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Inside Pioneer’s boardroom, the Pioneer chair of the board of trustees taps the gavel against the table to call the meeting to order. Nine board members are seated at a v-shaped table, and the board secretary calls the roll. It’s 8:30 a.m. on the last Tuesday of the month, the day of the week selected by this year’s board for their monthly meetings. President and Chief Executive Officer Ron Salyer and a staff liaison, a position that alternates each month, find extra seats at the boardroom table. This scene is repeated each month when the board meets to discuss cooperative business.
All board members are expected to review the previous month’s minutes, changes are requested, a motion to approve is requested, that motion is made, and seconded — motion carried.
This approval process is long-standing and required in order to approve decisions during the board meeting. It not only ensures that there is a majority of board members who approve of decisions, it also allows any board member who may not agree the opportunity to oppose.
Following the approval of minutes, the board chair leads the approval of capital credit retirements and new memberships before moving on to other agenda items such as new projects and opportunities for new growth updates.
The president and CEO provides this information. He shares project details, costs, and potential plans with the board. The board then has the opportunity to ask questions, ensuring their understanding. Along with their education and training, asking questions is essential for ensuring that each member of the board of trustees is a knowledgeable liaison for Pioneer and its membership.
“I’m 50/50 on this — does anyone have opinions on this matter?” asks Ron Salyer, Pioneer’s president and CEO, who consistently asks for the boards input and feedback on various projects that have potential for additional research and exploration.
One trustee raises his hand and shares his opinion. Another chimes in with his thoughts, and suddenly a conversation is started. Eventually, a compromise is reached.
The board chair requests consensus of the board around the table to determine the decision and next steps for moving forward.
Shortly before 11 a.m., the manager or director of each of Pioneer’s departments makes their way into the meeting, prepared with presentations, statistics, and notes to share with the board of trustees in an effort to get them up to speed on day-to-day operations and what has happened at Pioneer throughout the past month.
“We think it’s important that every staff member gives his/her own report to the board of trustees. It not only allows them to present information firsthand, but it provides the board the opportunity to have a two-way conversation with the person in charge of each department,” says Salyer.
Depending on the agenda for each month, a co-op staff member may discuss pertinent topics affecting cooperatives around the nation or survey results and how Pioneer stands in comparison to other co-ops. This helps ensure the board has the knowledge necessary to offer recommendations, and Pioneer is able to incorporate suggestions and questions from the board for improvement and to better meet the expectations of Pioneer’s member-consumers.
In addition to gaining an abundance of knowledge at each month’s meeting, board members receive tools and resources that have been created by Pioneer employees to help answer member questions.
The board of trustees is privy to confidential information as well as apprised of minor details, to help them perform their duties and make the best decisions on behalf of the membership.
And that’s also where the education and training portion of a board member’s role comes in. Board members are expected to attend a number of classes and trainings to bring knowledge and understanding back to the boardroom.
Each board member is expected to attain their Credentialed Cooperative Director certificate within his/her first term, then their Board Leadership Certificate in the second term, and their Director Gold Certification (CDG) prior to the completion of their third term. This means they are each required to take at least 18 different classes covering numerous cooperative topics through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
After they’ve attained their CDG, each board member is required to complete continuing education courses — earning three credits for each additional two years of service on the board.
Board members may also be asked to attend conferences or meetings on behalf of the cooperative throughout the year as well.
At the end of the meeting, the board chair asks the board for any additional concerns or areas of discussion and at approximately 3:30 p.m., the gavel again hits the table, and the meeting is adjourned.
In most cases, the board will not meet again until the following month; however, board trustees are required to attend county board meetings and special meetings if the need arises in between scheduled monthly meetings.