Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s 76th annual meeting had a bit of everything for the nearly 200 attendees who met in the Salem Convention Center November 28-29.
There were expert speakers on disaster preparedness, talk of the future of the Northwest electric utility industry and the secret to providing outstanding customer service. Attendees also learned the secret of beating the former Soviet Union in hockey from Olympic Gold Medalist Jim Craig.
“Make your weaknesses your strengths,” said Craig, who was an integral part of the greatest upset in sports history.
With the program built around the theme “Defending our Members: The Miracle of Electric Cooperatives,” Oregon co-op leaders were also treated to a substantive, bipartisan conversation on key issues by two of the leaders in the Oregon Legislature: Republican Sen. Cliff Bentz and Democratic Sen. Michael Dembrow. Much of the discussion centered on the rural-urban divide and the prospect of cap-and-trade legislation in the Oregon Legislature.
For his part, Dembrow discussed the sincere interest among his Portland constituents in the economic viability of rural Oregon. He also said the rigorous work of the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction would yield results.
“We’re going to pass cap-and-invest legislation this upcoming session,” Dembrow said.
Bentz did not dispute that outcome, but expressed a desire to improve the bill to benefit his sprawling rural district.
“Let’s figure out how to make this situation work for us,” he said. “Give me your best ideas.”
Co-op leaders were impressed with what they witnessed.
“Seeing these two legislators up on stage gives me hope that Salem can get something done,” noted one participant.
The centerpiece of the meeting was the celebration of the leaders inside the cooperative program and elected leaders who have fought for consumers. Dave D’Avanzo was the recipient of
the ORECA Rural Electrification Award for his stellar 38-year career, which spanned three different electric cooperatives: Umatilla, Midstate and Lane Electric.
Roger Meader received ORECA’s highest honor, the coveted Distinguished Service Award, for his four decades of service to electric cooperatives. ORECA Executive Director Ted Case noted Meader had made a national impact with electric cooperatives with his chairmanship of the Touchstone Energy Board of Directors.
U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader was honored with ORECA’s Cooperator of the Year Award for his bipartisan efforts to protect cooperatives’ ability to provide affordable and reliable power. Because Congress was in session, Schrader will receive the award in person in 2019.
The ORECA Board met at the conclusion of the meeting and elected a slate of officers for 2019. Midstate CEO Dave Schenider was re-elected ORECA president. Wasco Electric Director Bob Durham was named vice president. Fred Flippence will serve his first full term as secretary-treasurer. The two at-large positions on the board are Alicia Bonesteele of Salem Electric and Shirley Cairns of Douglas Electric.
Scenes From the November Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Annual Meeting at the Salem Conference Center
Photos by Mike Teegarden.