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If there’s one thing you have faith in, it’s your local cooperative. Locally owned, run by a board of directors who are cooperative members. They are your friends and neighbors. So are the co-op employees. Friends and neighbors.

Last fall the Wisconsin Legislature passed laws changing Statute 185 which addresses cooperative law. The changes were proposed and developed by all of Wisconsin’s cooperatives. Not all cooperative organizations agreed with the changes. One testified against it, all the other cooperative associations were in favor. Dunn Energy has no intention of changing our bylaws to reflect the Statute changes.

Earlier this year we did notify our members of some proposed bylaw changes. The changes we are proposing are different than the State level changes. At Dunn Energy, we are careful with our bylaws. We don’t change them often because they are important.

Last fall the CEO of our insurance cooperative spoke to us about making a change to our bylaws. Federated Insurance is a good partner for Dunn Energy. They help us with our safety program. Helping our employees and members stay safe around electricity is important. And staying safe helps reduce our insurance costs. Federated is a cooperative organization, just like Dunn Energy, and when they save money they give it back to us.

The board and management discussed the issue. We looked to what other electric co-ops were doing. Their members have passed the recommended bylaw change. We discussed the change with our legal counsel who supported the proposed change.

The change takes away no legal rights of our members. It would reduce the cost of disputing legal issues while maintaining a member’s legal right to litigate a dispute. The board and management at Dunn Energy are always working to manage the co-ops costs and electric rates while ensuring the best interests of the members.

Since we decided to make a bylaw change, we looked at the rest of the bylaws. The last change was made over a dozen years ago. So we tried to look out to the future. What will change five or 10 years from now? One thing that has changed drastically in the past 10 years is computer technology and how we use it. So we discussed electronic voting.

The board and management researched the issue. Other electric co-ops use electronic balloting. The State of Wisconsin passed laws allowing electronic voting. But some reports indicated the cost might be prohibitive. And we thought that many of our members today would not be interested in electronic voting. But we also discussed how many of our members pay their bills electronically and how the co-op’s Face book page reaches more and more of our members every day.

In the end, we recognized that using electronic voting wasn’t a good idea for Dunn Energy today. But technology changes fast. So we decided to recommend a bylaw change to allow electronic voting should the board of directors decide the time is right, and it is safe and holds down our costs.

We decided to recommend one more bylaw change. Our attorney told us that our director qualifications bylaw had language that was considered vague. These days it seems courts make decisions that make people wonder, “What were they thinking?” Having clear language seemed important to us.

Back when the co-op was formed, if you lived out in the country, you farmed. There were hardly any rural residents who didn’t farm and very few businesses. Today many farms are in LLC structures and the owners name is not on the account. We have members who own businesses on our lines like auto body shops and green houses. But they may live in town. We want to make clear that these individuals can run for and serve on the board.

When we have a director election, a committee of co-op members is selected to find members interested in running for the board. They review candidates and if there are more than two they select the candidate they think will be the best for the cooperative. These are members of the cooperative working to help the co-op and the members of the co-op. Like the board of directors they give a lot of thought and consideration to their actions. Knowing this, the board of directors decided to recommend the bylaw change.

Recently I met with a group of members who had concerns about the bylaw changes. That’s another great thing about the local co-op. How many businesses can you walk into and talk to the CEO? We had a good discussion. I’m not sure we came to any agreements, but we had a good and friendly talk.

The bylaw changes are supported by the board of directors and management. This is a cooperative organization in the United States of America, and we count the vote and honor the winner. And whether the vote is yes or no, the board and management pledge to continue to be dedicated to efficiently providing safe, reliable energy and superior service to benefit our members and the community.

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James Hathaway is the general manager of Dunn Energy Cooperative.

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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