The Annual Meeting of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative is this coming Saturday, and one of the items on the agenda is the election of a new president for the cooperative. At the time of my resignation, the board decided to elect a "caretaker" president, Dawn Mahiya, who would not be a candidate at the annual meeting, and let the membership decide who should be the next president. That time is now upon us.
As far as I know, the only candidate for this office is Chelsey Simpson, but since candidates can be nominated from the floor of the convention, I would like to explain why I think she is the best choice to be our next president.
Chelsey "gets it" when it comes to the importance of local food to both customers and producers. Like me, she hails from rural Oklahoma, southwest Oklahoma in fact. She understands the importance of reweaving the connections between rural producers and urban customers, and knows that this is a two-way street. "Everything always works both ways" is a permaculture tenet, and that is certainly true for the relationship of farmer and customer. She also has knowledge of the importance of local food to ecology, and its role in repairing some of the damage that has happened to the planet at our hands. She is firmly committed to our product standards, and their associated principles of locality, personal production, and transparency.
Chelsey has paid her dues as a volunteer. She has been responsible for the Edmond pick-up site for about as long as she has been involved in the coop. She brought a professionalism to our outreach efforts. She has an understanding of the complex interplay of events, needs, wants, responsibilities, and personalities within our cooperative structure.
Chelsey has been an effective member of the Board of Directors as an officer. Her job as VP for Customers is to represent the needs and interests of the customer members of the cooperative, and she has done that very great clarity, vision, and understanding. In our meetings, where the conversation has been known to get a bit excited and robust on occasion, she has always been a calming and steadying influence. This is more important than it may appear at first glance, since being able to navigate among a variety of personalities is a critical leadership skill in the coop.
She has great ideas. She has been brainstorming and working on ways to make it easier for customers to find out what they need to know about products they buy in the coop, and the web version of the product transparency system she designed is being tested and should be rolled out soon. I am confident that this will empower both our customers and our producers, so that customers can do a better job in finding and buying products that they want, and producers can understand better what they customers want, and thus be able to do a better job of producing for the local marketplace.
She has great public presence and writes well.. She works professionally in media, and understands that process in depth. She will be a positive public face for the coop -- with our members, the media, and government and regulatory officials.
She knows a lot about our systems. Having served at all levels of the coop, for quite some time, she has institutional knowledge and experience that is critical for our presiding officer.
She is committed to our governance plan of separating management and the board.
I think that being president of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative was one of the most important things that I have done in my life. I have a very high level of confidence in Chelsey's ability to continue to move us upwards and onwards to bigger and better things. In the first seven years of the coop's existence, we sold a little more than $3 million in products. This year, our product sales were right at $840,000 (I haven't seen the final financial report for 2010 so this is a ballpark figure). It could very well be that 2011 will be the year we top one million in annual sales in one year. I believe that Chelsey Simpson has the knowledge, the experience, the understanding, and the drive to bring us to that goal and take us even further in the coming years.
I encourage all members of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative to come to the annual meeting this Saturday and vote for Chelsey Simpson for President of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.
Of course, this means that I will have to revise my standard laugh line about not trusting a skinny president of a food coop, but that is a minor rhetorical sacrifice given the importance of her candidacy for president of the cooperative.
If you would like to join me in endorsing Chelsey for election as our president, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add you to my list!