Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s 11-member governing board unanimously voted during yesterday’s meeting to change how directors are elected, ending the current at-large voting and proxy system and moving toward district representation.
“We have been discussing the possibility of going to a district voting system for about two years,” said Richard Schmidt, Bluebonnet’s board president. “Last year’s wildfires caused us to put off any decision as a board, but we put it in our five-year business plan.
“After careful consideration, we took this action now because we want the board to be accessible to all the communities in our service area. We will establish the fairest districts, ensuring balanced representation for all our members. Our goal is to increase member participation in our elections,” Schmidt said.
Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays and Travis counties account for more than 60 percent of Bluebonnet’s 81,000 meters. With the projected growth along the Texas 130 corridor in Travis and Caldwell counties, the imbalance in meters will grow even greater in the years to come.
Bluebonnet’s directors will develop a plan to evenly divide the co-op’s service area, which lies within all or part of 14 Central Texas counties. The board expects to present its plan for final approval during its September 2012 meeting. If all goes according to schedule, the first election cycle with district elections will be in 2013.
“This is an important step that our board is taking to ensure all communities in our service area have fair and balanced representation,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet’s general manager. “Our population is heavily weighted toward the western end of our service area. With the current at-large voting process, it’s pretty easy to see how we could end up with very few directors from the eastern side of our service area.
“This has never been a problem in the past, but it could be going forward. The board thought it was better to change the election process now, before it became an issue.”
Currently, Bluebonnet members choose their directors in at-large elections in May during the co-op’s annual meeting. The directors serve staggered, three-year terms and three or four seats are up for election each year, depending on the year.
Candidates for Bluebonnet’s board can be nominated three ways. They can be selected by the nominating committee, turn in a petition with at least 50 signatures from co-op members, or be nominated from the floor during the annual meeting. In the past four years, directors have been successfully nominated and elected by all three methods.
Under the current at-large voting process, members who attend the annual meeting can cast their own vote. If members can’t attend the annual meeting, or if they simply choose not to, they can give their proxy to another person or to Bluebonnet’s proxy committee. Members can tell the committee for which candidates to vote or allow it to choose from among the candidates.
A proxy is the authority for someone to vote on behalf of another person. The proxy committee’s members are directors who are not up for election in that year. It meets during the annual meeting to decide for which candidates it will vote the proxies assigned to it.
The decision to move from at-large voting will effectively end the co-op’s proxy committee. In most cases where elections are held by district, proxies are not assigned. Or if they are, they’re assigned to individuals, not a proxy committee.
“Transparency is critically important during this process,” Rose said. “As the board decides what fair and balanced districts will look like, we’ll solicit input from our members from start to finish. We’ll use Texas Co-op Power magazine, our website, social media sites and other means to communicate our board’s progress and to receive input from our members. And long before any election is held in 2013, we’ll inform our members of everything they need to know in order to participate in the election and have a say in who represents them and how their co-op is run.”
Keep checking The Bluebonnet Blog to stay informed of the board’s progress as it works through the summer to develop districts. Or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news.