Leaders Champion Cooperation at 79th TEC Annual Meeting

September 2, 2019

Whether it’s a loblolly pine down on a power line at 2 a.m. or fresh leadership in the Texas House of Representatives, challenges are a part of everyday life for Texas’ electric cooperatives.

But co-ops have continually met—and risen above—those obstacles by helping one another. Cooperation Among Cooperatives is a vitally important part of a business model that has proven so successful over the past eight decades that members know to expect more than just electricity from their local electric co-op.

That was the message Mike Williams, TEC president and CEO, and other cooperative leaders delivered to some 700 co-op representatives and their guests at the 79th TEC Annual Meeting in Austin, Aug. 4–7.

“The foundation on which this program sits is electric cooperative principles,” Williams said, “and I believe that is the foundation for the success of our program going forward.”

Cooperation takes many forms in Co-op Country. Sometimes it’s linemen getting the lights back on after a storm, and sometimes, like this past spring, it’s sitting down with lawmakers to advocate for co-ops at the Capitol.

“That place gets crowded over there,” Williams said, noting the thousands of lobbyists and associations in Texas. “It’s important to have a unified voice even if we’re not totally all on the same page.”

That cooperative voice propelled Senate Bill 14, which creates an easier path for electric co-ops to provide broadband internet service, which studies have shown is lacking in rural areas of Texas, stunting economic development. It’s another way co-ops can meet members’ expectations.

“I think it’s just another example of what we’ve always done our whole existence,” Williams said, adding that he wasn’t advocating that co-ops ought to provide broadband. “We didn’t provide electricity, we provided a quality of life. This is perhaps another element of that.”

Of course, cooperation is the reason TEC exists, and it drives everything the association does. “We aggregate our political influence, our purchasing power, our publishing power, our ability to educate and keep people safe in their jobs,” Williams said. “And our job is to make sure that we’re adding value in the process.”

Finances are one indicator of that value. Revenues for the association were up 34% over the past year, Williams said, to about $270 million. Dues represent less than 1% of that figure.

In his report, outgoing board chairman Blaine Warzecha encouraged co-op leaders to strengthen their bonds.

“When divided, our strength as an association … is jeopardized,” he said. “However, realizing this division provides us with an opportunity to roll up our sleeves, dig into the issues and improve. When this happens, better solutions are discovered, deeper friendships are made and our organizations have the opportunity to thrive.”