so much to our members and our neighbors that people don’t really even know, because we don’t toot our own horn all the time,” she says. “From a board member’s perspective, I feel proud that I’m able to be a part of that.”

In a position to help

Michael Scherger is nearing the end of his first year on the board of the North Central Electric Cooperative in Attica. The utility industry is new to him, and he says being a board member has given him a new appreciation for everything that goes into keeping the power on.

Sherger, like most board members, views his role as an opportunity to further serve his community. He encourages members to talk to him about the co-op.

“The board members live and work in the communities, too, and we get our power from the co-op just like everyone else,” he says. “The feedback we get is almost always positive, but they know that if they are having a problem, we could just as likely have the same problem, and we’re in a position to help. It’s gratifying to be a part of a good, solid team at the co-op.”

Heather Juzenas is a freelance writer from Licking County and is a member of The Energy Cooperative.