Annual meeting brings members together for business and pleasure
By Drew Myron
Forty pies, 20 flavors and more than 125 people.
In an annual meeting to share the state of Hood River Electric Cooperative, officials presented facts, figures and budgets.
But the real treat was pie. The 73rd Annual Meeting of Hood River Electric Cooperative was March 14 in the Community Room at the Hood River County Fairgrounds. Designed to provide members with a company overview, the occasion is business meeting, community gathering and social event all in one.
Butch Gehrig, a HREC board member for 21 years, kicked off the evening with pressing news.
“Tonight we have 40 pies in 20 different flavors,” he said. “There are so many pies, so little time.”
Each year, the Parkdale Grange provides pies for the gathering. It is a tradition dating longer than anyone can recall, said grange member Dianne Parrott. Many of the ingredients, such as the gooseberries, are grown in the Hood River Valley.
More than a dozen prizes— from gift cards to backpacks to $100 bills—were given away throughout the event.
Auditor Nate Reagan offered an encouraging financial report. Last year, HREC experienced the largest profit margin in history, with a net margin of $1.1 million. The good news continues this year with a net margin of $777,000.
“This year is a still a good profit,” Reagan said. “This year shows improved equity even with power costs increasing.”
The good news continued with a short report from Attorney Chuck Fadely.
“We’re not suing anyone, and no one is suing us,” he quipped.
For many members, the evening provided an opportunity to meet General Manager Libby Calnon. She was hired last summer to succeed John Gerstenberger, who retired after 32 years with the co-op.
“It’s been a great honor to serve alongside our wonderful board and staff in meeting your needs over the past nine months,” Calnon said. “Although I did not grow up here, I have deep roots in the Hood River Valley. My grandfather, Dayrl Swyers, was born and raised here. I spent all of my summers and holidays at my grandparents’ farm on Paasch Drive, and I remember Hood River before it became today’s recreation and tourism mecca.”
Calnon also has deep roots in the utility industry. Her father was a utility engineer and manager for more than 40 years. She has worked in the industry for 20 years.
“We had another fantastic year,” Calnon told the audience, noting fewer outages, stable rates and solid financial performance.
The cooperative provides service to 2,817 members with 3,864 accounts. This year outages were down, from 95 the previous year to 50.
“Our electric distribution system is safe and reliable, thanks to the proactive maintenance work of our operations department,” Calnon said. “They work every day on system maintenance, tree trimming and other improvements.”
Electric rates are stable and affordable.
“We had no rate increases in 2018 and do not anticipate raising rates in 2019,” Calnon said, noting that residential rates are 25 percent below the state average.
The cooperative’s solid financial performance allowed the retirement of $800,000 in capital credits to members. This is good news for members, who are entitled to a share of the cooperative’s margins, or income in excess of expenses. The margins are allocated to each member based on their electric energy purchases for the year.
Following the presentation, members of the Parkdale Grange plated up 300 slices of pie, much to the delight of members.
“I like coming to the meetings,” said Marjorie Andrews, who has been a member for more than 45 years. “Why? Well, the pie.”
It was a similar refrain, and one shared by George Earley of Mount Hood, who enjoyed two slices of pie and was considering a third.
“Don’t tell my wife,” he joked.