Hurricane Can’t Stop Co-op Annual Meeting

Hurricane Irma knocked 90 percent of Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s meters offline, but didn’t disrupt plans for the co-op’s annual meeting—held just five days later.

Just days after Hurricane Irma left Florida families in the dark, Touchstone Energy’s LED Lucy and Solar Sammy bring smiles to young co-op members. (Photo By: TCEC)

Just days after Hurricane Irma left Florida families in the dark, Touchstone Energy’s LED Lucy and Solar Sammy bring smiles to young co-op members. (Photo By: TCEC)

More than 500 members and their families—some of whom had evacuated days earlier—filled a high school gym to nearly standing-room-only capacity Sept. 16. Attendance was the second-highest ever, eclipsed only by the 2016 gathering, held two weeks after Hurricane Hermine knocked out 12,000 meters.

"With 16,000 meters without power we, made the decision to continue with our meeting while restoring electricity as quickly as possible," said Kaitlynn Culpepper, community relations specialist for the Madison, Florida-based co-op.

The principle of cooperatives helping cooperatives played a big role.

"Talquin Electric Cooperative and Seminole Electric Cooperative, our generation and transmission cooperative, sent member services and communication crews," said Culpepper. "With their help, we were able to give our community a day of fun and fellowship after a week of very trying circumstances."

Cindy Brandon, coordinator of payroll and taxes, was among the employees of Quincy-based Talquin EC who helped Tri-County with its 77th annual meeting.

"I can't help another co-op restore power, but this is a way that I can personally give back," said Brandon.

Several relatives of Tri-County employees also pitched in.

"Volunteering to help was the least I could do to show appreciation for all their hard work," said Bubba Carroll, husband of Stephanie Carroll, the co-op's manager of corporate services. She put in long hours at the co-op's headquarters throughout the restoration effort. 

"If it meant it would help get my wife and all of the men and women who have been working around the clock home one minute sooner, I was ready to do it," added Carroll. He shuttled members from the parking lot to the gym in a golf cart and directed traffic.

Julius Hackett, Tri-County's CEO, told members, "We were wondering if this annual meeting was too much to bite off." Then he gave them the good news: Power had been restored to all members—"two days before our projected restoration time." 

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