Our first elections are under way with  three open positions on the board, and three “pre-qualified” candidates, all of whom are member-owners in good standing who are highly qualified and interested in filling the slots.

The 2nd Principle of Cooperatives states that “Co-ops are democratic organizations controlled by their members who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Those serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership.  In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.”

As we like to say, this is YOUR co-op, YOUR way, and this is your chance to be part of the process. Ballots were mailed on April 7 (please contact us at [email protected] if you’re a member-owner and did not receive one.) Please be sure to read the instructions on your ballot carefully (read the candidates’ statements, then vote where indicated and note that we have also included on the ballot a line for write-in candidates) and cast your vote by mail no later than May 11 or in person by 8:30 p.m. at the Annual Meeting on May 16.

We also hope you can join us at the Annual Meeting on Thursday, May 16. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the election or the Annual Meeting, please contact us via email at [email protected].

Meet the candidates:

Ted Brelsford

ted brelsfordWhy are you interested in serving on the co-op’s board of directors?

I love food, and cooking, and eating, and gardening. I even enjoy grocery shopping, and cleaning up after a meal. And I love fresh, natural, local foods. I grew up on a little farm in Pennsylvania with a milk cow, a few chickens and pigs, a steer or two for beef, and a large vegetable garden. We knew our food—even made butter and cottage cheese and ice cream.

Living now, many years later, in a small town that I consider the most pleasant place I’ve lived, I’m quite eager and enthusiastic about a local food cooperative. I’m also eager to be more actively involved in the community in which I live; and look forward to be part of a team pursuing a goal and tasting the satisfaction of achieving it.

Summarize your professional experience and relevant skills. What unique skill, personal quality or perspective will you bring to the board?

Professionally, I currently hold two positions, both providing relevant experience for serving on a board of directors. As pastor of a church in Orchard Park I work regularly with small groups to administer the work of caring for our congregation and our facility, and carrying out our mission of contributing to the overall health and well being of our community and our world. I believe I have well-developed skills in interpersonal relations, communication, and small group dynamics.

At the same time, for the past four years I have served as Director of Assessment for the theology school at Emory University in Atlanta where I was formerly on faculty. The basic questions of assessment are: what are we trying to accomplish? (mission and goals); What would it look like if we accomplished them? (outcomes); How can we best realize those outcomes? (strategic plans, processes, procedures); How can we measure our success in realizing those outcomes? (assessment); And how can we use our assessment results to improve our practices & procedures, or revise our plans and processes to better meet our goals? (ongoing growth and development). The goals and outcomes and day to day operations of a food cooperative may be quite different from those of a theology school, but I suspect the basic questions and challenges of assessment and improvement are similar. Additionally, my academic career has given me experience in writing grants, and in writing and editing for print, which may be useful as the Cooperative continues to expand.

What is your vision for the future of our cooperative? What makes you passionate about the co-op and/or our mission?

Given my childhood experiences in producing much of our own food, I’m very glad for the growing interest in natural foods in our culture at large, and am delighted with the prospects of a  thriving local economy of local, natural, wholesome foods to which people can feel connected. I would like to help make this vision a reality.

Gerry Gallagher

gerry gallagherWhy are you interested in serving on the co-op’s board of directors?

My primary interest in serving on the Board is that I want to help the cooperative to be successful. I believe my passionate interest in the issues of sustainable agriculture and local food economies, combined with my professional and business/financial background in a public company could provide additional knowledge and perspective on the board, helping the co-op to achieve its goals.

Summarize your professional experience and relevant skills. What unique skill, personal quality or perspective will you bring to the board?

Professional experience and skills: I have 32 years professional experience with Ecology and Environment,  Inc. (E&E) as a consulting environmental planner  addressing a full range of issues including environment, socioeconomics, health, transportation, agriculture, energy, economic development, and sustainability.

Since 2008 I have served as Senior Vice President for Sustainability at E&E, managing our programs, business development and other initiatives in this area for the U.S. and world-wide. From 1999 – 2008 served as VP of operations in Southern U.S., with responsibility for eight office locations and150 professional staff.

For E&E I presently serve as a corporate officer in a public company (EEI: NASDAQ); have fiduciary responsibility, executive management responsibilities; report to a board of directors, and so am accustomed to adhering to requirements for transparency and disclosure, codes of conduct and ethics, financial reporting, as well as sustainability reporting.

As a Sr. VP I have responsibility for company operations, reviewing and carrying out policy, market analysis, business planning and forecasting, monitoring financial performance, and quarterly/annual reporting. I’m skilled and experienced in developing new markets, forging internal/external  partnerships, capacity-building for required knowledge and resources, problem solving, conflict resolution, and other aspects.

Personal qualities and perspective: I’m comfortable and enjoy working in organizational environments where a culture of collaboration and a consensus approach exists or is possible. Am comfortable with leadership  roles and responsibility. I’ve had to make difficult business  decisions. I enjoy being a part of team efforts, especially  when there is a diversity of perspectives and ideas.I’m interested in community resilience, livable towns and cities, sustainable agriculture and food production, local markets, environmental stewardship, as well as the social values of community, culture, and great places.

I’m a 1975 graduate of EAHS.

What is your vision for the future of our cooperative? What makes you passionate about the co-op and/or our mission?

The EA cooperative market can create a mutually  beneficial relationship between consumers and local/regional growers and producers.

The market co-op can play a role in improving local economy, public health, promoting local community values; strengthen community fabric, and making the town more resilient. This combined with the many other ways in which East Aurora is uniquely “livable” will help to make the town a place where people want to live, work and raise families.

I believe that local markets and economies are going to become increasingly important in the coming years. I think this is inevitable because of weak economic growth in the U.S. combined with rising energy costs, shifting global economic trends, as well as other factors. Successful and resilient communities  will have done good work at the local level, particularly  with respect to food markets and access

Susan Swarts

susan swartsWhy are you interested in serving on the co-op’s board of directors?

I believe in the mission of the organization. Also, I have the time, interest and skills to support the success of the Co-op.

Summarize your professional experience and relevant skills. What unique skill, personal quality or perspective will you bring to the board?

While my skills are not unique, they are varied. As an employee of National Grid for 35 years, I was presented with many challenging and interesting  assignments. They ranged from facilitating meetings  between the members of the Public Service Commission and New York State Utilities on sensitive issues to gaining the confidence of theIBEW Local 97 & 1352 to participate in employee involvement activities to improve efficiencies.  I believe in the value of team processes to achieve desired outcomes and always work to build consensus.

What is your vision for the future of our co-operative? What makes you passionate about the co-op and/or our mission?

My vision is the vision of all our members! We all signed on to the idea of the co-op in East Aurora because we had common beliefs and interest in improving the quality of food that we ingest and to have healthy alternatives.  I am passionate about the East Aurora Co-op because we need options in our community to purchase healthy foods. We also have the opportunity to support our neighbors who toil in the soil to provide us fresh and healthy foods.