The NRECA Annual Meeting and 75th anniversary celebration will take place in San Diego this year, where members can experience the rich history of the association and get a glimpse of the cooperative program’s future.

The theme for the 75th Annual Meeting, which runs February 23 through March 1 at the San Diego Convention Center, is “Our legacy is the future,” a line from the book The Next Greatest Thing: Fifty Years of Rural Electrification in America.

“We will explore significant milestones in NRECA’s history with a focus on what made us successful then and how those same traits can set us up for success in an uncertain future,” says Tracey Steiner, NRECA senior vice president for education and training.

Based on positive feedback, the meeting will follow the same format that debuted last year in New Orleans: shorter general sessions and more breakouts of varying lengths.

“Several of the breakout sessions have a link to last year’s conversations with members,” says Kristen Wheeler, NRECA meetings program manager.

Special Event

This year, instead of a traditional Entertainment Night concert, NRECA will host a 75th anniversary block party celebration in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter, across from the convention center. Organizers will rope off two blocks of Fifth Avenue, and participants will have exclusive access to restaurants, retail, and live entertainment. Tickets are included in the registration fee for early bird, regular, and Next Generation Leaders attendees and are $35 for guests, one-day, and non-member registrants.

“For our 75th anniversary, we wanted to create a fun, communal event that brings NRECA’s members together in a unique setting to commemorate how far we’ve come as a program,” Steiner says. “The block party is a new concept for us, but the venue is ideal, and the commitment of our sponsors has been amazing. We’re looking forward to an energetic, vibrant, and memorable celebration.”

Back at the convention center, the legacy and future themes will be on display through several interactive kiosks with stories about NRECA and co-op history. NRECA will also unveil a new series of posters touting the strength and value of electric co-ops. The new artwork by NRECA Creative Director Kevin Kepple was inspired by the iconic Lester Beall posters commissioned by the Rural Electrification Administration in the 1930s to build support for the program.

“Think about a modern set of electric cooperative posters,” wrote NRECA COO Jeffrey Connor in the September 2016 issue of RE Magazine. “What aspirations would they depict? What audiences would they address? Answering such questions may be the clearest way to cut through today’s politics and noise and set our new imperatives.”

Annual Meeting Highlights

NRECA CEO Jim Matheson will kick off the opening general session on Monday, February 27, with his first presentation before the full membership since coming to NRECA in July 2016.

Matheson will be preceded by the Youth Leadership Council’s parade of states and followed by the day’s keynote speaker, presidential historian and best-selling author Michael Beschloss. A contributor to NBC News and PBS NewsHour, Beschloss will talk about powerful and effective leadership from business to politics to sports.

During the second general session on February 28, Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives will bring tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and New York Times bestselling author Josh Linkner to the stage for a keynote address on creativity, entrepreneurship, and disruptive innovation. The audience will also hear from Sylandi Brown of Georgia, this year’s Youth Leadership Council spokesperson.

At the March 1 closing session, outgoing NRECA President Mel Coleman will pass the gavel to his successor, and the association will honor the recipients of its annual awards.

In lieu of a closing keynote speaker, there will be a “thought-provoking discussion on the future of energy,” Steiner says.

Now in its second year, NRECA’s Next Generation Leaders program will again give emerging cooperative leaders a chance to develop skills through learning opportunities, collaboration, and building professional networks. Registration will be capped at 60 participants to optimize the group’s experience. The program is targeted to co-op middle managers with 10 to 20 years of total work experience who have not attended an NRECA annual meeting.

Participants should note that the ACRE® Annual Meeting and Breakfast will be Wednesday, March 1, and the International Lunch will be Tuesday, February 28. The keynote speaker at the International Lunch is Andrew Herscowitz, USAID’s Power Africa coordinator. Tickets are on sale for both events at $20 and $55, respectively.

As in past years, other national cooperative organizations also will hold their annual meetings in San Diego throughout the week: National Information Solutions Cooperative and National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative on February 26; National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) on February 27; and Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange on February 28.

2017 Community Service Project

This year, participants will have two chances to demonstrate their commitment to community—before and during the Annual Meeting. For the ninth year, Touchstone Energy will sponsor a community service project for 100 volunteers to help low-income homeowners. This year’s project will be Saturday, February 25, in partnership with Rebuilding Together San Diego.

Can’t volunteer on the 25th? NRECA will host another community service project at the convention center during the week.