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TALKING ABOUT BLUEBONNET: Town Halls showcase the co-op

0412
 2016


General Manager Mark Rose, left, welcomed visitors to the Bastrop Town Hall at Bluebonnet’s Headquarters, telling the crowd that safety is not only part of the co-op’s culture, it’s one of its Foundation Values. Lineman Kenneth Roush showed off some of the safety gear crews wear while working in the field.

Story by Janet Wilson
Photos by Sarah Beal, Lukas Keapproth and Spencer Selvidge


Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s recent district Town Hall meetings were a hit. About 200 co-op members and area residents dropped by to meet the people who supply their electricity and learn about the co-op’s services and future plans. 

Norris Rohde, one of dozens who attended the Brenham Town Hall, raises his hand when he learns he has won a Nest thermostat.

Bluebonnet’s Board Chairman Ben Flencher greets Bill Landiss, president and CEO of First National Bank Giddings, during the Giddings Town Hall.

District 3 Bluebonnet Board Director Roderick L. Emanuel welcomes Chris McDonald to the Manor Town Hall.
 
The meetings at Bluebonnet’s Headquarters in Bastrop and at public venues in Brenham, Giddings, Lockhart and Manor had the informal feel of a mini expo. A sixth Town Hall will be held April 13 in Caldwell. 
 
Bluebonnet directors, executives and employees were on hand to meet and greet, answer questions and provide educational handouts on everything from vegetation management to energy conservation. 
 
The smaller venues offered co-op members a comfortable setting to learn more about the company they own. 
 
“This was the first round of what we call our district Town Hall meetings,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet’s general manager. “Much of the information we present in these meetings will also be shown during our Annual Meeting in Giddings in May. But Town Hall meetings allow us to reach members who can’t attend the Annual Meeting as well as those who just want to stay informed.” 
 
During each 90-minute Town Hall gathering, visitors wandered among colorful exhibits about Bluebonnet operations. They talked to co-op field employees about how trees and vegetation are managed in rights-of-way. At the community representative table, they learned about youth programs, grants and other outreach services and they updated account information at the member service table. 
 
A 15-minute video highlighted some of Bluebonnet’s 2015 milestones. Those include plans for Bluebonnet Choice, a program to allow members to choose their energy generation portfolio, future satellite service centers in the Manor and San Marcos areas, a new $3 million community grants program and the 10-year anniversary of the co-op’s toll-free member services Call Center in Bastrop. 
 

Bluebonnet’s Daniel Fowler, in Lockhart, answers questions about how the co-op’s website and mobile app simplify paying bills and reporting outages.

Deputy General Manager Matt Bentke tells the crowd about Bluebonnet’s strong financial health and how the co-op is poised to handle population and business growth.

Vince May, left, examines meters and other equipment the co-op uses to provide safe and reliable electricity to the region while Bluebonnet employees Phillip Ellis, David Tobola, Randall Bownds and Marti Wright stand by for questions.
Members learned about the co-op’s solid finances and its ability to handle the explosive population growth and housing and business development predicted for the Bluebonnet service area in the next few years. It was exactly the kind of information that Judy Wilke and Bill Vogt had come to hear. 
 
The Bastrop County couple, who have been Bluebonnet members for more than a decade, regularly attend the Annual Meeting. They vote for directors and hear a state-of-the-cooperative report at that meeting. They are “always ready to hear how the co-op is doing,” Wilke said, and were excited when they heard about the Town Halls. 
 
“We liked going to all the (exhibit) tables and talking to the presenters and learning things we didn’t know,” Wilke said. “I have the mobile app but I didn’t know until the Town Hall that I can report outages from the app instead of calling the outage number.” 
 
Vogt has never asked a question at the Annual Meeting, which usually draws a crowd of several hundred, but he felt comfortable speaking up in the smaller Town Hall setting. 
 
“It was more personal — getting to talk to a real human being,” Wilke added. “We told our neighbors how much we enjoyed it and will definitely be back next year.” 
 
If you missed the first five 2016 district Town Halls, Bluebonnet is hosting one April 13 from 6-7:30 p.m., at the Caldwell Civic and Visitors Center, 103 Texas 21 West in Caldwell. The co-op will host Town Halls again in 2017. 
 
Call 800-842-7708 for information. Look for notices on Bluebonnet’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, at bluebonnet.coop, in Texas Co-op Power magazine and in messages sent with your electric bills.
 

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