Majority PVEC members vote ‘status quo’

Published 11:15 am Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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Powell Valley Electric Cooperative (PVEC) voters came to the polls on Sept. 15 en masse to elect their favorite contenders for three director seats. However, the hotly-contested campaign netted no shake-up as Roger Ball, David Kindle and Michael Shockley handily won reelection with an average three to one margin.

The three challengers, who were endorsed by the grassroots organization PVEC Member Voices, said during the campaign that they were for change in the way in which specific issues were being handled by the board.

Chief among those were allegations of mismanagement, concerns for better stewardship of the environment and implementing ways to reduce electric rates.

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Ball, Kindle and Shockley countered the accusations with their ‘proof’ of good management decisions, lowered rates and accountability when utilizing the hack-and-spray method to eradicate brush along PVEC rights-of-way.

Ball said during a previous interview that good management by the board has resulted in no increases in the electrical rates in 30 years. Only the wholesale ‘pass through’ rates required by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have been raised, he said.

A good portion of those savings were realized, Ball said, by the streamlining of the PVEC workforce. Thirty years ago, the cooperative had 106 employees who served about 19,500 customers. Currently, 58 individuals are employed to serve some 30,000 customer/members.

During an earlier interview Kindle, who is a farmer, said he had no problem running cattle directly under the electric poles that have been sprayed with the same herbicide cocktail used by PVEC throughout the county.

Shockley, who was also previously interviewed, said he felt the matter had been “blown out of proportion.”

He said a “minute number” of people – 120 to the current 31,000 customers – chose to opt-out of the spray program.

Claiborne resident Jeffrey Lewis, who challenged Ball for his 2nd district seat, said in an earlier interview that he also wanted to open meetings to the general public and the press – something Ball insists has always been the case.

Hancock county resident Bill Kornrich ran for the 7th district seat. As the founding member of the Honeybee Group, Kornrich said in a previous interview that he is greatly concerned about maintaining the quality of our environment.

Kirsty Zahnke, an organic farmer and mother of two, ran for the 8th district seat, representing southwest Virginia. Zahnke said during an earlier interview that she wanted to see PVEC return as a member-driven company.

Over the last 30 years, she said, the cooperative has become insular with just a few people involved in the decision-making.

Her platform included the creation of a vegetation management plan to address what she characterized as problems associated with the current hack-and-spray method used to rid brush from rights-of-way.

The election netted a nearly three to one margin in favor of Ball, who pulled down 945 votes. Lewis lost his bid with 338 votes.

Kindle handily won reelection with 969 votes. Zahnke lost with 301 votes.

Shockley returns to his seat on the board with 970 votes. Kornrich lost his bid with 317 votes.