I guess it is the new normal that conducting your association’s annual meeting in the shadow of an exercise bike is no big deal. But like so many things in 2020, the traditional Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual meeting at the Salem Convention Center took place in the unlikeliest of places—a cramped upstairs office in my home that also doubles as an exercise room.
In a regular year, our annual meeting is a two-day event of industry experts, inspirational speakers, and an awards ceremony. This year, we did all the same things in a three-hour virtual experience that is a testament to our members’ commitment to ORECA.
I think everyone is tired of the next Zoom call, or whatever platform people use to conduct their business. The urge to be together as a cooperative network is strong, particularly in rural and frontier parts of our state.
But the ORECA board, under the skillful direction of President Bob Durham, made clear this summer that safety was paramount and decided to move our meetings online. It was the right call, as the annual meeting was on a November day that had the highest single number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon during the entire pandemic.
We had a tremendous virtual turnout. We listened to a variety of outstanding speakers, including Bonneville Power Administration Acting Administrator John Hairston, renowned futurist Glen Hiemstra, and NBA legend Bill Walton, who discussed his meteoric rise to the basketball mountaintop, only to fall off because of debilitating injuries.
We also honored outstanding achievements, bestowing our Distinguished Service Award to Midstate Electric Cooperative CEO Dave Schneider and former Salem Electric Cooperative Director Alicia Bonesteele. ORECA also gave a posthumous award to Midstate Director Leland Smith, who died earlier this year.
Yes, it was a different experience than being in person, but, like everyone, we did the best we could under the circumstances. I thank busy co-op leaders for their time and serious attention. Next year, I have no doubt our annual meeting will again be held at the comfortable confines of the Salem Conference Center. It will be great to see the gang in person once again. But I will never forget the memorable day in 2020 we conducted the association’s business in the most unlikely of places. A place where I can stay connected with my membership and also stay in shape.