‘Church Ladies’ busily tallying IREA board election results

Votes are being counted in the closely watched Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) board election after a lightly attended annual meeting in Woodland Park over the weekend, but results reportedly won’t be available till the end of the week.

A group of vote counters known as “the Church Ladies” of Kiowa Community Church started tallying the ballots Monday and will count a district a day, finishing the count in the three-district race by Wednesday. But then the final count must be certified, so observers don’t expect final results in the controversial race until Thursday or Friday.

A group of three challengers who favor more investment in renewable energy — Mike Galvin, John Masson and Charles Bucknam — are taking on three longtime incumbents — Gene Sperry, Bruff Shea and George Hier — in districts 3, 5 and 7, respectively

The challengers hope to shake up the board of the state’s largest rural electric co-op, which has nearly 138,000 members stretching from the suburbs south, west and east of Denver to the communities west of Colorado Springs. They accuse the current board of rubber-stamping a pro-coal agenda that flies in the face of global-warming science.

Supporters of renewable energy have charged the IREA board and its controversial general manager, Stan Lewandowski, of giving them cold shoulder in the past, but Galvin said Saturday’s annual board meeting — lightly attended because of a spring snowstorm — was civil.

“The tenor of the meeting was pleasant,” Galvin wrote in an e-mail. “There were perhaps two dozen speakers, divided between critics and supporters of IREA. People were respectful and there was no cheering or jeering.”

Two groups have formed to influence the co-op: ICARE (IREA Consumers for Affordable and Reliable Energy) that backs the incumbents and IREA Voices, which is pushing a pro-conservation agenda through board challengers. IREA spokesman former state Sen. William Schroeder Jr., said the fate of the co-op is up to its members.

“My experience in the election process is that if you don’t get out and make your case, you’re going to lose. So it’s not up to this corporation to make that case; it’s up to the elected board members to make those cases and that’s why you have these two groups,” said Schroeder.

“It’ll be up to our voters. And once they make their decision, why shouldn’t that hold up even if they elect the other side? Why should the general assembly be coming in and changing the direction of an elected board?”

Schroeder has been critical of current legislation aimed in part at IREA, such as Senate Bill 39 and House Bill 1323.

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