2020 ANNUAL MEETING & SPECIAL MEETING RUN SMOOTHLY
The votes are in and the members have spoken - broadband through member regulation is coming!
On Thursday, August 13, 2020 Choptank Electric Cooperative members and Board of Directors assembled at The Wicomico Youth and Civic Center in Salisbury, MD to conduct the 82nd Choptank Electric Cooperative Annual Meeting. Due to COVID-19, the Co-op introduced several new features and procedures to keep their members safe.
After the original April date was postponed, the August meeting was streamed virtually on Facebook, as attendance was still limited, and social distancing was necessary due to COVID-19 safety guidelines. The doors opened at 4:30pm and members took advantage of an electronic recycling station, cell phone screen repairs, shredding services, and Choptank Electric’s electric vehicle display, asked questions to the Choptank Electric employees, and enjoyed a full fried chicken dinner.
The business meeting began at 6:00pm with Jeff Rathell, Chairman of the Board, introducing special guests, including: Senators Adelaide Eckardt & Mary Beth Carozza; Delegates Sheree Sample-Hughes, Charles Otto, and Johnny Mautz; Nicole Acle of the Wicomico County Council; Keith Graffius, representing Congressman Andy Harris; and Ryan Snow, representing Governor Larry Hogan.
State Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr. and Delegate Sheree L. Sample-Hughes became the first Marylanders to receive the Distinguished Friend of Electric Cooperatives Award, sponsored by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.
Hershey, who represents Senate District 36, and Sample-Hughes, who represents House District 37A, were cited for the leadership in passage of landmark legislation that will enable Choptank to deliver broadband to members on the Eastern Shore. President and CEO of Choptank Electric, Mike Malandro presented the prestigious awards to Sample-Hughes; Hershey received his in absentia.
The Distinguished Friend of Electric Cooperatives Award honors legislators, regulators and others in public service who have strongly supported the best interests of electric cooperative member-owners. It has been given out just 11 times since it was created in 2004.
“We had serious work to do on this bill and we have a long way to go. But I know it is possible because we have come this far and we are going to achieve what we need to achieve,” said Sample-Hughes.
The Credentials and Elections Committee Chair, William Edwards, announced first that the petitions for each of the four incumbent candidates have been approved by the Credentials and Elections Committee. Because there is only one approved Director candidate for each district, the Committee has invoked Bylaws section 4.06(b). This section states that in the event of an uncontested election, Choptank Electric may forgo the balloting process. Olin Davis, Director for Kent County, oversaw the re-election of the following board members: John Burke, Cecil County; Craig Mathies, Somerset County; Jeff Rathell, Talbot County; and Bob Thompson, Ocean Pines District.
Mike Malandro President and CEO of Choptank Electric Cooperative reported to the membership on the Co-op’s progress in the previous year and plans for the future.
“As always the people I need to thank the most are our men and women who work, day-in and day-out to keep the lights on and deliver the best possible service to our members,” Malandro said. “They did a great job last week when Tropical Storm Isaias blew through the shore. Quite a few members’ lights went out, but they were back on fast.”
“Choptank is a dedicated group of people who work and live in the communities where we provide electricity,” Malandro explained. “Choptank is locally owned and controlled by all of us - that is the co-op business model, simply stated.”
“Over the last 12-months, your Board of Directors along with Co-op Management came up with the idea for starting a broadband business by utilizing our economies-of-scale and 82 years of experience in infrastructure construction,” said Malandro. “In order to do so, we needed to pass legislation to become a member regulated Cooperative like the vast majority of our sister co-ops across this great nation. With tremendous community involvement, we successfully passed the legislation with HB 999.”
“I am confident our special meeting later tonight will reveal that our members want to move forward with member regulation and broadband,” Malandro concluded.
Following the annual meeting, the Co-op held its special meeting on Member Regulation. The results for the vote on broadband through member regulation were overwhelmingly in favor of the change. Over 15,000 members voted electronically or by mail since the vote began on May 15th. The final, official count was 14,769 in favor and 345 opposed, Jeff Rathell, Chairman of the Board, said, “On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I would like to thank Co-op members who participated in the vote for providing clear and conclusive guidance on your desire with regard to member regulation and broadband. Our Board will begin the work of creating a broadband affiliate and planning fiber deployment ASAP.”
The evening ended with the drawing for door prizes/bill credits ranging from $100-$500 and the Luck of the Draw Scholarship drawing, which awarded ten $1,000 scholarships, and one $2,000 scholarship in honor of Carl Widdowson, who retired in September 2019 as board member from Somerset County. There were 43 members who submitted their name for the scholarships.
The Annual Meeting was a huge success and Choptank Electric is looking forward to the 83rd Annual Meeting, which will be announced in the 2020-2021 Member Guide in October.