Board of Directors

The Belfast Community Co-op’s board of directors are Co-op owners directly elected by Co-op owners. The Co-op’s ownership has a legal responsibility to ensure our well-being, and the Board represents and acts for the Co-op’s owners, whose votes imply trust that the Board is representing their interests.

The Board meets at least monthly, generally on the fourth Wednesday from 6:00-8:30 PM. Meetings are open to Co-op owners, with specific time reserved for owner comments.

MEET THE BOARD

Sasha Breus

Sasha Breus

2021-2024

Organization and communication are the key elements of Sasha’s professional experience in scientific research, teaching, editing and writing. She thinks that collaboration nearly always produces better results and, as someone passionate about good, has worked as a baker, caterer, farmer and volunteer. Sasha believes that food-–as sustenance, as environmental stewardship, as an expression of love–and community are two critical components to a good life.

Corinne Burr

Corinne Burr

2023-2025

In the ideal, food brings us together at every step of its journey, from the fields and forests, grown and harvested together, to the markets and stores where we buy those ingredients, to the kitchens in which we cook them, to the tables around which we share the meals. The Co-op has an important role to play in this journey, and if we do things right, it can fulfill many steps along the way. The Co-op has the potential to step into greater prominence in the community by reclaiming its role as a gathering space, not just to buy groceries, but to pause and connect with other members and with the greater community. I’m aware of the discrepancies in food access for community members and I think it’s critically important that the Co-op develop or support the development of companion organizations that support members in receiving more subsidized food pricing so that local and organic food be available to a much broader demographic. I think this is one of the key ways to support the Co-op’s principle of concern for the community, as well as its values of equality, inclusion, care for others, and social responsibility. When food is accessible to all, all feel welcome. When a gathering space is provided and doors are unconditionally opened, all feel welcome. When greeted with a smile, all feel welcome. There is so much good already being done, and so much more that can come. Everyone is worthy of a safe environment to work, gather, nourish themselves, to bring their families. Everyone is worthy of access to good food. Everyone is worthy of a space to go that opens its doors freely to them. We all belong here and there is a way forward where everyone wins. Through visions of renovation, there is the potential to meet many of the community’s needs, and I’d love to see as part of that an expansion of support for more local farmers and producers, even on small scales. I value opening up conversations and I believe that in order to effectively serve the community, we must work more to open up conversations with the community, and to support members in becoming active participants in the Co-op’s evolution. There are voices that do not speak and others who are not being heard. I’d like to bridge this gap and feel that we must do so in order to effectively serve, and include, the diversity of our whole community. To these visions, values, and projects, I bring my strength of will, enthusiasm, and passion, my ability to synthesize information and ideas, ask needed questions, look at broader perspectives, and reach for greater possibilities than what we currently accept and believe in. I am excited to be involved in an organization that is so central to the community that its reach and potential feels limitless.

Babette Cohen-Solal

Babette Cohen-Solal

2023-2026

When we first moved to Maine 8 years ago, the Belfast Co-op very quickly became a central point of my acceptance into and of the community we chose to become our own. I was 15 then and now am nearly 23 and about to start my own family. Coming from that perspective; of a mother looking to build a safe, supportive, and healthy community for my child as I had, my vision for the growth of the Co-op really focuses on being a place to gather for the community. I believe that we should look at making the Co-op a place that is inviting and welcoming to everyone in our community through a focus on local food and products as is in accordance with their mission. Having more variety and rotation of healthy, fresh, and locally prepared food is a great way to highlight the local food that makes our Co-op unique and also can help us be less dependent on other distributors. I also think it is important to remember that the Co-op staff are an integral part of the Co-op, its growth, and its welcoming nature. Their safety and work conditions must be taken into consideration and addressed. The renovation projects are very important to me. Before we moved to Maine, my childhood revolved around the co-op my mother started with a few friends when I was born, as a way to provide good quality, local food for our family at an affordable price. By age 10 I knew the ins and outs of running a food Co-op with active working members. With these experiences, I learned that a co-op functions best when it has active members embodying the values of the community. In turn, those community values will then be embodied by the co-op so it can give back to its active members and the community at large. All of these values are indispensable, for the co-op, and its members. I also learned that focusing on the local food we all love and have in common is the only way to truly make all welcome. This is a goal I feel strongly about, and I’m hoping to see it realized and passed on to the next generations of members. I want to be an active member. This is why I am running to be elected to the Board Of Directors.

Ernie Cooper

Ernie Cooper

2022-2025

Ernie previously served as Board Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee, involved in adoption of policy changes that strengthened the Co-op’s financial foundation. He has long believed in the importance of the cooperative business model as an alternative to corporate commerce. His experience has confirmed that being an active, committed, contributing member of the Board is perhaps the most important community service he can undertake.

Susan Cutting

Susan Cutting

2023-2026

Susan has experience volunteering for local nonprofits as well as managing international and regional environmental programs. She finds the most gratifying piece to be collaboration, often with those of differing voices, and group facilitation. She carries with her a love for nature, her family and friends, a deep appreciation and respect for this community, and a passion for protecting the Earth.

