By Liz Coakley,
Council Member

The clock reads 6:25 pm on the second Tuesday of the month, and the classroom at GreenStar is filling up for our monthly Council meeting. In addition to Council Members and GreenStar’s General Manager, several other GreenStar staff are here to present or address agenda items. A Co-op member-owner is joining us this month to express an opinion and observe the meeting. The room is filled with cheerful chatter as we find seats and settle in for a session that will last for the next three hours.

A typical meeting begins with introductions and announcements, and quickly jumps into what is always a packed agenda. Council Members are expected to come prepared by having read the thick agenda packet in advance so we are ready to discuss topics, make necessary changes, and vote. What is it that we’re discussing for three hours? In the past year, topics at Council meetings have included reviewing and approving plans for a solar array to offset GreenStar’s power usage, interpretation of a recent member vote on changes to our meat policy, much conversation about our budget and financial trends in co-ops in our region, decisions on whether or not to move ahead with a requested referendum on product boycotts and proposed Bylaws changes, preparations for our new store-to-be in Collegetown, monitoring of the General Manager’s performance, and considerations pertaining to our tax-exempt affiliate, GreenStar Community Projects. Always lively and often including some spirited debate, meetings tend to pass quickly and smoothly under the firm facilitation of Council’s President (and sometimes other Council Members). There’s an eagerly awaited break mid-meeting, and a chance to sample delicious and diverse refreshments (from GreenStar, of course) tastefully selected by our Board Administrator.

Does this sound like fun? If you would like to be actively engaged in the governance of your Co-op, run for a seat on our Board of Directors, which we call the Council! If you’re interested, there will be one or more informational sessions later in January and/or February. Keep an eye out for that, and for Council Members tabling in the West End foyer, or find the “Interested in Serving on GreenStar’s Council?” tab on our website. We also strongly encourage attendance at a Council meeting for interested candidates. Any GreenStar member-owner in good standing is eligible to run for a seat.*

The next election is in April — when there will be at least six seats to be filled: five are for full, three-year terms, and one is a one-year term to fill a vacancy. In order to run, you need to fill out a Declaration of Candidacy form, which can be obtained at the Customer Service Desk or online. This must be completed and submitted (to the store or online) by March 1 in order for your name to appear on the ballot. Write-in candidates must declare their candidacy by March 31. All candidates have an opportunity to present themselves to the Membership at the Annual Spring Member Meeting, in April. Voting takes place throughout the month of April, and newly elected Council Members are seated at our June meeting.

Being a member of the Council requires time and dedication. Council meets on the second Tuesday of every month from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Council Member attendance and preparation is important. Each Council Member is also on at least one committee. Committees meet monthly for about an hour and a half, and may require some outside work. All Council Members should be ready to spend at least 10-12 hours each month on Council business; elected officers and committee chairs will spend more. Council Members are expected to attend member forums and member meetings, and to help organize or help with various events throughout the year.

Being on Council is a lot of work, but it’s worth it! How often do you have the opportunity to represent a membership of over 10,000 people, for a cooperative business with over 20 million dollars in annual sales? Our work is interesting and has a direct impact on our immediate community. We have the opportunity to attend trainings and retreats that teach us to work as a board, understand financial documents, use a Policy Governance approach, and work with and monitor our General Manager. The skills we hone on Council translate to many other aspects of our lives. Council Members also receive a stipend of $600/year (more for committee chairs and officers), and a super-worker discount of 17.5 percent on most of our purchases. Perhaps best of all, we get to know other board members, GreenStar staff, and our General Manager, and we strive to understand and represent our entire community of member-owners.

As a cooperative, GreenStar needs engagement from our member-owners. If you love the Co-op, or question the Co-op, or both, or if you are intrigued by the changes that are affecting GreenStar and that GreenStar is effecting, please run for a seat on our Council!

* In order for a co-op to maintain licenses to sell or serve alcohol, NYS says that a board member must be over 21 years old and be a US citizen or have permanent resident status; may not be a police officer, hold a license to solicit orders for alcoholic beverages from licensed retailers or have had an alcohol license revoked in the past two years, or have any (non-expunged) felonies or alcohol or prostitution-related convictions. If you have questions about these criteria, please contact 12th Moon, GreenStar’s President.