WINCHESTER — At tonight’s annual meeting of the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, the compensation of the nine-member board could become a heated topic of discussion.
Some members of the REC say that board members’ pay, which is as much as some full-time jobs, is a source of their dissatisfaction with co-op leadership.
REC is one of the largest electric co-ops in Virginia, providing electric service to 22 counties and 11 towns and serving about 27,500 members in Frederick and Clarke counties. It had $446,656,134 in revenue in 2018 and holds about $936,000,000 in assets. It employs 406 people and manages nearly 18,000 miles of line. REC customers are member-owners of the co-op and elect members of the board.
REC board members receive a $2,000 per month retainer, plus a $500 per diem fee for every day they spend working on co-op business.
In 2018, co-op board members were paid between $42,900 at the high end and $31,200 at the low end of total annual compensation, according to information provided by the co-op.
REC’s 2017 Form 990 tax filing, the most recent year available, shows that the highest paid director received $43,350, although two directors were paid just $13,600 that year.
Hours per week spent on co-op business as reported by the co-op varies widely. Board member J. Mark Wood worked eight hours per week and was paid $41,700, according to the 2017 tax filing, while board chairman Christopher Shipe reportedly worked 20 hours per week and received $36,950 in total compensation.
REC’s president and CEO Kent Farmer was paid $735,890 in 2016, according to that year’s tax filing.
Comparatively, the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, which serves the Shenandoah Valley between Harrisonburg and Winchester, paid its board members an average of about $19,200 in 2017, according to the most recently available Form 990.
That year, the highest paid director on SVEC’s 12-member board received $20,350, while the lowest paid received $18,350. Board members reportedly worked between four and 12 hours per week, according to the tax filing. SVEC President and CEO Michael Hastings was paid $351,615 with $129,384 in other compensation in 2017, according to the tax filing.
The REC annual meeting will take place tonight in Fredericksburg at the Fredericksburg Conference Center, 2371 Carl D. Silver Parkway, beginning at 6 p.m. The meeting will include the annual election, through which members can vote for all board director positions up for re-election. Three board seats, representing regions one six and seven of the coop’s nine regions, are up for re-election to three-year terms.
This year, a group called Repower REC is backing three candidates who say reforming board member pay is one of their priorities, along with reforms to the election process, which they say is rigged to favor incumbent board members.
In an email on Wednesday, REC spokesman Matt Faulconer said board pay is appropriate and proportional to REC’s size and financial standing.
“By almost any measure, REC is the largest co-op in Virginia and one of the largest in the country, so board members have substantial responsibility,” Falconer said. “We ask for a substantial amount of their time throughout the year and it is appropriate that they be compensated for it.”
Falconer also said it’s “important to note that all REC compensation levels... are derived using independent, third-party compensation consultants and national compensation surveys” to make sure pay is sufficiently competitive.
Region One is represented by REC board vice chairman and Frederick County resident Michael W. Lindsay, who is being challenged by Rappahannock County farmer Mike Biniek. Caroline County resident Andrea Miller is running to replace Region Six representative Linda Gray. Louisa County resident Jack Manzari is running to replace Region Seven representative resident J. Mark Wood.
The deadline for members to mail in a ballot to vote in the election expired Monday. Members can vote online if they have a payment portal set up through the REC website, or vote in person at the annual meeting today.
Information about the candidates, including videos introducing them, can be viewed at myrec.coop.