Pat Sewell_2021

What was your first encounter with GreenStar, and when did you become a member?

My first experience with GreenStar was applying for a job in 2004 when we moved into the area. It was the first retail job I had worked in years where I felt like I was doing something good instead of just trying to make rent. Because GreenStar paid the membership fee for its employees, I became a member when I was hired.

What made you decide to become more active in the Co-ops Governance?

I have always been interested in GreenStar’s governance process and how it has changed over the years. In the past, I served on the former Staff Advisory Board, participated in member referendums, and appealed to Council for policy changes. In 2019, I began working as a staff liaison for the Governance Committee, which gave me a firsthand look at the nuts-and-bolts of Council work. As I learned more about the governance process, I wanted to become more active in policy development. The next logical step was to run for Council. 

What is different / what has changed about Council since you were first elected?

I was elected at the beginning of last year during the start of the pandemic. Although not much has changed with Council during that time, the world changed radically. It highlighted to me how important GreenStar is to our community. When GreenStar realized how serious COVID-19 was, operations immediately put in place policies that protected staff and customers, and ultimately protected our community from high rates of infection. Other grocers stalled in enacting policies that protected worker safety (and thereby increased the overall risk of infection), such as paid sick leave; a policy GreenStar has had in place for years. I cannot overstate how important GreenStar’s actions were to the health and safety of my friends and neighbors.

The pandemic also underscored for me how strongly our stores are tied into the local community. For the first time since its opening in 2004, the Dewitt location was forced to close for an extended period. It quickly became apparent how integral that store is to those who live and work downtown, being the only walkable option for groceries and fresh produce. Without GreenStar Dewitt, the downtown lost a grocer, a deli, a coffee shop, and a community hangout all at one time.

Observing these two things over the last year (GreenStar’s potential to protect and invest in our community and what our community looks like without GreenStar) has changed the way I see GreenStar’s value to our community and instilled a deeper sense of responsibility for serving on Council.  

What do you find most Rewarding as a volunteer Council Member?

I see Council as the substructure on which GreenStar is built. Although we look similar to other grocers, GreenStar is unique in that it is a Cooperative Corporation with a mission of maximizing moral and economic value. Our success is not measured in dollars, because that is not our purpose. Instead, we see our profits in terms of a stronger community, a flourishing environment, fair wages and the empowerment of underrepresented communities. Helping to maintain a governance system that articulates these values and ensuring that they are being met is the most rewarding part of Council. While the process can be tedious at times, the outcome is worth the investment.