Shareholder's meeting... When we bought our new home here in Paradise, we also bought some shares in the irrigation water company that provides our pressurized irrigation water. A few weeks ago the fellow that runs alfalfa on our south field stopped by and let me know that he was running for a seat on the Board of the irrigation company, and that he'd really appreciate my attending the upcoming shareholder's meeting and voting for him. I listened to why he wanted to get that Board seat, and I liked what I heard – so I agreed to show up and vote for him.
Last night (way past my bedtime!) was the shareholder's meeting. It was a much more interesting experience than I expected it to be. About 50 people showed up. These are all people who live in or around Paradise, so that's actually a substantial fraction of the total population! Most of them have known each other for many years, and of course most of them attend church together in one of the (four) local LDS wards. This made for a lively and congenial meeting.
The meeting's process was recognizable to anyone familiar with formal shareholder or Board meetings – but really just barely recognizable. The President struggled mightily to stay on track and make sure the right stuff got into the minutes, but it wasn't easy for him. The audience of shareholders was, I think, largely ignorant of the formalities beyond making and seconding a motion. Much of the business was approved by acclamation (a show of hands, absence of opposition) instead of by actual vote. The only actual votes came toward the end of the meeting, when new Board members were being selected. There were four openings, but only two of them had multiple nominees. To vote, the Board handed out blank Post-It notes, and we scribbled our name, the number of shares we were voting, and the name of the candidate we were voting for. Then they retired to another room to tote up the vote and check the share count. It wasn't exactly the procedure you'd see in even a small public company :) But it worked. The four new Board members were duly elected and welcomed on board. The fellow I came to vote for won his seat, much to his delight.
On my short drive home, I reflected on how this Board meeting illustrated the differences between the culture here in Paradise and where we used to live in Southern California. I can't imagine this short, cheerful meeting with it's loose attention to formality ever working in California – not even in the relatively small community of Jamul that we were part of. The closest experience I have to compare it with was a couple of meetings held in Jamul to discuss the (then proposed) Jamul Indian Casino. That was a much larger room full of people who were mainly strangers to one another. There was much mistrust and suspicion, and little shyness about openly voicing it. Absolutely nothing was accomplished, other than a couple of local politicians being able to get their statements in the paper. We left much unhappier than we arrived. Here, by contrast, several contentious issues were discussed in a friendly manner, solutions proposed, courses of action agreed upon, and everyone left with smiles on their faces (and, most of them, with a donut in their hands). It was part social event, part business, and 100% effective.
I love this place!