Democratic Member Control

One of the 7 Cooperative Principles.

Newly elected North Pole City Councilwoman Chandra Clack thoroughly enjoyed her time on GVEA’s 2022 Nominating Committee for District 5. Photo by Grace Wilson

Along with cooperatives around the world, Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) operates according to a core set of 7 principles. These principles, along with the cooperative purpose of improving quality of life for members, make electric cooperatives different from other electric utilities.

One of these important principles is “democratic member control.” GVEA is a democratic organization controlled by our members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions by electing representatives from their district to the board of directors.

Because GVEA exists by and for our members, the board of directors act as trustees of our members’ assets and interests. Directors are expected to act in a manner that is fair and equitable to all GVEA members, not just the members of the district from which they are elected.

Directors are elected for 3-year terms before their district is back up for election. The next board of director seats up for election in the spring of 2023 will be for Districts 1, 2, and 3. Each year, to prepare for the election process, GVEA develops Nominating Committees. These committees seek members from their respective districts to consider running for the GVEA Board of Directors, then interview qualified candidates before ultimately nominating a minimum of two individuals to run for each board seat.

Participating on a nominating committee is a great way to get involved with your electric cooperative and learn more about the election process. To give members a better idea of what serving on a nominating committee is like, we reached out to past committee participants to tell us about their experiences.

Interviewed Members

Heidi Titchenal: District 2, 2011 election year, Chair of the committee

Richard Theilmann: District 2, 2020 election year

Angela Ritchie: District 4, 2021 election year, Chair of the committee

Chandra Clack: District 5, 2022 election year

Terry Hinman: District 7, 2012, 2015, 2018, 2021 election years

Tell us a little about yourself – occupation, community groups you’re involved in, hobbies, etc:

Heidi Titchenal: I am a Network Administrator. I serve on GVEA’s Member Advisory Committee (MAC) and enjoy camping and swimming.

Richard Theilmann: Currently I’m a student, having gone back to university to get my master’s in physics. Prior to that, I worked in the defense industry in electronic warfare for years before coming to Alaska. One of my favorite hobbies is creating musical play lists - from big band and doo-wop through country and pop.

Angela Ritchie: I am a business owner and insurance agent for Country Financial at the Cornerstone Mall. I have lived in North Pole/Fairbanks for the last eight years. I have served on the MAC for the last five years and am involved in several groups, such as my church, missions, quilting, shooting, fishing, hunting, etc. I have three kids and three grandchildren and treasure every moment I get to spend with them.

Chandra Clack: I was born in Fairbanks and received my degree in early childhood development with an emphasis on family support. I worked at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in various positions and had the opportunity to work at Thrivalaska as a family support advisor and Fairbanks Native Association Early Head Start as a preschool teacher before working as a substitute teacher for the Fairbanks School District. I have been on the Spirit of Alaska supervisory committee and on the boards of ThrivAlaska, Early Head Start and Fyndout Free Pregnancy Center. I enjoy sewing, quilting, volunteering at my grandchildren’s school, watching movies with my husband, reading books and playing air hockey, pool and checkers.

Terry Hinman: I am retired from the Alaska Railroad after 32 years.

Was serving on your district’s nominating committee a worthwhile experience? Why or why not?

Richard Theilmann, District 2 Nominating Committee member in 2020, encourages members to get involved in their electric cooperative.

Heidi Titchenal: Yes, absolutely. I enjoyed the work and meeting the potential candidates.

Richard Theilmann: Yes, it was enlightening to hear such diverse comments and meet people to discuss economic conditions.

Angela Ritchie: Great experience. We had a group of members that were eager to reach out to other members in our district to recruit candidates for the District 4 director position. We met as needed and were able to accomplish the tasks set before us.

Chandra Clack: I found working on the District 5 nominating committee a worthwhile experience because it gave me more insight into how directors are appointed, how Golden Valley works, and I found that the staff was very pleasant. I also found that GVEA is always hoping to get the community involved in running for the board of directors and participating on the nominating and member advisory committees. There’s just a lot that Golden Valley has for us as members if we want to be involved.

