Directors must live in the zoned area they represent, though all members of the nonprofit electric utility may vote for all 10 director seats.
There are eight candidates for Area 7, which includes part of Kennesaw below Cobb Parkway. The seat is currently held by RJ Patel, who was appointed to the board just last year and is standing for election. The Cobb EMC Owners Association has endorsed Charles Malcolm Swanson for this seat. The six other known candidates are Charles Spann Jr., Dr. Larry Baker, Bill Cominos, Paul Phillips, Karen Thornburgh and Vance Booker. Andy Crowe has withdrawn.
Area 10 is the south Georgia “Pataula” district. Incumbent Henry Balkcom is seeking re-election, and is being challenged by Cheryl Grubbs Meadows and Rick Dent.
Information on all of the remaining candidates can be found at mdjonline.com.
— Kim Isaza
Charles A. Spann Jr.
Family: Wife, Wanda, 4 children, granddaughter
Occupation: Retired Cobb County Police Officer and current law enforcement officer
Education: Some college
If elected, what is your main objective as a director? To insure transparency occurs and continues. I will also keep the membership informed by making myself available to them mostly through email only because of the number of members. I will meet with them personally when time permits.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? I have served on several boards and fully understand the process. The board has to first adhere to the laws and rules of the State of Georgia, and almost all boards operate by Robert’s Rule of Order.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? I favor a forensic audit now and anytime there is even the hint of mismanagement of funds and financial practices. I am not in favor of forensic audits as a general standard.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? I believe the recently announced initiatives are a good start with the understanding that the membership may see other needs develop as we have open meetings, better communication, and advisory board. I believe the bills should read, EMC” because that is who we are. As for the logo change, lets go back to who we are, COBB EMC.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I want the endorsement and vote from all the membership, because that is who I will represent.
One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner’s Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting process but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? First let me say I appreciate all the CEOA has done to make this opportunity more achievable; however, I would not drop out of the race. I believe all of the membership should have the opportunity to determine whether I should represent them on the board, and the only way for that to happen is to remain in the race.
Dr. Larry D. Baker, CSP
Residence: Marietta, 30064
Family: Wife, Sara; three adult children; five grandchildren
Occupation: Professor of Management Strategies, Operations and Performance — Shorter University for last 13 years; owner of an international management consulting firm for the last 31 years; Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), for the last 33 years; Secretary & Treasurer, Continental Beverage Company, wine wholesale company — Marietta
Education: Indiana University School of Business Administration - BSBA, 1968, Highest Distinction, ranked 5th among 783 Business Majors; MBA, 1970; Doctorate in BA, 1972
Other Community Activities: Volunteer consultant for the last 10 years, Cobb Chamber of Commerce, 4 CEO Roundtables comprising more than 60 CEOs; Life-long Chairman, Business — Industry Advisory Council, Lions World Services for the Blind, Little Rock
If elected, what is your main objective as a director? To restore the confidence that Cobb EMC’s owners/cus- tomers, employees, and community have the right to expect, all based on the honesty, openness, and trust needed for Cobb EMC to achieve its strategic, operational, and performance goals.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? What I know about running Cobb EMC is that it has more Federal and State regulations to which it must adhere than most private businesses. Its owners are its members/customers, as are many of its employees who are also its members/customers. They have the authority to elect their Board of Directors, a greater base of customer and employee ownership power than experienced in most private businesses. Cobb EMC is a not-for-profit organization; its board of directors is responsible for protecting, maintaining, and replacing its assets, plus generating sufficient reserves (what is called profit in private businesses) to expand the financial returns of its owners/customers and take advantage of additional revenue opportunities. Therefore, running Cobb EMC is somewhat different than most of the companies I had to learn about to properly advise them about their strategic futures, image and identity, structure, operations, and culture — yet, there are more similarities than differences.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? Yes, the Cobb EMC Board of Directors has an enormous fiduciary responsibility to all of its owners/members. Those who have ultimate responsibility for its operations and are accountable for its success must be above reproach and be prepared for any legitimate audit at any time.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes; all motives and actions of the Board of Directors and other decision makers must stand the challenge of public scrutiny.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? Currently, I do not know enough about the “pros” and “cons” involved with this project. However, I will make a major time commitment to learning about the project, as well as other matters, before the November election.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner’s Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting process but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? I would welcome the support of any legitimate reform group that has the best interest of Cobb EMC guiding its programs. Those groups are having the opportunity to learn about me. If I do not measure up to their standards, which will be known before the November election or after the votes are counted. I feel it is important the viability of my candidacy must stand the scrutiny of all Cobb EMC members in Area 7 who vote this November.
