by Jon Megas-Russell
The other day I walked into our kitchen at work and the following Aristotle quote was written on our white board: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” It made me immediately think of the Brattleboro Food Co-op. Knowing that our Co-op has been in business for 30-plus years and that it has enjoyed many successes during this time, it made me realize that there is an ongoing commitment from Alex and his staff to running our store using great habits, great policies, great execution, and great vision. Additionally, as we enter a Board of Directors’ election season, this quote is quite pertinent, as the board strives for excellence during the recruiting, balloting, and voting process. But did you know there are three principles that underlie the procedures and process of the election?
• One member, one vote
• Member engagement
• Excellence in governance
One member, one vote
This is based on the Cooperative Principles stating, “Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members,” with members having “equal voting rights (one member, one vote).” Every vote is important. Approximately 10% of the 6,500 active shareholders submit ballots each year, so there is a tremendous opportunity to grow the number of shareholders that vote.
Board elections provide an excellent opportunity for shareholders and the board to interact with each other. Of course, there are other ways that directors regularly interact with shareholders, such as monthly tabling, articles in Food for Thought, board meetings, and shopping at the Co-op. However, the election truly empowers shareholders to have a direct voice in the governance of the Co-op.
Excellence in governance
The ultimate responsibility for the election lies with the board, which must ensure that the elections are fair and just. The board does so by having a committee made up of staff, board members, and non-board members count the votes. It is important to note that anyone running cannot count votes and will be alerted of the results after all ballots are counted, by a member of the board. To learn more on these principles and procedures, please feel free to visit the CDS Consulting Co-op website at http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/.
In addition to the principles behind the election, the board has a standing Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee serves the purpose of searching for candidates for the election of board members. At the same time, it is important that members of the board not on the Nominating Committee also engage in the recruiting process as part of their role. The Nominating Committee and board are open to any number of candidates to run for a board seat. The board encourages a diverse group of people to run, as the Co-op benefits from varied skills sets and backgrounds in the governance process. If possible, the board seeks at least two candidates for each open seat. The Nominating Committee makes a good faith effort to ascertain that each candidate will faithfully represent the interests of the shareholders of the cooperative.
Voting for board members is open for one month; shareholders receive ballots in the mail as a part of the Annual Report in October. Shareholders can mail in their ballot, put it the ballot box at the Co-op or drop it off at the Annual Meeting. The ballots include statements written by each candidate to provide perspective on their backgrounds, passions, and qualifications as candidates for a board seat. For more information, shareholders are invited to attend the Annual Meeting in November and speak with the candidates in person.
This is democracy at its best! Help elect candidates that share values important to the Co-op and important to you! Take time to read the candidates’ statements and please vote! Make your voice heard!