Rio Greeley

Rio Greeley

2023-2026

As a former worker at the Co-op, space, and worker safety are particularly important to me. I remember many cramped sessions in the Deli Kitchen and the Produce Alley, so ensuring that workers have ample room to maneuver while performing their duties is essential.

As someone who lives close to the Co-op, I myself rely on it to fill many of my needs. I think with the implementation of the Shop-For-Me system, we have helped expand our services to those who might struggle with coming into the Co-op regularly, and I think we should continue to explore areas where we can ensure that those without geographical or financial means can continue to gain access to the quality food the Co-op can provide.

I believe that the Co-op can continue to act on its values by continuing to work and collaborate with other nonprofits and organizations in the area. The Common Cents programs the Co-op provides are a fantastic example of our values, and I believe we can extend our hands out in other ways to help all of us thrive.

I believe that the Co-op bulletin board has helped with the spread of Community Activities, and I am hopeful that the eventual reopening of the Co-op Cafe can help return a sense of community that has become faded in the past couple of years. I also believe that we could host or sponsor more events (when it is safe to do so), such as a community game night, helping out a local farm, or even clean-up work at the transfer station or other such events to help foster trust in the broader community.

I think it is very important to make sure the Co-op is transparent about any issues relating to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion so that both the workers and the members can be assured that the organization as a whole is working to further the interests of the community and the well-being of its members. Programs such as the Owner Rewards Program are fantastic, and I think the Co-op should explore more areas to help aid those who may struggle to afford the prices of healthier products.

I have previously worked for the Co-op, so I am familiar with its inner workings. In my employment at The Game Loft, I also monitor the Game Loft Youth Board, which acts similarly to a normal Board of Directors, so I have a good measure of experience with how Boards operate.

John Krueger

John Krueger

2023-2026

John Krueger is excited to bring his skills, particularly those gleaned from his years on the MOFGA board, to the Co-op. John also has financial and management skills from his career as a Maine DEP Scientist and director, and as an elected official in local politics. John would like to assure that the Co-op’s values and Global Ends Statement continue to gain traction in the future so others can learn from the Co-op’s success.

Jim Miller

Jim Miller

2023-2025

 I think it’s most important that we have a safer environment for our staff and the addition of a hydraulic lift cannot come soon enough. I believe the café reopening contributes to our community of shoppers and differentiates us from our competition. I believe if we are lacking in quality food it should be up to the staff via Doug Johnson to correct the issue. My exposure to the Co-op over the last several years has been in the area of finance. (I have volunteered for the last 6 plus years.) If we are lacking an awareness of equality, equity, etc., (I am not aware) I would expect a discussion at the board level. If we need to improve our community relations, the board, and membership should be involved in what is lacking and how we will rectify it. I think the answer to how we might put diversity, equity, and inclusion, front and center is to once again start with board and member analysis, and create a plan with clear goals. I do appreciate the role of a board and a general manager and that role needs to be respected. I have served on several boards, some formal and others not so much. I was a board member of the Co-op during its time on lower Main Street and on High. I was Treasurer for most of the dozen years I served on the board. I am currently on the Restorative Justice board and have served for 8 years as Treasurer. I consider myself a team player and a good listener. I recently retired and have the time and energy for this assignment. Three years is a commitment I can make.

Collin Thompson

Collin Thompson

2022-2025

A former co-op worker and vendor Collin’s career has been spent in local agriculture; he has always viewed food cooperatives as a critical piece of the infrastructure of any community. The Belfast Community Co-op was a large factor in his decision to move to the region. Previously, Collin served on the board at the Marquette Food Co-op, and is eager to help our Co-op continue to use its influence in the community to do good.

Valerie Tate

Valerie Tate

2021-2024

Valerie began her career as an RN at an hospital in an underserved community, then became a labor leader of nurses. At the time of her retirement, she was the coordinator of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare, supporting the leadership of 85,000 nurses nationwide. Experience has shown her that, where there is conflict, there’s a respectful way to find common ground.

Board’s Role

The BOD has fiduciary responsibility for the Co-op and is directly accountable to the owners. The BOD’s essential role is to set and monitor policies that guide the Co-op’s management and to ensure that all decisions are ethical and in accordance with the Co-op’s Bylaws and Ends, and with Cooperative Principles and Values.

The Board governs the organization and delegates all operational duties to the General Manager. The Board is involved in:

  • Strategic planning
  • Financial and legal oversight
  • Member-owner linkage
  • Community Outreach

The Board of Directors does not make decisions regarding the operation of the Belfast Co-op store. The Board’s sole official connection to the operations of the Co-op is through the General Manager.

Meetings and Events

  • Board Meetings. The Board meets once a month, usually on the 4th Wednesday of the month, from 6 pm to 8:30 pm. One to two hours of reading is required to prepare for each meeting, generally in a combination of emails and a board packet provided prior to the meeting.
  • Committee Meetings. The Board has three (3) standing committees: Finance, Owner Engagement, and Board Development. Directors must serve on at least one committee. Committees generally meet once a month.
  • Annual Retreat. A one-day training retreat is held each year after the election. Directors are expected to attend.
  • Training Events. Directors are supported to attend co-op national and regional conferences and educational workshops throughout the year.

