If you were one of the 400+ people who attended our annual meeting on April 17, chances are you were generally pleased with the event. At least that is the overwhelming response from the meeting survey and the comments made to our directors and staff that Saturday morning.
The meeting consisted of a short but informative business session, which included an election of three directors and a necessary change to our Articles of Incorporation. It was concluded with a complimentary lunch which was very well prepared by the Alerus staff.
Of particular interest was a modification in our process for election of directors. For the third year, the option of voting by mail prior to the meeting was made available. Each year, we have made changes to the procedure, not to make life confusing for you, but in an effort to improve deficiencies noted from the previous year.
In 2003, we sent out a special mailing, which included a mail ballot to each member with information about the director election, and a return ballot envelope and mailing envelope. The system worked very well, and we had a record number of members vote in the election that year. The concern we had following the election was that the process was very expensive in printing, stuffing, and postage costs. While we have as an objective to get more members to participate in the election, we also have as an objective to minimize operating costs which are eventually paid by you in your electric rates.
This year, we decided to include the mail ballot option in our Annual Report, which is mailed to each member. We reduced the cost of the mail ballot option by about $20,000, and still gave every member the option to vote by mail. It seemed like a very common-sense solution to accomplish both objectives of offering a mail ballot as well as minimizing operating costs.
We were disappointed this year when we received only about half the number of mail-in ballots as in 2003. In analyzing the process, we quickly realized that we had made a mistake in thinking that a typical member when receiving the Annual Report would see it with the same importance as a special mailing. In fact, many members have told us that they did not look at the Annual Report when it first arrived at their home. When they later got around to looking at the report, it was too late to vote and return the ballot in time for the election at the annual meeting.
We think two things will help to correct the problem caused by our oversight in future years. First, we will make sure we label the outside of the Annual Report in a manner to alert you that a ballot is enclosed. Second, we believe that by consistently using the annual report as a means of distributing ballots, you as a member will become accustomed to looking for the ballot each year when the report is sent out. In short, we intend to quit confusing you with change in the process each year.
Our board of directors believes that the mail-in ballot is a great method of giving more members an opportunity to participate in the cooperative business. We would prefer to see a larger crowd at our annual meeting, but we understand that many of you have conflicts which make attendance very difficult. By taking the time to vote in the director election each year, whether by mail ballot or in person, you are participating in the business in a very important way.