My Cooperative Journey by Alicia Bonesteele
My cooperative journey began when a Salem Electric member encouraged me to place my name on the ballot as a candidate for the Board of Directors. At the time, all board members had been men. With a hesitant heart, I decided to give it a try. The year was 1987.
Prior to being elected to the Salem Electric Board of Directors, I already had some hands-on experience working with Salem Electric staff. I served as a safety consultant for the worker’s compensation insurance company that provided Salem Electric with coverage. I had previously met with a well-educated and trained safety committee and crew, they needed no tips from me.
Looking back over my 33 years spent serving as a board director, the industry has grown and changed dramatically. The terminology used in the co-op field is specific and classes are plentiful with cooperatives in 47 states. As technology exploded, instructors rushed to update. It all started with the light bulb and conservation, the need to develop our own energy resources rather than depend on foreign nations to keep us supplied. The compact fluorescent bulb was introduced, then phased out in favor of the LED bulb that saves us money with its longevity. Renewables are in focus, but do present challenges. The dams that produce hydropower cause concerns for fish. For homeowners like myself, about 25% of the population lives in deep shaded areas and cannot depend on solar. Wind turbines are turned off when wind velocity reaches 42 miles per hour and their blades endanger the Sage Grouse found in several western states including Oregon. Fracking, a process of extracting natural gas from shale in North Dakota, is suspect in the cause of a series of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Oregon State University was working on harnessing wave energy when the buoy-type vessel came unmoored. Broadband for better communication between small towns is beginning to be addressed, as are charging stations for electric vehicles. On the immediate agenda is wildfire mitigation.
At Salem Electric our new Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is providing daily data to answer the questions our members expect with little wait time. Ongoing cybersecurity protection against foreign interference over the internet is strongly monitored.
As my journey serving on the Board draws to a close, I will miss networking with longtime friends, statewide and across the country speaking out about issues that affect the Northwest and Congress. Salem Electric’s board and staff have been a family to me for a long time. I have served under four managers, each with a different style, with times changing rapidly, but with the same goals in mind. You have given me a great opportunity and I retire with good memories. It has been quite a journey.