Member-owners of Western Illinois Electrical Coop. re-elected three local men to the cooperative’s board of directors during the organization’s 79th annual meeting of members held Thursday, June 28 at the Hancock County Extension Center. The re-elected directors, with Manager Tommie Long, left, are (L-R) Kim Gullberg of Stronghurst, William Newton of Burnside and Jay Morrison of Niota.
Common goals and shared purposes was the theme of Western Illinois Electrical Coop.’s (WIEC) 79th annual meeting held Thursday, June 28 at the Hancock County Extension Center.
Manager Tommie Long, who retired on June 29 after more than 40 years of service to the cooperative, said as a nation, we seem divided, but that is not the cooperative way. “For the past 80 years, employees, directors and you, the members, have had the common goal of providing safe, reliable, cost-effective electricity to a membership that has had a mission to bring power to the rural areas now served by WIEC,” he said. “WIEC was created for you, the member-owner, and to this day is successful due to the employees, the board of directors and the members working together.”
Long stressed the importance of the co-op’s strong partnerships with other cooperatives such as its power provider, Prairie Power, Inc., its banker, National Rural Cooperative Finance Corporation, and its Statewide association, the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, which provides numerous services. Additionally, its insurance company, the National Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, and its after-hours call center, the Cooperative Response Center, aid in achieving that goal.
Long announced that Manager of Operations Todd Grotts will be taking over as the cooperative’s manager, saying, “Todd will be dedicated to continuing WIEC’s goals and mission. He is fair, congenial, family-oriented and a man of faith.”
President Rob Gronewold highlighted the employees’ commitment to member service, saying, “If you would add up all 16 WIEC employees’ work experience, you would have almost 250 years of total employment. It is hard in today’s world to find dedication like that.”
Gronewold honored former Data Entry Clerk Donna Cramer, who retired in the spring with 43 years of dedicated service to the co-op. Billing Coordinator Karmen Metternich was recognized for 20 years’ service to the co-op, Area Serviceman Cody Grainger was recognized for 15 years of service, and Journeyman Lineman Andy Lafeber, who was unable to be at the meeting due to an outage, was also recognized for 15 years of service.
A wooden plaque honoring former Billing Coordinator Clarabelle Marshall and all other retirees was presented to the cooperative by her son, Curtis Marshall. Gronewold said, “Clarabelle loved her job and loved serving the WIEC members. She took great pride in doing her job with great accuracy and attention to detail because that is what the members deserved.”
Gronewold recognized Long’s service to WIEC, saying, “We are wishing good luck and happy retirement to Tommie Long, WIEC manager. He has staked countless new services and met with many of you about your service. Later as manager, he discussed wholesale power costs, explained our billing structure or answered questions about the future of our cooperative.”
Retirements have opened the door to three employees who have been hired in the past 18 months. Gronewold said these employees will learn from the “old timers” about WIEC’s operations and how the cooperative system works. He spoke of the employees’ strong work ethic, saying, “That work ethic will continue as the torch is passed from one generation of employees to the next.”
Secretary-Treasurer Janet Spory reported that WIEC had a strong year financially with $345,000 in margins. The cooperative will be paying back capital credits totaling $250,000 to members who were on its lines during 1983.
Spory explained, “The retirement of capital credits is the visible demonstration of your ownership in Western Illinois Electrical Coop. As a member-owned cooperative, WIEC operates as a not-for-profit utility. Any profits made by the cooperative are referred to as margins. At the end of each year, the margins are allocated to each member in proportion to the value of the electricity they purchased.” In future years, when it’s financially feasible, capital credits will be returned to members. Since 1938, the co-op has returned more than $3.1 million in capital credits to its members.
During the meeting, Kim Gullberg of Stronghurst, William Newton of Burnside and Jay Morrison of Niota were re-elected to the co-op’s board of directors.