President’s Message – October 2021

It’s a Matter of (Co-op) Principles

Jimmy Black headshotACE Hardware, State Farm, REI, Land O’Lakes, and Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative (GCEC) share something in common: All are cooperatives.

The industries are different, but all share a passion for serving members and helping communities thrive. In fact, all cooperatives adhere to the same set of seven principles that reflect core values of honesty, transparency, equity, inclusiveness, and service to the greater community good.

October is National Co-op Month. This is the perfect time to reflect on these principles that have stood the test of time and provide a framework for how cooperatives operate. Let’s look at the first two.

Voluntary & Open Membership

Like all co-ops, GCEC was created out of necessity to meet a community need.

In 1941, a group of neighbors banded together and organized the electric co-op so everyone in the community could benefit. For a modest membership fee to the co-op, anyone could get electricity delivered to their property.

Neighbors came together to tackle a common problem they couldn’t solve alone. They worked together for the benefit of the entire community. Newly established electric lines helped power economic opportunity in the community.

While this history may be forgotten, key parts of that heritage remain: the focus on the mission and serving the greater good.

Membership is open to everyone in GCEC’s service territory, regardless of race, religion, age, disability, gender identity, language, political perspective, or socioeconomic status, improving the quality of life and economic opportunity for the entire community.

Democratic Member Control

GCEC is well suited to meet the needs of members because the co-op is locally governed. Each member gets a voice and a vote in how the co-op is run, and each voice and vote are equal.

The cooperative’s leadership team and employees live here in the community. The members on the board of directors, which helps set longterm priorities for the co-op, also live locally on co-op lines and have been elected by neighbors just like you.

GCEC knows its members have a valuable perspective, which is why it continually seeks your input, and encourages you to weigh in on important co-op issues and participate in co-op elections.

The co-op’s close connection to the community ensures it understands members’ priorities and makes more-informed decisions on long-term investments.

Because the co-op is guided by the Seven Cooperative Principles, it is not just about dollars. It is about opportunity for all and being fair when engaging with members.

The cooperative way is a values-based business model.

GCEC is a reflection of the local community and its evolving needs. Your cooperative views its role as a catalyst for good and making our corner of the world a better place.

That viewpoint sums up the seventh co-op principle—Concern for Community—which I will elaborate on in a future column.

Jimmy Black