John Jones began serving as a director in July 2011 and he is observing more than 30 years of membership with United Cooperative Services. He has an extensive background in electric generation construction, including hydroelectric, nuclear and fossil fuel-fired generating facilities. With degrees in civil engineering and economics earned from Trinity College in Ireland, Jones has used his expertise throughout the world for corporations including Bechtel Power, British Petroleum and Exxon-Mobil, among others.
Mr. Jones has successfully earned the NRECA’s national Certified Cooperative Director Certification, Board Leadership Certification and Directors Gold Certification.
Explain how you feel your background and experience will help the cooperative fulfill its mission of providing exceptional service and value to its member-owners.
My biography doesn’t show much detail for a 50-year career. What it does show is my reliability, willingness to work anywhere in the world, the ability to pick up languages and mostly the ability to schedule and monitor massive projects. The LNG plant in Qatar will cost over $1billion. I was also expected, in many cases, to monitor the costs and to reschedule the project to the latest estimate. United’s construction projects are not as massive, but the monitoring and reforecasting costs can also be critical. As a director, I do not interfere with detailed construction work, but I do monitor the progress and the management team is always helpful when I have questions.
One of our major responsibilities as directors is to evaluate estimates prior to approving to build what the cooperative needs to provide great service. Recently, costs have escalated substantially and therefore we have been even more cautious while making these evaluations and approving any proposal.
What avenues do you think United Cooperative Services might explore to make sure that it is seen as being a true asset to the members and communities it serves?
I have not been a proponent of adding many other services, such as water, to the electrical distribution service in the past. However, even though broadband internet seemed to be too expensive three or four years ago, I knew that this service would be vital and I became a vocal proponent of a 1 gigabit internet service for our membership. Our management team has brilliantly put together a professional internet team that uses the latest technologies and fiber and has successfully started the installations to thousands of members. The board voted unanimously to continue the progress even when COVID19 was a disruption.
Highlight at least one of the seven cooperative principles and its importance to the membership of the cooperative.
While all of the 7 Cooperative Principles are important, I feel that #5 reflects the importance of Education, Training and Information. The cooperative’s members realize that the excellent service and the low charges they receive are due to the meticulous training and education using industry recommended procedures. These procedures are faithfully carried out. Additionally, the management and board insist that all actions taken by the cooperative are transparent to the members. The co-op’s sophisticated communication systems range from personnel responding to member questions to updated information on severe weather or any other major or minor situation.
The approval of the cooperative by the membership has shown the highest positive ratings in the country. An approval rating of 90+ is not uncommon for United. These attributes show the sincere concern for each member and for community in general. Donations are approved by the board for police and firefighters and other organizations. In addition, scholarships for members have also been a high priority for the cooperative.
List a few important business areas you believe the cooperative needs to be focused on in the next few years and explain why?
All Seven members of the United Board are conservative when discussing spending resources when presented with proposals for new Construction. The concern is always to minimize risk, which would have a negative impact on charges to the membership. There are times when some risks need to be taken as the co-op membership is growing and new offices are necessary. The board evaluates the costs when choosing an engineering and construction contractor, and approves the cost per square foot of the required structures. All decisions reflect the scope of work for the purchase and delivery of electricity to United members. Up until recently, the board did not want to dilute the efficiency of the purchase and delivery of electricity to our membership. Adding water distribution, gas or propane was not considered. However, the addition of broadband was considered an essential requirement by the membership. The construction of the broadband system has not had any negative impact on United's primary responsibility of the delivery of reliable and cheap electricity. A separate team has been assembled to concentrate on constructing a 1 gigabit system. To date, over 3,600 members have been connected, with very good results. COVID-19 and the recent severe weather had its impact, but the results during these times was remarkable.