Annual Meeting 2023: Bluebonnet celebrates grand gathering of members
Annual Meeting 2023

More than 450 members and guests attended this year's Annual Meeting in Giddings on May 9. Photos by Sarah Beal

By Alyssa Meinke

A rainy start did not dampen the spirits of more than 450 Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative members and guests at the co-op’s Annual Meeting on May 9 in Giddings. Bluebonnet’s Board of Directors and staff welcomed everyone to the traditional gathering at The Silos on 77 event center, as attendees reconnected with old friends and made new ones.

Matt Bentke
General Manager and CEO Matt Bentke speaks about the cooperative’s service to its members and communities, as well as its financial and operational strengths.

Three incumbent directors in this year’s Board election were unopposed and elected by general consent, per Bluebonnet's bylaws, at the Annual Meeting: Roderick Emanuel, from District 3 for Bastrop County; Russell Jurk, from District 4 for Lee, Milam and Williamson counties; and Byron Balke, from District 6 for Austin, Colorado and Fayette counties. Incumbent Director Robert Mikeska won the District 7 seat for Washington County over Richard Lamensky, with a vote of 5,095 to 658. 

Bluebonnet’s members elect the directors who govern the electric cooperative. The nine members of the Board of Directors serve staggered three-year terms.

More than 6,300 members participated in this year’s Annual Meeting, whether voting by proxy or casting votes during the meeting.

Board Chairman Ben Flencher told meeting attendees that the cooperative’s directors represent Bluebonnet’s members so well because they know them from church, school, work, sports leagues and other civic activities. 


Rainy weather
Bluebonnet line worker Dior Smith accompanies Mona Griffith of Somerville through the rain.

“Because we have those relationships, every action that we take, every decision that we make, every vote that we cast is done with your best interests first and foremost,” Flencher said. 

He also spoke about the impressive amount of growth in Bluebonnet’s service area. 

“In 2019, we surpassed the 100,000-meter mark and four months ago, we surpassed the 125,000-meter mark,” Flencher said. “It took us 80 years to get to the 100,000-meter mark and only another four years to add an additional 25,000 meters.”

Bluebonnet General Manager and CEO Matt Bentke then spoke of the cooperative’s service to its members and communities, as well as its financial and operational strengths. He pointed out highlights of Bluebonnet’s performance in 2022 and early 2023, which included a 5.95% annual growth rate in 2022. The cooperative completed more maintenance and added more assets than any time in its history, Bentke said, and returned $8.68 million to members in the form of capital credits last year. Bluebonnet plans to return $9.48 million in capital credits in 2023. 

The cooperative’s record growth during the past several years has benefited all stakeholders — members, the electric system and local communities — and allows Bluebonnet to achieve its mission to provide safe, reliable power at cost-competitive rates, Bentke said.  

“Several years ago, our Board of Directors knew that growth was coming to our area and put in place a very effective strategy that has enabled us to create prosperity and share it with all our members,” he said. “I am proud of the hard work everyone in this organization does every day in service to our members.”

Members and guests started the day enjoying Western swing music by the Jason Roberts Band. They snacked on kolaches and sipped coffee, browsed information tables and posed for instant photos. 

Some folks — such as members and neighbors Carol Kadura, Marilyn Klaus, Blondera Saucedo, Benjamin Saucedo, Wanda Hoffman and Clayton Hoffman of Rockne — have attended Bluebonnet’s Annual Meeting together for years. For others, like Tracy Burns of Smithville, it was the first time at the gathering. “The Annual Meeting gave me a chance to learn more about how the cooperative business model works,” said Burns, who works as a stylist at Vanity Room Salon in Smithville. She had been encouraged to attend by her client Nancy Littlefield, who has been to many meetings.

Ben Flencher
A member raises a hand as Board Chairman Ben Flencher addresses the crowd.

Dozens of members left with door prizes awarded during the meeting. Helen Gordon, a Bluebonnet member in Giddings, won the first of two Cub Cadet zero-turn riding lawn mowers.

It was Gordon’s first Bluebonnet Annual Meeting. “I am from Giddings, lived in Austin for a while, and moved back home three years ago. My family's property has been in the Bluebonnet area for decades,” she said. 

Elvera Drews, who has been attending the Annual Meeting for 21 years, won the second mower. 

A day after the Annual Meeting, the name of one lucky member out of the 6,333 participants was drawn to win a truck being retired from Bluebonnet’s fleet. Harry Penkert of Burton won the drawing for a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 with about 191,000 miles.  

“It was shocking,” said Penkert, who said he has never received a giveaway as valuable as a truck before. Penkert and his wife, Patti, have been Bluebonnet members for 45 years and participated in this year’s Annual Meeting by submitting a proxy form. “We are happy to be members of Bluebonnet,” he said. 

If you missed the meeting, you can watch a video recap below.