Earlier this month, I wrote about Sonia McElroy. McElroy was vying for a seat on the board of Shelby Energy–an electricity cooperative that serves parts of Shelby, Trimble, Henry and Carroll counties. This was the first contested election in the co-op's history. It was being run according to the bylaws, but McElroy raised questions about whether the rules were fair and biased in favor of incumbents.
The election was last week, and McElroy lost. Members who couldn't make it to the meeting mailed in proxies, and the board used the proxies to vote for the incumbent, which is allowed. McElroy got 83 votes to current board member Randy Stevens' 1,024.
In a letter to the editor sent this week, McElroy outlined the changes that would need to be made to the co-op's bylaws to ensure fair elections in the future.
In the future, the Shelby Energy By-laws, would need to be revised to allow for a fair and democratic process when electing Board Members. The proxy system only serves to keep the current Board Members in their positions. I would advocate for a process that allows the Shelby Energy Cooperative members to know well in advance who is running, what their qualifications are, and does away with the current proxy system but allows mail in voting.
I realize that it takes time and training (a costly financial investment) for a Board Member to gain the knowledge necessary to competently participate in the monthly Board Meetings and to make the best decisions for the cooperative. However, while I am not saying that Board Members should be changed every three years, I also feel that there should be limits to the number of years that a Director can serve. I seriously question the effectiveness of individuals serving on the Board of Directors for 36, 25, or 21 years or for individuals that had previously served for over for 45 years.
It's worth noting that when I spoke with Shelby Energy attorney Don Prather earlier this month, he indicated that the board might be willing to revisit the bylaws.