Embracing the future
It is amazing to consider how much changes — and how quickly those changes happen. When we first saw cellphones in the 1980s, who could envision that they’d become an integral part of staying connected and conducting business in today’s world? Or that they’d fit easily in our pockets? Who could have predicted they’d have exponentially more capabilities than some of the first computers we used for work?
At Wiregrass Electric Cooperative (WEC), we’re always considering ways to improve how we do business. Whether that’s how we provide electricity, how we serve you when you contact us or how we communicate with you, we’re always analyzing what we can do to be better.
Many times, that involves the implementation of newer technologies and procedures.
For example, we are currently installing an enhanced meter system throughout the territory. These meters will help us improve power restoration times in a few different ways. We aim to upgrade all of our 25,000-plus meters by the end of 2022.
Technology has also influenced the way we conduct the cooperative’s business matters. In 2 of the past 3 years, we have needed to switch from large in-person annual meetings to virtual annual meetings due to extenuating circumstances.
In 2018, Hurricane Michael damaged half of our grid just days before the annual meeting, and crews were still busy repairing the damage when the meeting convened. Of course, 2020 brought us the coronavirus pandemic and limited gatherings.
Fortunately, virtual annual meetings were made possible through the combination of a procedural change enacted a decade ago and emerging technologies. In the early portion of the last decade, members approved mail-in voting as a viable option for participating in elections. Certainly, improved mailing capabilities have made this workable.
Elsewhere, video streaming technologies and platforms have made broadcasts of annual meetings to everyone on the internet more accessible. We thank our power provider, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, for its tremendous technical team’s support in this aspect.
What we’ve learned from these events is that virtual annual meetings may be the wave of our future. Your strong response to mail-in voting and registration makes this a possibility. Last year we had almost 1,400 votes overall — many from the mail-in process.
This level of participation is evidence that members have a fair opportunity to voice their thoughts on the cooperative’s business without having large gatherings. People do not have to leave work or school in order to participate.
As coronavirus concerns linger this year, the board of trustees has opted for a virtual annual meeting again. You will be able to watch the annual meeting on our Facebook page on Friday, October 29, beginning at noon. We will have on-site voting at our headquarters prior to the meeting like last year, but members will be encouraged to vote by mail again.
To do that, look out for the annual meeting packets that will be mailed out sometime after September 20. These packets include your meeting registration, the ballot, information on proposed bylaw changes, and board candidate biographies.
Just registering for the meeting earns you a $5 bill credit and gets you entered into a draw for bill credits worth up to $500.
We look forward to hearing from you soon!
CEO Wiregrass Electric Cooperative