Co-Op Watchdog Endorses Candidates
Hanover — A year after three reform-minded candidates joined the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society’s Board of Directors, the same protest group they represent has endorsed five more contenders in April’s elections, where it potentially stands to gain a majority on the board.
Ten candidates are running for five seats in the annual board election, which will take place throughout the month of April. Only six potential directors have been deemed “suitably qualified” by the Co-op’s nominating committee; the rest are running by petition, and will have that noted on the ballot.
The activist group Concerned About the Co-op has endorsed five contenders in the election: Bill Craig, Phil Pochoda, Liz Blum, Donald Kreis and Ann MacDonald. Another member of Concerned About the Co-op, Sean Clauson, is running independently.
One of the group’s sitting board members, Brett Tofel, said Concerned About the Co-op’s presence on the board has had limited impact because it is in the minority. He also expressed concern that the directors were deferring too much to management.
“To really make progress, we almost kind of need a clean sweep of reform-minded candidates,” Tofel said in a telephone interview Thursday. “We do have a toehold on this board and it has made some changes, but man, the level of stonewalling we have run into … There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Although five seats are up, including those of board members John Rosenquest, Susan Sanzone Fauver and Benoit Roisin, only four three-year terms are available.
Roisin was named to the board last year to finish a departing member’s term, and the Co-op’s bylaws require that appointees serve only until the next election, Board President Margaret Drye said.
This year’s election also will expand the board to 12 members from 11.
Roisin, the only director seeking re-election, is one of the six candidates with nominating committee approval. The others are Pochoda, Kreis, Edwin Howes, Dana Cook Grossman and Kevin Birdsey.
MacDonald, Clauson, Blum and Craig are running as petition candidates.
The top four vote-getters will win three-year terms, and the fifth-place finisher will serve for one year, according to Drye.
“We’ve had a lot of turnover for people moving on to different jobs and things,” Drye said, “so we’ve had a lot of partial terms filled in the last decade or so.”
The elections will mark the last days of service for Drye, who plans to step down this year after 13 years on the board.
“When I got re-elected three years ago, I kind of figured that that was going to be my last term,” Drye said. “I am now the longest serving ever in the history of the Co-op — and I haven’t missed a meeting yet.”
Drye said she had mixed feelings about her retirement as a director.
“It has been probably the most challenging and the most rewarding board work I’ve ever done,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about co-ops and the cooperative movement. That’s something I’ll take with me to support, whether I’m on the board or not. I’ve really become a real convert; this is a wonderful way to do business.”
The Co-op in coming months will handle another high-profile replacement: that of General Manager Terry Appleby, who announced in January that he plans to retire at the end of the year.
The Board of Directors has appointed a nine-member “Succession Planning Task Force,” headed by board member Michael Bettman, to find Appleby’s replacement. According to meeting minutes, resumes are due by April 1, and the committee hopes to present the full board with candidates in June.
Appleby is not the only member of management to leave his post this year. Finance Director Tony Alongi is departing to take a cooperative job in Bloomington, Ind., and Operations Director Tony White now is in Portland, Ore., working as an adviser to a national co-op, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Meanwhile, in this year’s election, members may cast their ballots online or at a Co-op food store from April 1 until April 30.
Rob Wolfe can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3242.