Just ask Leander Hoover, the secretary-treasurer of Fulton County REMC, what being an electric cooperative director means to him.

“It is hard to imagine my life without the positivity the REMC family environment has provided me. I would never have changed mentally, morally, and even spiritually,” says Hoover, who also serves on Indiana’s statewide board.

“The REMC has opened my eyes and ears and heart. I have more compassion for the community and the members who rely on us.”

Hoover refers to the cooperative principles as tenets to guide not only his co-op but also apply to his life.

“Cooperative Principle 7 (Concern for Community) has always been important to me, but the scope and depth of my care and effort has deepened and widened my view of the membership and the diversity within mine and all districts. Everybody is important, and everyone needs to work together.”

Understanding and living that principle gives more meaning, he says, to the ways that cooperatives support their communities by making “conscious decisions” in their boardrooms on practical matters like rewiring 4H barns, fixing lights at a local baseball field, illuminating signs in the outfield, offering free Honor Flights for veterans.

Hoover cites the importance of Cooperative Principle Six (Cooperation among Cooperatives) as a source of understanding that most human effort is linked and strengthened by working collaboratively.

Boardroom Spotlight first met Leander Hoover in 2011.

Read the interview.

“If every electric cooperative had to generate their own power and maintain transmission lines, you could imagine how effective that would be. Large storm outages due to ice or wind would be hard to manage, relying on only our own line workers. When cooperatives work together, more things can be accomplished; most times, easier.”

Without the cooperative principles and education, Hoover says, he would be a completely different person.

“Without the REMC, it is likely that I would still want the world revolving around me,” Hoover says, adding that he would be “dumb to the idea” of his dependence on safe, affordable and reliable electricity because he would take it for granted.

“The bucket trucks that pass my house on storm outages would be known only as line workers who had not turned my electric on fast enough. Energy conservation would never cross my mind.”

Hoover said his board tenure has only enhanced his appreciation for the large scope of issues his board addre

sses at even the most routine meetings.

“Before my time with the REMC, I had no clue as to how many members we served. How many miles of line were energized? I had no clue as to how many commas were used in the budget numbers. A lot of commas mean those are some BIG numbers!”

Directors and the CEO need to constantly evaluate the pros and cons of every decision made, especially the impact of decisions with dollar signs, Hoover said.

Yet, it is important not to be intimidated by the large decisions.

“My eyes have been opened to making conscious decisions, with much research and an open mind. My decisions are made with confidence,” he said.

Again, Hoover said, the temptation in the boardroom is to make decisions hastily, cutting big ticket items. It is easy to vote for the cheapest quote from various vendors when the co-op needs outside contractors, tree cutting, insurance, equipment, and vehicles.

He sees a direct line between his co-op duties and his family responsibilities.

“In my personal life, my wife and I balance everything from two children, work, farm, pleasure, bank accounts, meal planning, and more. The REMC is no different. As directors, we balance our time between our normal job, reviewing materials, serving on committees, annual meeting responsibilities, and attendance at out-of-state education classes and conferences.”

The biggest reward of being a director is how it encourages a positive philosophy — a crucial value at a time in society when cynicism and defeatism, especially in rural areas, seems to be on the rise.

“I have noticed, recently, that the community needs success stories for morale. With so much negativity in the world and news, the cooperative persona has been very uplifting. There is a positive persona and morale that surrounds the REMC. The persona is that of support and cooperation.”

This perception, he says, is reinforced by attendance and participation.

“I have only met good people connected to the REMC, through phone calls, annual meetings, conferences, and director education. Because of my time on the board, the cooperative principles, the positive aura that surrounds us, and my education, my personal and professional life have been changed for the good. I am eternally grateful for that.”

MORE INTERVIEW NOTES

How did you come to be on the board? Were you appointed? Were you elected? Other?

My dad served on the local telephone cooperative for years and I thought I was familiar with the responsibilities. He always said, “Everyone should have to serve on a board sometime in their life.”

With the little I knew about being in a cooperative and the help of family and friends, we turned in enough ballots to earn the opportunity to ‘run for the board’. I was surprised and honored when I won the election, beating out a man who had served for 24 years.

What motivates you to continue to serve?

This opportunity is just one of many things I do in life (currently) that could be considered my civic duty. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve as the voice for the many men and women who are served by the cooperative. It is important that my votes are made with their best interest in mind.

What are your thoughts about board diversity issues?

Men and women of every race, religion, ethnic background, and social-economic status should be represented. As a district representative for the REMC, we represent our district in voice and more. As boards continue to educate their board members about diversity the representation will level out. There are also a large number of men who have served for many years (like……before color TV). Through new elections and time, women and a more balanced view of our membership will be seen on the board.

What surprised you the most in joining the board?

The biggest surprise to me as a beginning director was the number of acronyms! I will never memorize them all. Now, eight years later, the biggest surprise has been the use of the word, THREATS. Threats, such as government threats in regulations, cyber security threats, and terrorist threats to the electrical grid. I’m sure there have always been threats, but recently, that word has been used more frequently.

How well do you feel you understood the expectations and responsibilities of being a director BEFORE you joined your co-op’s board?

I highly underestimated the value of a board member. I hope I am not alone in that proclamation. My eyes were opened, quickly. I was making decisions that included 2 commas (millions of dollars!)

It was relatively easy to get the “bid” and run for election. Being a “full time” and engaged board member is hard.

Are you concerned that younger people are missing the message about rural electric cooperative?

I do think that the younger generation is missing the overall message of the importance of safe, reliable, affordable electric. The fault can be blamed on everyone.

Being an educator, I cannot stress enough the importance of repetition. Continue repeating the message, it will sink in. The educator (NRECA/REMCs) should also value the way the message is portrayed. You can’t harp on people, expecting them to understand, let alone listen. Take care and effort in the delivery of the message. Use words that are engaging, supportive. Don’t intimidate the members with acronyms and numbers. Be supportive and they will listen, or read.

Finding a happy medium between cooperatives that are excited to share their message and listeners who want to listen will always be a struggle.

As a director, what keeps you awake at night?

State of local economy. Five years ago, this was never a concern on my radar. Now, discussions each month about our local economy consume a large portion of our time in the meeting. Community involvement and cooperation has become more important.

State or federal regulations. Like before, years ago I knew of the threats. Now I am fully aware of the potential for radical movements that could change the industry (for good and bad, alike) with the stroke of a pen. Regulations are scary!

Keeping up with changing technology. Technology can be our friend. It is almost impossible to know anyone who doesn’t use more technology today than they did 5, 10, 20 years ago. No one is going ‘back in time’. Technology is a major benefit and blessing to the REMC cooperatives. Unfortunately, as soon as you become “up to date”, your system is now extinct.

Cybersecurity. This is the scariest thing. At a NRECA director’s conference in Reno, a few years ago, I heard a marvelous speech by General Michael Hayden. [View this video] He was a wonderful speaker, and the audience could have listened to him for hours. The opportunity to hear him was life changing. Since that day, cyber security is heavy on my mind. Cyber security protection sounds simple, but is there a way around all the precautions we have taken? Hackers are smart.

What did you wish you knew five years ago that you know now? If I could converse with a younger Leander J. Hoover, I would tell him this: “DO read all the material provided by NRECA, Statewide, and local REMC cooperative! Try to memorize some of the lingo and acronyms faster. Take copious notes!” The learning curve is tough, but the outcome feels great!

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