In 1976, in an effort better educate its members about the functions and operations of their cooperative, Southern Pine began to form a volunteer task force. In the beginning, twelve couples were selected system-wide to represent the membership at-large and serve a one year term. The cooperative manager, board members, and the Member Services Department had input in the selection of task force members. Once the initial task force was formed, they met three times annually with the co-op manager, often in the home of a task force member or at the Brewton or Frisco City office.
As the cooperative continued to grow, it was decided to increase the size of the task force from twelve couples to twenty couples. Meetings were held at convenient locations within each task force group’s service area, whether at a local restaurant or at a Southern Pine owned facility.
In 1986, it was decided that one board member and one staff member in addition to the cooperative manager should attend each task force meeting. This was done in an effort to further explore issues and opinions that surfaced during task force meetings. Staff and board members could then present and reflect on important ideas, suggestions and opinions with their fellow members at board and staff meetings.
Today, Southern Pine’s task force is composed of forty-eight couples, twelve couples from each service area, who serve a one year term. There are four separate groups: The Atmore Task Force, the Brewton Task Force, the Evergreen Task Force and the Frisco City Task Force. Meetings continue to be held in convenient locations within the service area of each group. Currently, meetings are held quarterly and generally last for two hours.
The first series are held in late January and focus on our Marketing Department. Task force members learn about Southern Pine’s water heater program, our energy efficiency home programs, building trends, etc. This information is very beneficial and, if applied appropriately, may help each consumer save hard-earned dollars.
The second series of meetings, task force members are presented with detailed information concerning the day-to-day operations and maintenance of Southern Pine. Power restoration and rights-of-way maintenance procedures are discussed. These details help consumers realize that their co-op is striving to properly maintain their equipment, while working on a daily basis to improve system-wide.
In our third series of meetings we concentrate on the history of the Rural Utility Service, as well as in-depth discussions of the financial issues of the co-op. Members have the opportunity to learn first-hand where their dollars are spent and how the co-op manages the consumers’ money. The Touchstone Energy brand and our partnership with them is also explained at this meeting.
Our fourth and final meeting of the year occurs during the first week in December. Members of all four task forces come together in the Brewton headquarters for a delicious meal and a time of fellowship. Information is recapped, remaining questions answered, and suggestions of other members, made for future task force members.
More than 600 couples have participated in the task force program that is now in it’s 44th year. Members who have taken advantage of the opportunity to serve on the task force have found themselves exposed to a host of valuable information concerning their co-op. As the task force program has evolved, task force members have also found themselves in an advisory capacity, often presenting ideas and suggestions that later become cooperative policy. Task force members also enjoy helping at our Annual Meeting that is held each year on the Saturday before Labor Day weekend.