What a difference a year makes. Handshakes, smiles and camaraderie filled the PEC Training Center at Saturday’s annual membership meeting of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative. Ranchers, environmental activists, board candidates and regular folks milled around the hall greeting one another and exchanging pleasantries.
Last year, the room was lined with rows of prizes to be given away to those who showed up to vote. This year, one lone prize (a gas grill) sat apart, unnoticed, and two walls of the well lit room were lined with curtained voting booths.
The news media and cameras were in attendance as they were last year, but without the edgy “scent of a story” feel. As always, PEC employees were friendly, helpful and professional, but maybe with a little less suspicion of those in attendance this year.
When Board Vice President E. B. Price rose at the head table at 2 p.m., he captured the membership’s collective heart by personally delivering a sincere and moving prayer to open the meeting.
Price, who took over the board leadership in January after the resignation of former President Bud Burnett, continues to use the title of Vice President. His report was plain, “Change is inevitable.” After saying that the PEC had changed more in the past 6 months than in the prior 70 years of its life, Price outlined the reforms at the cooperative that are now well-known to its membership.
Price is the only member of the board who has publicly offered an apology for some of the past actions of the leadership. The membership laughed at Price’s jokes and applauded his service. What a difference a year makes.
Regarding the Congressional hearing scheduled for Thursday, Price reminded the audience that the committee seeking testimony from General Manager Juan Garza and Senator Troy Fraser is the same committee that investigated Roger Clemens’ alleged use of steroids. Price’s take was, “Garza will test clean, but I’m not sure about Fraser. I hear Fraser hits the golf ball way too far” for a man his age.
Garza said, “Today marks a new beginning for PEC.” With new leadership, Garza promised the cooperative will be “more open, more transparent and more fair than in the past.” He thanked the 58 individuals who ran in this election and took the involvement as a signal of how important PEC is to its members.
While conceding that “PEC is a different cooperative today than it was at this time last year,” Garza foresees more reform, starting with significant revisions in the Bylaws. He says that any glitches in the first ever open election process will also be reviewed with a goal of even better election procedures in the future.
PEC is the largest of the Lower Colorado River Authority’s 43 customers, and accounts for 30% of its generated revenues. LCRA General Manger Tom Mason, referring to the soaring costs of fuel, told the audience, “We are heading into a difficult time…and there is no silver bullet solution.”
After Mason’s remarks, the representative of Election Services Corporation announced the winners in the board elections, and projected a summary of the vote count on a large screen for members to peruse during the break. Winners weren’t cheering, losers weren’t complaining. Candidates who ran against each other had become friends during the campaigns and remained so after the tallies were posted.
Even after being told that their electric rates would be increased twice this year and seeing some friends lose their elections, members seemed content. PEC member Cristi Clement of Meadowlakes echoed remarks heard throughout the meeting hall. “I was pleasantly surprised by the election even though some of my favorites didn’t win. It has been a remarkable year.”
The one door prize, the gas grill, was won by a lady from Spring Branch.
But for the absence of drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll, the cooperative’s June membership meeting had more in common with the Summer of Love staged in San Francisco in 1967 than with last year’s membership meeting. What a difference a year makes.