Family: Son, Blake; daughter Rachel
Occupation: media and corporate public relations consultant. I have represented a wide variety of clients, including BP, Philip Morris, GM, Atlanta Underground, BlueCross BlueShield and the University of Georgia. I’ve represented clients in the fields of healthcare, adult beverage industry, nursing home industry, financial services industry and computer software industry, among others.
Education: Graduate of the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama School of Law.
Other Community Activities: various church leadership positions; active in politics.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director? Every decision that I make as a board member will be based on one question and one question only: Is it best for the members? If it is, we do it. If it isn’t, we don’t. And I will fight to bring the kinds of reform to Cobb EMC that will make us the shining example nationally for openness, honesty and reform. My goals include the following: * Create a nationwide search for the best CEO in the country to lead us. When a CEO fights all change and refuses to divulge his salary, then he is not what we need for the next decade. He took too long to change his mind. * Create a Member Bill of Rights incorporating open meetings, open records, and election reform that can only be changed by a super majority vote of the members, guaranteeing that our reforms withstand any change of board or leadership in the future. * All board and committee meetings open to all members and media. * Webcast meetings live and keep video on website for all members to view at will. * Place company budget and checkbook online like state governments do. * Publish every salary. Members have the right to know what the janitor makes and we have a right to know what the CEO makes. * Fire the lawyers who fought reform. No more million dollar law firms. No more $850 an hour. Do it in-house. * Fire the PR firms. We are wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on outside public relations firms. Do it in-house. * Work to lower rates. Why are Cobb EMC rates higher than most companies in Georgia? * Appoint outside independent attorney to act as Inspector General and review every current Cobb EMC contract let by the current Board and Dwight Brown. * Indicted officials suspended immediately without compensation....if acquitted, can get back pay. Must pay for own lawyers. * Implement zero based budgeting. This process insures that every item is justified before entering a new budget. * Ban no-bid contracts. (Exceptions for sole source situations.) No more insider deals.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? The problem we face has nothing to do with running an electric utility. The problem is a management problem, where the leadership acted like Cobb EMC was a personal piggy bank, with directors stuffing their pockets with retirement cash, with directors handing out $60,000 per month consulting fees, and Dwight Brown being paid $10 million. Per my practice, I have experience bringing management reform to my clients’ companies, and I think my platform proves that. I know how to reform management and reform the public perception of Cobb EMC.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? Absolutely. And if there is wrongdoing discovered I will lead the way to have those people fired, indicted and convicted. But I do NOT support the forensic audit process beginning under the current CEO and Board. They cannot be trusted and it will undermine the credibility of any report. No forensic audit until a NEW board of directors is elected.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? I do, but not from this CEO and not from this board of directors. They have had years to reform. Instead, they fought reform at every corner. Now, as elections are here, the leadership is scrambling to save itself by professing support for reforms. They simply cannot be trusted. That is why I support a Member Bill of Rights. We will incorporate the best reforms, reforms that can only be changed with super-majority votes of the members, almost guaranteeing their protection forever.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? My problem is not with the plant. My problem is that the entire process smells to high heaven, filled with insider deals, inexperienced contractors in the field, all seemingly designed to make the Cobb EMC leadership and their friends rich. And guess who gets stuck with the bill: the members. I want everything about that proposal reviewed, from every contract to the names of everyone involved. As I said above, if you can prove that something is best for the membership, I will support it. But not this boondoggle. Not this way. The entire process has been compromised.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I want the support of the Owners Association. They began this fight many years ago, they deserve to have their say, and to have their stamp of approval would be an honor.
One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner’s Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting process but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? Yes, I would. This reform movement is bigger than any one person. I want every seat to be won by a reform candidate. Splitting the vote and allowing an incumbent to slip back in would be unforgivable. I would not do that. For example, the incumbent I face, Henry Balkcom III, grabbed retirement benefits in excess of $100,000 as soon as he joined the board of directors. I am calling him out. I want to know if he will waive all rights to any retirement benefits from Cobb EMC as a condition for running on the November ballot. That is the honorable thing to do if he wishes to continue to serve the members.