In area 1, members chose trucking association executive Ed Crowell over barbecue restaurateur Johnny Woodward. Crowell got 1,896 votes (79.76 percent) to Woodward’s 481 votes (20.24 percent).
In area 6, David Tennant got 1,684 votes (72.71 percent) besting two opponents. Stewart Manley earned 496 votes (21.42 percent), and Patrick Longhi got 136 votes (5.87 percent).
In area 10, voters chose Cheryl Meadows over incumbent Henry Balkcom III. Area 10 represents the Pataula district of Cobb EMC, in southwest Georgia. Meadows won 1,988 votes (84.13 percent) to Balkcom’s 375 votes (15.87 percent).
The new directors will be seated at the board’s Nov. 22 meeting.
Directors represent a geographical area, and must live in the area they represent, though all members vote for all 10 seats on the board. A majority — 50 percent plus one vote — is required to win.
The runoff comes in the area 7 race. Charles Malcolm ‘Cooter’ Swanson almost won outright in the seven-person field, earning 1,203 votes, or 49.47 percent.
Incumbent RJ Patel came in a distant second, earning 354 votes, or 14.56 percent.
Next were Karen Thornburgh, with 276 votes (11.35 percent); Paul Phillips, with 212 votes (8.72 percent); Dr. Larry Baker, with 168 votes (6.91 percent); Charles Spann, 144 votes (5.92 percent); and William Cominos, 75 votes (3.08 percent). Cominos did not attend the 10 a.m. meeting to address members.
Swanson, who owns a screen-printing business, needed only about 13 more votes to win outright, and acknowledged he was disappointed.
“I would have liked this to be done and over with. But the EMC’s worth fighting for, so I’m willing to keep on,” he said.
As the results appeared on screens inside the sanctuary of Piedmont Church, where the vote took place, Swanson said, “I was sitting there thinking that I’m humbled this many people thought I deserve the chance to do the job. And then the responsibility of that: Doing what I said I was going to try to do. That’s what I’ve got to do, but I’m not there yet.”
Patel has aimed to distance himself from the rest of the EMC board, and he highlighted the fact that he was appointed in May 2010.
But Phillips, another of the area 7 candidates, took shots at Patel during the 10 a.m. meeting of members, criticizing Patel for his votes to seek to rehire embattled and indicted chief executive Dwight Brown, and to pay Brown a hefty consulting fee of $59,000 a month.
“The incumbent had the opportunity to stand up for the employees and the members of Cobb EMC and did not exercise that right,” Phillips said, to some applause. “Somebody who has had the opportunity to do the right thing and did not — I don’t think you can put any faith in what he’s saying here today.”
After the results, several of the plaintiffs who brought suit against the cooperative in 2007, suggested Patel should concede the race to Swanson, rather than continue with a runoff.
“It’s not like they were even close,” Tripper Sharp said. “Essentially, over 85 percent voted against RJ. I think it would be honorable for him to concede and save the costs of a runoff.”
David Cohen, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said that just mailing information to all members about a runoff would cost about $75,000.
“If the tables were turned, I would suggest that Malcolm concede,” Cohen said.
And Patel did not rule out the chance that he might indeed end the race.
“I’m going to look at everything holistically before I made a final decision,” Patel said. “This was quite tough on my family. A lot of people were rude to my family, even today. My wife and daughter and people who believe in me and support me have been ridiculed. I also have two businesses to run. This campaign has been run on my own dime, and it’s financially draining. Time wise, it’s draining.”
A runoff would be the first in memory for most Cobb EMC members, if not the first ever in the cooperative’s history.
New CEO Chip Nelson congratulated the winners after the results were announced about 4 p.m. Saturday.
“We have some good board members coming on board,” he said. “I don’t know them well… but what I know about them is very positive. I think they represent the areas, and the members, very well.”
Both Crowell, the area 1 winner, and Tennant, who prevailed in area 6, said their endorsement by the plaintiffs’ reform group, the Cobb EMC Owners’ Association, played a key role in their wins. In fact, all four of the candidates endorsed by the reform group took the lion’s share of the vote.
“Among other things, it gave a stamp of approval that a lot of people were looking for,” said Crowell, the CEO of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association. “They provided a lot of groundwork, too.”
Tennant, who has 25 years of experience in the energy industry, said he was “pleasantly surprised” to win outright.
“I was thinking there might be a runoff because there were three good candidates in area 6,” he said.
Voting opened at 8 a.m., and a meeting where members could hear from the candidates began at 10 a.m. But the meeting only attracted about 150 people, and little of the hostility members vented during the Sept. 17 special meeting.
Overall, there were 2,471 votes cast among the EMC’s 173,000 members, resulting in a 1.4 percent turnout.
Meadows, who won the south Georgia area 10 seat, addressed members at the meeting through a prepared video because she was unable to attend the meeting. Only nine EMC members from the Pataula district cast ballots on Saturday.
Frank Fatone, who heads the New York-based Election Services Corp. that printed and mailed the candidate information and conducted the election, said he was not sure exactly what caused the delay in getting mailers to some members. The packets were sent by first-class mail from New York beginning on Oct. 31.
Pamela Lawrence, an EMC member from northeast Cobb, said she came with an open mind and cast her votes based on the information in the mailer, what she heard from the candidates on Saturday, and her gut feeling.
“I truthfully did not realize the extent of the problems Cobb EMC was having,” she said.