Co-op's annual meeting draws celebratory crowd

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The climbing wall set up for the Palmetto Electric Cooperative Annual Meeting was one of the most popular attractions. PHOTO BY SAM POSTHUMA

On May 6, Palmetto Electric Cooperative hosted its Annual Meeting, an all-day event with roots stretching back to the Cooperative's foundation in the early 1940s.

Every year, the public is invited to attend the meeting and enjoy food, music, entertainment and giveaways in preparation for the evening's election, where registered members vote for directors to serve on the Co-op's board.

The event featured musical acts by Lowcountry performers Shannon Tanner and The Headliners, as well as a live auction, a children's inflatable slide and a rock-climbing wall. The flea market section featured a number of vendors from the area, offering items from clothes and jewelry to custom knives and electronics.

"It's a day to celebrate and have our members come out and enjoy themselves," said Berl Davis, president and CEO of the Cooperative. "They own the Cooperative. This is their day."

Palmetto Electric was created in 1940 by a group of residents in response to the lack of electrical service in rural areas. Now, the Cooperative services more than 66,000 residents in Hampton, Beaufort and Jasper counties.

"I remember when I was a kid going to the annual meetings," said Davis. "On Wednesday nights, I used to ride the tractors. They would bring a circus to town and pitch a big tent. My mother still calls it 'the fair.'"

This year's event saw 4,650 Palmetto Electric members register, bringing their families to enjoy the day's festivities. This strong showing coincides with this year's theme, "The Power of Teamwork," a nod to how the community pulled together following the destruction of Hurricane Matthew.

The storm brought with it an increase in customer interaction through services such as the Cooperative's mobile app and social media pages.

"You can do so many things through the mobile app," said Missy Santorum, public relations manager for the Cooperative. "The one thing that helped boost the numbers was the storm. Hurricane Matthew was one of the biggest turns in media communication in my career."

The event's capstone was the annual giveaway of a car provided by Palmetto Electric. This year's grand prizewinner was Michelle Laurel of Pineland, who took home a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid.

Sam Posthuma of Bluffton is a freelance writer and production assistant for The Bluffton Sun.

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