The Belfast Co-op’s Board of Directors consists of 9-13 members elected by the owners. The Board has fiduciary responsibility for the Co-op and is directly accountable to the owners. It ensures that all business is conducted legally, prudently, ethically, and in accordance with the Co-op’s bylaws and ends, and with cooperative principles. The Board carries out its responsibilities by establishing broad policy guidelines and by monitoring the General Manager’s adherence to these guidelines.

 

Board Responsibilities and Commitments:

  • Interacting with owners to understand their needs, values, and visions for the Co-op
  • Developing, monitoring, and revising a body of policies to guide the Board and General Manager to achieve outcomes that are consistent with our owner’s values and vision.
  • Hiring, evaluating, and working effectively with the General Manager.
  • Attend all Board and appropriate Committee meetings and arrive prepared to contribute to discussions and decision-making, including carefully reading the board packet in advance of every monthly meeting. Devote the time needed to do this work well, approximately 10-15 hours/month for meetings, emails, ongoing training, preparation, and other activities.
  • Monitor the Co-op’s financial status and plan to position the Co-op for ongoing success.
  • Planning for the Co-op’s future, recruiting new board members, and setting long-range goals.
  • Keep informed of cooperative/democratic organizations and learn about natural foods industry trends through trainings and other educational opportunities.
  • Adhere to the Board’s Code of Conduct, policy C5 – Code of Conduct of the Policy Register.  

Board members are elected to one to three year terms and approximately one-third of the Board is up for election each year during a period that includes the Annual Meeting. 

Policy Governance

The Belfast Co-op Board operates using a Policy Governance model which sets up guidelines, called policies,  within which the General Manager and the Board maintain accountability for operational performance and provide visionary leadership towards our shared mission. These policies are the primary way the Board conveys its expectations and the policies are monitored and reviewed on a regular basis. The General Manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the store, and the Board determines the purpose, vision, and goals for the organization’s future based on Owner input. Policy Governance more clearly defines and focuses Board work on long-range policy decisions and not operational responsibilities. This system of governance requires attention, training, and practice.

Modified Consensus Decision Making

The Board uses modified consensus decision-making in its meetings. This process considers the input from all directors and aims to develop as much agreement as possible while respecting dissenting opinions. This helps generate a cooperative, collaborative group atmosphere to foster greater group cohesion and interpersonal connection. If consensus cannot be reached, the Board uses a supermajority of two-thirds to break any impasse on important or time-sensitive issues. Once the Board makes a decision, all directors must support that decision.

Requirements to Serve

Bylaw Requirements for Director Candidates:

  • A candidate must be a member-owner in good standing (up-to-date on annual equity payments).
  • Members of the management team of the Co-op (the General Manager and those reporting directly to the General Manager) are NOT eligible to be a director.
Qualifications
  • Excellent communication skills including the ability to listen actively, and speak honestly and openly in group discussion, while also being able to abide by decisions arrived at by the Board
  • Ability to work closely with other Board Members as a cohesive team, make decisions by consensus, delegate authority, and empower others
  • A vision and commitment to make decisions for the long-term success of the Co-op
  • Ability to synthesize complex information and share an understanding of this information
  • Comfortable talking and working with owners and other groups 
  • Commitment to making Board work and responsibilities a priority
  • Experience serving on a board of directors or other organizational committees
  • Background in business or community outreach
  • Experience with cooperatives, and their values and principles
  • Ability to read financial reports (or commitment to learning how to do so)
    Benefits of Board Service
    • Opportunity to provide meaningful service to the local community and economy
    • Leadership, professional and personal development opportunities
    • A small monthly stipend of $40 in the form of a Co-op gift card
    • Opportunity to work with a committed, principled, capable, and fun group of people

    Board Meetings

    The Board meets at least monthly, generally on the fourth Wednesday from 6:00-8:30 PM. Meetings are open to Co-op owners, with specific time reserved for owner comments. Additional committee meetings happen throughout the month.

    Date of next meeting:        February 28

    You can join the Board for their monthly meetings in-person in the Abbott Room of the Belfast Free Library or virtually through Zoom teleconference.

    Board meeting agendas are posted on the Co-op bulletin board and website one week prior to each scheduled meeting. Approved minutes of Board meetings are available on the website the week following the subsequent monthly meeting. Special meetings may be called as necessary by the Board, or by petition submitted by at least 10% of Co-op owners.

    What Makes a Co-op, a Co-op?

    Definition: A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.

    Values: Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. 

    Principles:

    1. Voluntary and Open Membership
    2. Democratic Member Control
    3. Member Economic Participation
    4. Autonomy and Independence
    5. Education, Training, and Information
    6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
    7. Concern for Community

    If you have questions, please email the Board at board@belfast.coop.

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