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Bell seeks election to Grady EMC board

Friday’s election for the District 1 director to serve a three-year term on the board of Grady EMC pits an 18-year veteran against a newcomer.
John P. Bell Jr. of Grady County is seeking to unseat Dewey Brock Jr. of Decatur County, a second-generation board member who has served since 1997.
Brock currently fills the board seat that his father, Dewey Sr. held for 22 years.
During 40 years of the 77-year history of the EMC, a member of the Brock family has sat on the board of directors of the electric co-op.
Brock declined to be interviewed for this article.
Bell said he is hoping his fellow members will vote for him, which he says is a vote for a change in leadership of the Grady EMC.
Bell is also quick to admit it will be an uphill struggle to unseat the longtime director. He said, in fact, it was a challenge just to get his name on the ballot.
After reaching out to members of EMC’s nominating committee in an attempt to be nominated as a candidate for the District 1 seat and being denied, Bell then obtained 78 signatures of District 1 members on a petition to force the EMC to include his name on Friday’s ballot.
Since delivering the signed petition on Sept. 14 to EMC headquarters, Bell said he has been talking with EMC members and soliciting their vote and support.
“I’ve only gotten positive feedback. I feel really good about it and excited about the election being held this Friday,” Bell said Tuesday afternoon.
Bell has advertised his candidacy in The Cairo Messenger and in other newspapers and on the radio. In his ads in The Messenger, he has advertised his phone number and encouraged people to call him if they had questions.
“I’ve gotten a lot of calls from people sharing horror stories about dealing with the EMC. I haven’t had enough phone calls to win, but it’s amazing the calls I have had,” Bell said.
“It will just depend who shows up as to who will win,” Bell added.
Bell said he received a letter from EMC attorney Claire Chason over the weekend advising him what he could and could not do as it related to campaigning at Friday’s annual meeting, which typically attracts several hundred members to the EMC headquarters on U.S. 84 West.
According to Bell, Chason stated that either Bell or his representative can be present during the counting of the ballots as long as his representative is a member of the co-op.
“I’m planning on having an independent person there to represent me when the votes are counted,” Bell said.
Grady EMC General Manager Thomas A. (Bo) Rosser Jr. told The Messenger previously that the ballots are counted by an elections committee appointed by the board of directors.
Both candidates for the District 1 post are successful agribusinessmen.
Bell, a 1978 graduate of Whigham High School and a 1982 graduate of the University of Georgia, is the head of Bell Irrigation, a company he founded 27-and-a-half years ago that provides irrigation systems for vegetable growers and nurseries from south Florida to Virginia and currently employs 12 people.
Brock is the president of Brock Farms and he is involved in several farm related businesses, according to Rosser.
Bell has referred to the EMC board and management as a prime example of the “good ole boys club.” He questions why three members of the Rosser family have been employed as general managers of the co-op and why there are so many multi-generation board members.
While a Brock has served on the board for 40 of the EMC’s 77 years, a member of the Lee family of Grady County has served on the board for all 77 years.
Registration for the 77th annual Grady EMC meeting opens at 8 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16, and voting will take place until the beginning of the business meeting at 10 a.m. In accordance with the EMC bylaws, members in line to vote at 10 a.m. will be allowed to vote before the end of the election is declared and the counting of ballots begins.
Other directors up for reelection this year are District 4 director James Freeman and District 7 director James Lewis. Neither is opposed in the upcoming election, according to Rosser.

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