Bluebonnet’s Board of Directors voted in October to change how co-op members elect their directors. The unanimous vote amended the co-op’s bylaws, dividing its service area into seven districts that will be represented by one to three directors, depending on the number of meters in each district, among other factors.
The districts are drawn along Bluebonnet’s service area boundary and county lines. None of the five counties entirely in Bluebonnet’s service area were divided into separate districts. When drawing the district boundaries, the board considered the number of meters per district and which counties and communities were near one another and have similar qualities.
“This is perhaps the most significant change to the bylaws in the co-op’s nearly 75-year history,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet’s general manager. “Bluebonnet’s members have always been superbly and equally represented by their directors and have always enjoyed fair, open board elections.
“But as population in our service area increases, there’s the potential for unequal representation weighted toward the more populous counties on the western side of our service area. The board’s action ensures that all members will be equally and fairly represented.”
The number of meters in the seven districts will vary from nearly 30,000 to about 4,000. Bluebonnet provides power to 82,000 meters across 3,800 square miles in 14 Central Texas counties.
District 3, which is Bastrop County and has the most meters, will be represented by three directors.
Caldwell, Guadalupe, Gonzales and Hays counties make up District 1 and will be represented by two directors. District 7, which is Washington County, will be represented by two directors.
The remaining districts – District 2, Travis County; District 4, Lee, Milam and Williamson counties; District 5, Burleson County; and District 6, Austin, Colorado and Fayette counties – will each be represented by one director. That keeps the number of directors at 11.
Under the new district representation system, Bastrop County gained one seat on the board and Burleson County, which is currently represented by two directors, lost one seat on the board. The third director from Bastrop County will be elected during the 2013 Annual Meeting.
Previously, no more than two directors could live in the same county.
Bluebonnet’s directors also voted to change how board candidates are nominated. Now, candidates can be nominated by either presenting a nominating petition with at least 50 signatures from co-op members in their respective districts or by paying a $250 filing fee.
Previously, candidates were nominated by the co-op’s nominating committee (which was appointed by the board), by petition or from the floor during the annual meeting.
The board also voted to put two issues on a referendum for members to vote on during the 2013 Annual Meeting on May 14.
The first issue is whether to continue at-large elections, in which members vote for each seat up for election regardless of which district each seat represents, or to go to single-member district voting. That method allows members to only vote for directors running to represent the district where the member’s meter/meters are located.
The second issue on which members will be asked to vote during next year’s meeting is whether to continue the option of voting by proxy or go to ballot-only voting.
A proxy is the authority for someone to vote on behalf of another person. Proxies are a way for members who cannot or do not attend the annual meeting to participate in the election. During this year’s meeting, 7,293 members voted by proxy.
Currently, Bluebonnet members can either assign their proxy to another person or to the co-op’s proxy committee to vote on their behalf. The proxy committee is made up of directors who are not up for election in that year. The committee decides during the annual meeting for which candidates it will vote its assigned proxies.
“The board began discussing making these changes a couple of years ago,” said Rick Schmidt, Bluebonnet’s board chairman. “After careful consideration and after hearing from our members, the board decided the right thing to do was to have the members vote on changes to the proxy system and whether to continue at-large elections. The ability for our members to vote on important issues is what sets cooperatives apart from other types of utilities.”