A Board Member’s Election Experience

by Kevin Birdsey

“Some day,” I would think to myself, “when I leave my job here, I’ll run for the Board. Just to stay involved.” I hoped to be the champion of employees, a working-class voice on our Co-op’s Board of Directors. I had grown passionate about democratic ownership and operation, the co-op model.

Then one day I was behind the register, a peer bagging for me, and a director came into my line. It was recruitment time, and she mentioned to us both that the Board then lacked employee directors.

“Oh, that’s Kevin,” my co-worker replied, knowing I would be interested in that opportunity. Appreciating the compliment, I still felt the time was not right. Still something for a later time.

But over time, I became concerned that our directors would be spending substantial time considering employment issues without an employee on the Board. I used social media numerous times to speak out. Two co-workers suggested I run for the Board, because I was comfortable saying the things they wanted said. Directors strive to represent the entire membership, not any one group. I was concerned co-workers might look to me to represent their interests exclusively. Regardless of this concern, I was emboldened by my co-workers’ trust and knew my experience would lend diversity to the Board.

The time was right.

I applied to be on the ballot and campaigning soon began. I made a campaign-specific Facebook page and posted my views often. I gave the most passionate speech I could at the Annual Meeting. I campaigned from candidate tables set up in the stores. I found myself helping members submit their ballots, both while “tabling” and as part of my regular work duties. I smiled even if I had an inkling I was not one of their choices. It was a high-profile Board election. Much was written and said that unfortunately portrayed candidates as being on opposing sides of a truly multi-faceted issue. I took it all in stride, even when a letter to the Valley News invoked my name in connection to a position I disagreed with.

Voting concluded and I had the most votes of ten candidates. I note this not to brag, but to contrast my success with my earlier doubts. In serving, my passion for the co-op model has grown even greater. Clearly, the time was right.

And now the time is right for you.

Management knows our Co-op will thrive and stay relevant in an evolving retail grocery industry by engaging with us, the members. Serving on our Board is the peak of member engagement.

What reasons might you have for running for our Board? What perspective or experience could you lend by serving?

Perhaps you are a part of an underrepresented demographic. Perhaps you have served on a board previously. Perhaps you just thoroughly enjoy stepping into one of our Co-op Food Stores. In all cases, now is the right time to run.

This year, I am chair of the Election Committee, a group tasked with helping you through the application and election process. We encourage you to thoughtfully consider serving on the Board of Directors. Please e-mail Elections@coopfoodstore.com for more information on applying, the election, and serving.

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The Board represents all the member-owners in developing and maintaining the vision and long-term viability of the Co-op. Learn more at coopfoodstore.coop/board.
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