85th Annual Meeting of Members
Cooperative Spirit on Full Display
The 85th Annual Meeting of Vigilante Electric Cooperative (VEC) took place on March 3rd at the Watson Training Center outside Townsend. This being the biggest event of our business year, a lot of time and effort goes into its planning.
The meeting was opened by Board President Cheyenne Garrison welcoming attendees that included 105 registered memberships and several distinguished guests. Starting with this meeting, VEC provided a luck of the draw scholarship to an eligible senior who attended the meeting. Cheyenne presented this year’s scholarship to Townsend High School senior Jonah Wishman.
When the parliamentary aspects were completed, annual reports were given, starting with the president’s report. Cheyenne presented an overview of the board’s work in 2022, which included a recap of the strategic planning session the board and management team participated in. Strategic planning deals with topics like load growth and rate structures, power supply, risks, and succession planning.
Cheyenne’s commentary continued with discussion of the fact that VEC has a very low turnover rate for trustees and employees. Curious as to why, she interviewed several trustees and employees about having such a strong bond to the organization. While the answers varied, much of it came down to the beauty of the cooperative business model and the people that VEC is associated with.
Next, Secretary Mitchell presented the financial report. VEC had another good year in 2022. Revenues were good, despite the fact that expenses were up $20,000 per month over 2021. He concluded by reporting that VEC retired $860,000 in capital credits in 2022 and did a year end rebate of $300,000.
Rollie Miller took the podium for the manager’s report. This year’s theme was “Focus Forward.” In a prior meeting, he reflected on VEC’s past and the groundwork laid for the cooperative. In his opening remarks, Rollie discussed moving forward and how issues of today impact VEC’s future. He noted dealing with record growth, and expanded the discussion on cost increases and lead times for equipment and materials. He also indicated a need to replace VEC’s headquarters, which were built in 1955.
Rollie then discussed VEC’s rates, which are the lowest in the state and some of the lowest in the country. VEC manages to keep rates low through operational efficiency and proper management, but it all starts with VEC’s power supply contract with Bonneville Power Administration. Rollie explained that the current contract expires in 2028, but we hope to have a new contact in place in the next few years.
Rollie’s number one priority for our organization has always been safety. He reported that VEC has had zero lost time accidents in the last seven years. Our Safety Roundup program continues to thrive, with over 800 members participating. He culminated his comments by presenting the latest Safety Roundup grant to Esther Lince with the Twin Bridges Schools for the installation of a vaping detector.
A tradition at our annual meeting is to have the previous year’s Youth Tour to Washington, D.C. participants discuss their experiences from the trip. Because of scheduling conflicts, neither of the 2022 participants could attend in person. Gavin Garrison, who was selected to represent Vigilante Electric on this tour, and was also selected by the Montana delegation to represent the state on the prestigious Youth Leadership Council (YLC), prepared a video presentation of his experiences on the tour.
Next came the elections for trustees. Secretary Mitchell reported on candidates who were nominated from each of the districts that were up for election. With the retirement of Tom Helm from District #3, two candidates were nominated, John Moos and Shirley Wilson. The District #8 nominee was Tom Mitchell, and from District #9, Allen Martinell was nominated.
Unanimous ballots were cast for Tom and Allen. For District #3, each candidate was given the opportunity to address the members before the vote was taken. John Moos was elected the new trustee.
Our meeting concluded with comments from Mark Lambrecht, director of government relations for the Montana Electric Cooperative Association (MECA). He discussed the house and senate bills currently before the state legislature relevant to co-ops, and what MECA was doing to advance cooperative interests.
Overall, this was an informative, productive meeting, with a common thread shared by most speakers. Earlier in this story, it was noted that District #3 trustee Tom Helm was retiring from the board. As an organization, we join with those who expressed their gratitude toward Tom for his selfless service.
We would like to thank the Watson family for hosting this year’s meeting securing the side by sides we used to chauffer attendees, and providing a wonderful meal. We would like to thank all the vendors that donated door prizes and Mark Lambrecht for taking time out of his schedule to attend our meeting. Finally, we would like to thank the members that attended the meeting; you truly honored us with your presence.