East Central Energy Annual Meeting A Huge Success

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 at 9:58 am

Approximately 800 East Central Energy (ECE) members, families and friends gathered Saturday, April 9 to celebrate their cooperative’s dynamic history as the people-centered organization that changed life in our rural area with the power of electricity.

Friendly conversation greeted the crowd as they arrived at East Central Schools, Finlayson, MN, for ECE’s 75th annual meeting and anniversary celebration. “Building on the Legacy” was the theme. Directors and ECE employees visited with members over coffee and donuts. More than 490 member households had registered by the time the business meeting began at 10 a.m.

A keepsake presented to members who attended was a book compiled by 30-year ECE employee Gwen Thomas in honor of the co-op’s 75 years. “Building on the Legacy” follows ECE’s journey from its origin as tiny PICK Electric Cooperative with 80 miles of line and 200 members to its stature today as Minnesota’s third largest electric cooperative, serving more than 57,000 homes, farms and businesses over more than 8,000 miles of line.

ECE President/CEO Steve Shurts focused on the cooperative’s strengths in his first report to the membership. He credited ECE’s tradition of sound financial decision-making with its ability to weather the challenges of 2010 and maintain rate stability in 2011. He reported that even with control of the co-op’s variable costs, an expected rise in the cost of wholesale power will likely result in a rate increase during 2012.

Shurts also announced the restructuring of ECE’s executive team, designed to position the cooperative to address industry challenges and prepare to meet the future needs of the co-op’s membership. Under the new structure, Gwen Thomas will become Chief Operating Officer and Vice President, Member and Employee Services. Controller Cheryl Hagfors has been named Chief Financial Officer and Vice President, Business and Energy Services, and Engineering Manager Vern Johnson will serve as Principal Engineer and Vice President, Distribution Operations.

Board representatives were up for election in three districts. The incumbent directors in districts 2 and 5, Robert Thompson and Linda Laitala, were the only candidates nominated by membership petition in those districts. Therefore, voting by ballot was not necessary, and they will retain their positions for another four-year term. In district 4 incumbent Gerald (Jerry) Nelson of Cambridge, MN was re-elected to the board with 797 votes. Marie Grundberg of Stanchfield, MN received 512 votes.

Winning the special 75th anniversary drawing for a retired ECE pickup was David McKeen from Cambridge. Members who attended the business meeting were registered for the truck and other door prizes. They also received a commemorative 75th anniversary keychain and a tape measure in appreciation for participating in the business of their cooperative.

Members enjoyed sloppy joes, chips, coleslaw, and anniversary cake for lunch. Families delighted in the carnival games, winning colorful prizes for the young and young at heart, while others played bingo or listened to the Bluegrass Continentals band. The always-popular bucket truck rides drew an enthusiastic crowd and provided a bird’s-eye view of the event.

Shurts said, “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to celebrate ECE’s 75th anniversary with our members and to share the good news of anticipated continued success as we remember those who worked hard to establish and strengthen the co-op over the years.”

Walker Ziegler, four, of Finlayson was the winner of the drawing for one of two bikes given away during the carnival at ECE’s 75th annual meeting and anniversary celebration Saturday, April 9. ECE President/CEO Steve Shurts presented the boy’s bike to Walker, who is pictured with his brother, Gavin, five, and Haley Loew, 12, of Askov, who won the girl’s bike.

WCMP’s Mike Hughes was also broadcasting live from the event as well.

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