A record-breaking 760 members of Wharton County Electric Cooperative cast their vote for directors during the 82nd Annual Meeting of Members on June 17 – drive-by style.
As a member-owned electric cooperative, WCEC is governed by a board of directors representing and elected by the membership. Each year a meeting is held to present business reports and hold elections, traditionally during an event including a sit-down meal. However, due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions, the meeting was held as a non-traditional, drive through meeting this year.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” WCEC GM/CEO Gary Raybon says. “We anticipated that we may have more members come out for the drive through meeting and were prepared for a 25 percent increase over the average for the last five years. No one could imagine that we would end up with almost double that amount. It was wonderful to see our members show up to take part in the most important part of our co-op’s business – the election of their representatives.”
At 760 members voting, the 2020 Annual Meeting is a record-breaker. The next highest turn out for voting members was 498 in 2009. In recent years, the co-op has been prepared for up to 500 members voting as attendance has been on a slow decline. This year, that was not enough.
“We did run out of ballots and attendance gifts early in the evening,” Raybon said. “More ballots were quickly printed, and members were given IOUs to pick up their gift at a later date. The numbers took everyone by surprise.”
At the end of the evening, WCEC members voted to re-elect Jim W. Harton in District 8 over Fritz Cornelius. In District 2, Patrick Kubala defeated Karl H. Haupt. In District 5, Samuel Craig Hardin was elected over Annett K. Simmons and Rick Marik. Kubala and Hardin will replace Leroy Kaspar and A.J. Kresta, respectively. Both have reached their term limits.
As is tradition, all voting members were included in a drawing for door prizes although the format was slightly different. The drawing was held the next day in the WCEC lobby and was streamed live on Facebook.
Members who won a gift card can pick them up at WCEC’s office, 1815 E. Jackson. Business hours are Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. 4:30 p.m. Electricity credits will be automatically added the members’ accounts.
Extra attendance gifts have been ordered and are expected to arrive the first week of July.
“Overall, the meeting was very successful with so many of our members participating,” Raybon said. “We want to thank everyone who came out and for their patience as we worked through the glitches. As always, we look forward to seeing you all next year.”