NASHVILLE, Tenn.—As electric cooperatives experience a “once-in-a-lifetime industry transformation,” NRECA President Phil Carson urged fellow co-op leaders not to let a golden opportunity pass by.

“We must consider the legacy we’ll leave for the generation that follows us,” Carson told the 76th NRECA Annual Meeting on Feb. 27. “And today, we have an incredible legacy-building opportunity.”

Carson acknowledged it won’t be easy. “A once-in-a-lifetime transformation is indeed exciting—and we’re living in exciting times. But it’s also disruptive, and uncomfortable and can be exhausting,” he told the second general session.

Carson is a director at Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Mount Vernon, Illinois, which he said is “grappling with many of the same issues you are,” including distributed energy resources and the need for broadband.

“My co-op, I’ll admit to you, doesn’t have all the answers, either,” Carson added. “But when it comes to big questions that will impact our co-ops for years to come, I’m going to suggest to you that you don’t necessarily have to have all the answers at hand.”

Instead, Carson cited a need for “the right people committed to the right principles.” He said co-op boards need stewards, who “bring a measured, and analytical, and reasoned approach” to matters, and visionaries, who “like to dream about the possibilities before us, and they’re willing to take risks to try new ideas.”

“Both roles are important at our co-ops, and when we get the mix right, stewards and visionaries bring out the best in each other.”

Carson earlier presided at the Feb. 25 meeting of the NRECA Board, marking the halfway point of his tenure as president.

At the meeting, the board was informed that the 2018 NRECA Annual Meeting was on track to be the second largest in the last five years, topped only by the 2014 meeting, also held in Nashville.

Two departing board members were also recognized: Jessica Nelson of California and Lanny Rodgers of Pennsylvania.

Michael W. Kahn is a staff writer at NRECA.