volume 67 - issue 4 - April 2017
The times they are a changin'…again
Since the first one held in 1939, SMECO's annual meeting of its members has evolved quite a bit over the cooperative's 80-year history. Annual meeting changes have reflected the growth of the cooperative, the shifting needs of its members, and even the world outside Southern Maryland. In 2017, the meeting will change again to make voting more convenient for our busy customer-member base. The annual meeting will shift to a simple business meeting, and the election of board members and bylaw changes will be voted on by mail.
In the past few years, attendance has declined at the annual meetings. This trend has been seen in many other areas of the country, causing other cooperatives to also shift their voting practices.
In SMECO's early years, annual meeting attendance was sparse as the cooperative battled weather and war to hold the annual meetings.
The late 1940s and early 1950s saw a decline in attendance at the annual meetings—many years not even having enough members in attendance to make a quorum. A quorum is the minimum number of members that must be present for the proceedings of the meeting to be valid. SMECO's annual meetings have consistently reached a quorum since the 1970s.
In the later 1950s, interest skyrocketed and the meetings started to draw record crowds. Part of the growing interest at that time was the introduction of live entertainment in a post-war world. The cooperative annual meeting continued its heyday into the 1960s, bringing in nationally known acts to perform and seeing record numbers in attendance. The late-1980s through the early 2000s also saw consistent crowds as members attended to make sure their voice was heard. Annual meetings were held in a variety of locations through 1981.
Beginning in 1982, annual meetings were held on the grounds of the Hughesville Headquarters. In 2009, the meeting was moved to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs Stadium where it was held until 2016.
Key moments in annual meeting history:
1939 First annual meeting, 500 residents attended to hear that electricity could and would be brought to every farm in Southern Maryland if enough interest was shown by the farmers.
1942 The membership voted to change the name from the Southern Maryland Tri-County Cooperative Association to Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SMECO). It was also decided to change from a cooperative association into a cooperative non-profit membership corporation.
1946 Number of directors increased from seven to 15 in order to give equal representation on the board from each county.
1951 The membership approved the decision to establish capital credits.
1986 Members voted to stagger directors' terms so only five board members would be up for re-election each year.