Terry Hinman: I have been on four nominating committees and found it very interesting and educational. I enjoyed meeting people from the district, both on the nominating committee and the board applicants. Some of them I knew, and some I didn’t, but I did learn interesting facts about their lives in the process.

Was there anything that surprised you about your experience on the nominating committee?

Heidi Titchenal: I was surprised at how efficient the process was. GVEA staff provided orientation, relevant policies and manuals. They were available for questions and guidance and provided reminders of upcoming deadlines, available meeting spaces and additional materials when needed.

Richard Theilmann: Not for myself. It was kind of what I expected, but then again, I’ve been on a lot of committees and attended many meetings.

Angela Ritchie: GVEA has an organized and structured process for the nominating committees. The staff is extremely supportive and ready to assist through the process. They were ready to train us and provide materials and support as needed. I had volunteered and was surprised to learn that there is some compensation for meetings provided by GVEA. So, it was volunteering with a bonus!

Chandra Clack: There is a 2-hour training session in December which lays out the step-by-step process for the committee. Meeting times are scheduled around everyone’s schedule, and you meet several times between December and February. You keep track of when you meet and where, as well as your mileage, and are compensated by GVEA for your time.

Terry Hinman: I was surprised at how difficult it is to find people to be on the nominating committee, at least for District 7. Of course, it’s not easy to find people in my district to be on the MAC or to run for the board either.

What would you say to members who might be interested in participating on a nominating committee, but are unsure?

Terry Hinman has served on 4 nominating committees for District 7 and currently serves on the MAC.

Heidi Titchenal: The only reason not to serve would be if you are running for the board in the next election.

Richard Theilmann: Oh, by all means, join. It’s informal, good discussion about leadership and other points of view.

Angela Ritchie: Jump in – get involved! There is no better way to learn about our electric co-op and to see how hardworking and passionate the GVEA staff are to deliver the best services to members. The director positions are an important role and need to have people who are passionate about learning the power industry and all the variables that must be balanced to keep a successful co-op in place.

Chandra Clack: If you’re interested in participating on a nominating committee, I would say try it. I found it very interesting and enlightening to learn how Golden Valley works. You also get to meet new people. I enjoyed working with the team to interview qualified candidates who were applying for the position.

Terry Hinman: I strongly suggest anyone pondering being on a nominating committee to do so. You learn so much about the cooperative while meeting new people and being an involved cooperative member. Finding committee members isn’t always easy, so apply!

Why do you think it is important for members to be involved in their electric co-op?

Heidi Titchenal: Our community is impacted by past decisions of previous boards, going back decades. Decisions made by the current board will impact future generations.

Richard Theilmann: By far, it’s imperative to understand the how, what, where and when of electricity production. Having that knowledge enables the cooperative to serve the common good and make sound decisions.

Angela Ritchie: It is easy to get your electric bill and be frustrated about high costs. When you get involved at the MAC level and in other committees such as a nominating committee, you get to
learn all about what goes into making it a successful co-op and the efforts made to keep costs down. We are all members working together and that’s what makes it our own.

Chandra Clack: I feel that it’s important for us to be involved so we know exactly what is going on at Golden Valley. We know what our money is being spent on, and we’re able to share information with others in our community.

Terry Hinman: Since Golden Valley Electric Association is a member-owned cooperative it is in the interest of the members to be involved in who has oversight of the organization and who makes decisions affecting all members. With the board having so much responsibility, it is important to have good guidance.

Anything else to add?

Angela Ritchie serves as Chair of the District 4 Nominating Committee in 2021 and highly recommends it to any members who might be interested.

Heidi Titchenal: Just do it! Volunteer!

Richard Theilmann: If it’s something that interests you, try it out and apply!

Angela Ritchie: GVEA continues to reach out to all members for input and ways to improve. This is a way members can represent their community, let the concerns be heard and be an active part of the solution to make GVEA better for all members.

Chandra Clack: Golden Valley has many opportunities for people who would like to participate. Power is knowledge and when you don’t have the knowledge, then you don’t know how to make proper decisions. This is a great chance as a volunteer to learn more about Golden Valley.

Terry Hinman: You are compensated financially for time and mileage; however, I think the process in and of itself is very worthwhile.