We have reached the end of this remarkable election! If you are reading this message, and it’s before 9:00 p.m. on Saturday April 30, please vote at mycoopvote.com – or hustle down to the Lebanon Co-op Food Store (which stays open until 9:00).
Everything you need to know about this election you can get from looking at the letters that have appeared in the Valley News over the past few weeks. The fact that there have been so many of them tells most of the story. People in this community care deeply about the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society.
And well they should. For 80 years, the Co-op has stood against the tide of cynicism and avarice in our economy and our culture. Everyone talks about socially responsible business; the Co-op has been doing it for eight decades, providing people with great foods, great jobs, and great insight along the way.
Of the ten candidates in this election, I am not the smartest. I’ve heard some very keen insights during the election conversation.
I am not the most temperate. Everyone knows that, over the course of my 13 years of active involvement in the Co-op, I have sometimes let my passions run away with me (though I have always been willing to change my mind about things as facts become known). More often, I just get verbose. (Hence this long message.)
I’m not the most reform-minded. I have not, for example, demanded the reinstatement of the two employees whose dismissals in 2014 turned the Co-op into a public flashpoint.
And I am not the most loyal to the Co-op’s current leadership. I think its circle-the-wagons approach to the past two years of controversy, showing outright contempt for activists even when they got themselves elected to the board, has been profoundly mistaken and unworthy of an organization that reveres the notion of “democratic member control.”
My superlative: Nobody among the ten candidates cares more about the Co-op than I do. I have been in the audience for every Board meeting of the past year except one (I missed the February meeting to attend an oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington) and have been posting my accounts of these meetings here. I’ve studied the cooperative business model and its history. I’ve provided legal advice to Co-ops around the country. I’ve been the president of our Co-op’s Board as well as president of the Board of the Cooperative Fund of New England. In March, I had the honor of speaking at the annual meeting of the Neighboring Food Co-ops Association, as the author of the “Middlebury Manifesto” – the document that unites these cooperative grocers from around our region.
I may pay the price for my independence.
One letter-writing campaign we've seen in the Valley News supports Kevin Birdsey, Dana Grossman, Ed Howes, and Benoit Roisin. Everyone gets five votes, and you might logically add my name to those of these fine people who have deep experience with the Co-op. But unlike Kevin, Dana, Ed and Benoit I am not perceived as a loyal supporter of the current general manager (despite my great affection and respect for him).
Another letter-writing campaign supports the so-called Concerned About the Co-op (CATC) candidates, of which I am one (along with Liz Blum, Bill Craig, Annie McDonald and Phil Pochoda). But the CATC letters don't consistently support my candidacy -- my name is conspicuously missing from one of the CATC letters in today's paper, for example -- because I have not agreed with CATC 100 percent of the time either.
I'm just someone who cares deeply about the Co-op, knows a lot about cooperatives and our co-op in particular, who thinks for himself, and who brings to each discussion a sincere willingness to reconsider my views. If elected, I promise to reach out to my colleagues with respect and kindness.
I hope, therefore, that if you haven’t voted yet, you will consider voting today and supporting me in particular. But regardless of the outcome, I’m not going anywhere. I will stay active and involved in our cooperative. And I am really enthusiastic about the year ahead for the Co-op. I have studied each of the candidates and thought deeply about where the Board is these days. As a result, I am convinced that regardless of who wins, there will in the coming 12 months be a rebirth of kindness, openness, leadership and vision among those tasked with governing our Co-op.