June 4th, 2020 will be noted in the history of Lake Region Electric Cooperative as a first in the way it engages with its member-owners. Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, that marked the first time the cooperative’s annual meeting was held virtually through electronic technology. The meeting not only proved to be a successful alternative to hosting an in-person gathering, but the participation level was great, too. The technology worked well and proved workable.
The number of registered members logging in was 421, making the attendance similar to the number who gather for a traditional annual meeting. A phone-in option was also made available so members could listen to the meeting if they did not have internet and computer access. A majority (87%) of the members were from Minnesota, 7% were from North Dakota, and 8% were from elsewhere. With cooperative members from all 50 states, the virtual meeting showed how we can still engage our members in the annual meeting no matter their location. Holding a virtual annual meeting proved to be a way to keep our employees and our members safe while continuing to serve our business needs and obligations. In short, it was a success!
Many people have expressed their pleasure with the virtual meeting. One member commented, “This is the first annual meeting that I’ve attended that I’ve enjoyed a beer and a burrito!” It seems the at-home convenience for participating was appreciated!
The feedback we received was very favorable. We had 80 chat messages come in during the meeting, some of which we were able to respond to while the meeting was underway. The topics expressed in the remaining messages will be addressed in future newsletters or directly to the individual member.
Electronic voting was another first for the cooperative. This produced a positive response with a 56% increase in voting participation.
I am very thankful to our board of directors and all of the Lake Region employees for their adaptability and flexibilty. Without their buy-in and support, the virtual annual meeting would not have been possible. Because of the favorable response from our members, it is quite possible that once allowed to go back to an in-person format we will still include the virtual aspect. For those who missed the event, you can find it as a video posted on our website.
Retiring Board Chair Charles Kvare opened the meeting. Director Sid Wisness offered the invocation.
Kvare addressed the use of technology, maintaining a focus on identified goals and the importance of strategic planning in the process. As an example, he gave the goal of achieving 40% member equity. The cooperative has exceeded that goal and has nearly reached 45% member equity.
Lake Region Electric welcomed two new board members this election cycle. Congratulations to Cecil “Bud” Hensel, representing District 2, and Patrick Meyers, representing District 5. Incumbent Sid Wisness, nominated without opposition, was elected by acclamation to represent District 8.
2019 was a good year for the cooperative. We ended with a solid financial picture and stable rates. We measured member satisfaction and found it is continuing to increase. A record amount of capital credits were retired to members and former members of the cooperative.
As we move through 2020, there have been many things we’ve had to change and adapt due to COVID-19. Our goal is to continue providing you with excellent service while keeping our employees and their families safe. We’ve had several employees working remotely from home. Those coming into the headquarters have daily temperature screenings and must practice other safety precautions including social distancing. Without a doubt, this has been a challenging year. Yet, we are driven to find ways to continue in our long-held tradition of service to our members.