Co-op board should start fresh in 2010


Well, it’s a new year and on Tuesday, Jan. 12, the “new” Socorro Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees will meet for the first time.



People are optimistic that now, finally, with some new blood on the board, maybe things will be better. Maybe our Co-op leaders will be a little more cooperative when it comes to relations with the member-owners.

I’d like to think so. But I’m not so sure.

Although three incumbents were thrown out in Socorro during District 3 elections last October, that’s only a 27 percent turnover.

If you’re hoping for reform on important issues dealing with expenditures, representation, having a voice and transparency in governance, don’t get too excited.

These, dare I call them, “newcomers” got elected because people wanted change, but they have yet to cast a vote. We’ll see soon enough whether they are who we thought they were.

Even if they prove to be true reformists, they’re still very much in the minority — since votes on those kinds of matters often go 10-1 with District 5′s Charlie Wagner as the lone cowboy — representing just over a third of the members of the board. The other seven remaining members of the Old Guard are still there. There’s nothing to stop them from conducting business as usual.

It’s discouraging. Last week, I was reviewing stories we covered during the past year for our Top 10 stories of 2009. I came across the one we did when the Public Regulation Commission came down to conduct a forum intended to air out differences between Co-op management and the member-owners.

Well, a lot of good that did. PRC officials said that they regulate utility rates and really don’t have authority over how the SEC conducts its business. They urged both sides to play nice and asked the board of trustees to try to do a better job of listening to what the member-owners had to say.

Since then, the cops have been called to three trustees meetings, a majority of the board took a leader of the reform movement to court to have her banned from meetings and our trustees have done nothing to indicate they have any inclination to do anything other than go about conducting business as usual. They’ve literally left their member-owners out in the cold by going behind closed doors for executive session with no good reason.

You’d think they’d get the message. You’d think they’d realize that these tactics make them look bad and make us feel like we can’t trust our trustees.

These men are our community leaders. But their stubbornness and, dare I say it, machismo have been giving our community a bad name.

It’s time for that to stop. The people sent a message last October by ousting the incumbents and re-electing Wagner in District 5, along with a bevy of reform-related proposals that are to be voted on by the member-owners at the annual meeting this spring.

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to reflect on the past and consider the future. It’s also a good time to forgive and forget, and make a fresh start.

Hopefully, the seven already entrenched trustees got the message their member-owners sent last October. Someday they’ll be leaving the board — either through retirement, getting voted out or terminated by a term limit. So what kind of legacy will these seven stalwarts leave behind when they go?

They’ll either be remembered as one of those who were a part of the most notorious co-op board in the Tri-State network, or as one of those who helped bring control of the SEC back to its member-owners.

Which one is it going to be?