Trusted resources: Co-op board members

Pat O’Loughlin, president and CEO of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives

Local control is one of the defining characteristics of your electric cooperative. That control comes from a board that’s elected from the membership — member-consumers like yourself. Much of the success of the electric cooperative program is the result of effective governance by proactive, focused directors, whose primary role is to direct the CEO and the management team, assuring commitment to business success through maintenance of the highest standards of responsibility, service, and ethics.

While yesterday’s director wrestled with the challenge of bringing light to rural America, today’s director is wrestling with new challenges, such as ever-increasing expectations for service reliability and convenience; how and when to adopt new technology solutions; the costs and benefits of alternative sources of energy; and how to best integrate the next generation of employees into the organization.

The constantly changing energy landscape requires directors to be engaged with members and management to meet the diverse needs of their communities. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association reports that almost half of current board members are over the age of 65. As more retire, the next generation of new leaders is poised to begin filling our boardrooms. The challenges those new directors will face are sure to be more complex and numerous than ever, and the best pathways won’t always be clearly marked.

For nearly 80 years, successful electric cooperatives have been led by board members and management teams who demonstrate a high level of engagement with the local community and their membership; those who, in effect, lend their business and life experiences to their respective cooperatives.

Most board members bring something even more important than business credentials to their roles: They bring the desire to serve. More than anything, cooperative board members help their neighbors and fellow members with an eagerness to learn, a willingness to act, and a firm grasp of the cooperative business model that, together, breathes life into the cooperative difference.