SECO Energy hosted its first Virtual Annual Meeting on Saturday, March 28. Hundreds of members tuned in to watch the live stream of the cooperative’s 82nd Annual Meeting, and nearly 8,000 members voted on Annual Meeting business prior to the start of the virtual meeting.
SECO Energy decided in early March to significantly change the format of the traditional on-site Annual Meeting to a Virtual Annual Meeting in response to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advisories to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The CDC advised limiting gatherings to less than 50 people. In recent years, attendance at SECO’s popular on-site Annual Meeting had surged into the thousands.
SECO Energy Board President Jerry Hatfield called the Meeting to order at 10:30 a.m. and closed the voting platform. SECO’s Vice President of Corporate Communications and Energy Services Kathryn Gloria led the invocation and Pledge of Allegiance and introduced the Board Trustees, CEO and Cooperative Attorney. Board Secretary/Treasurer Bill James certified the Official Annual Meeting Notice before Mr. Hatfield began the President’s Report.
President Hatfield welcomed the members who tuned in live and explained the Annual Meeting quorum requirements. Mr. Hatfield stated, “SECO Energy is required to achieve a quorum to conduct official Annual Meeting business. With the help of a Bylaws revision passed by the membership last year, achieving a quorum is now more efficient and inclusive. We can count member participation in voting on Annual Meeting business – either electronically, in person or by mail as part of the quorum.”
SECO Energy CEO Jim Duncan began his CEO Report after Mr. Hatfield completed the President’s Report. Mr. Duncan addressed the audience, “Good morning and welcome to the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Membership and our 1st Virtual Annual Meeting. My presentation will be much the same as it is live, but this year members will avoid the large crowd. Limiting large gatherings is a key precautionary measure to protect against the spread of COVID-19, and a virtual meeting is the right choice this year to protect our members and employees.”
Mr. Duncan continued his CEO Report with his traditional military salute, first responders recognition and appreciation, introducing the senior staff and applauding the Board of Trustees and employees. Mr. Duncan spoke to the virtual audience about the cooperative’s 2019 financial results, growth, SECO’s new interactive voice response (IVR) virtual assistant, our StormCenter platform and recent customer satisfaction successes.
Cooperative Attorney Scott Gerken certified the 2020 Annual Meeting voting results. In total, 7,895 members voted on 2020 Annual Meeting business. As to the Bylaws Revision: Gerken certified 7,320 “Yes” votes, 198 “No” votes and 377 members abstained. As to the 2019 Annual Meeting Minutes approval: Gerken certified 7,484 “Yes” votes, 39 “No” votes and 372 members abstained. Mr. Gerken announced, “The 2020 Bylaws Revision and 2019 Annual Meeting Minutes are clearly approved by the membership.”
SECO Energy established a special phone number, email address and social media presence for the Virtual Annual Meeting. A panel of SECO employees interacted with members who posed questions and comments that were read and answered during the meeting by the CEO.
Mr. Duncan concluded the Virtual Annual Meeting by stating, “Thank you for your patience and understanding with today’s event – held virtually in the interest of public health. Your wellbeing is the highest priority as we made the decision to go virtual. The continued health of our employees is critical to keeping our system up and running.”
The meeting ended with the announcement of prize winners. All 7,895 members who voted were entered into the random drawing for 96 prizes. Grand prize winners are: Tammy Webb from Tavares won the 2010 Chevy Colorado 4X4; the two winners of the 2016 EZGO golf carts are William A. Wiggins from Leesburg and Terry Lester from Tavares; the $1,500 cash prize was won by Rebecca Tinder from The Villages; $1,000 cash prize went to William Boe of The Villages; and two $500 cash prizes were won by Marcia Klepinger and Thomas Wible both from The Villages. Other prizes including Apple TVs, Instapots, tool sets, Amazon Fire tablets and TVs will be shipped directly to winners. SECO will arrange for delivery of grand prizes.
The Virtual Annual Meeting concept was well received by members who complimented the cooperative’s decision to go virtual. CEO Jim Duncan elaborated, “SECO will evaluate the cost benefit associated with hosting a virtual meeting and may consider this approach for the future rather than holding an extremely large on-site meeting. We were actually at a point last year with maxed capacity and must find an alternative. Inviting 200,000+ people to an event with a capacity of less than 10,000 is risky. We must find more cost-effective options that encourage member participation. By mail and electronic voting worked well this year, so that is an avenue we’ll continue – with prizes of course as incentive to participate. Next year, however, we are considering a smaller, scaled-down business meeting along with a virtual option for the majority of the membership. It will be up to the Board of Trustees to approve our direction before it’s time to budget for 2021.”
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