Board of Directors Nominees

A well-functioning, Member-Owner elected Board of Directors is crucial to everyone’s experience at the Co-op. People’s is a democratic institution run by a group of 32 Collective Managers working together to operate the Co-op on behalf of the Member-Ownership. The Board is made up of nine elected representatives whose main duty is to establish written policy that sets boundaries for the Collective Management to operate within, and to ensure that performance meets these expectations. 

As elected leaders, Board members are expected to engage and create meaningful relationships with Member-Owners by attending community events, and listening and responding to feedback regarding the Co-op. The ideal Board candidate is an empathetic, clear, and respectful communicator. Because much of this communication takes place over email, experience with written communication is an ideal skill; however, the duties of the Board require a variety of different skills. Familiarity with monitoring reports, bylaws, and other financial documents is appreciated, but the Co-op is happy to provide training and other resources so that all candidates are supported and encouraged to run. The Board aspires to be a diverse group of people and experiences to represent the community.

The Board’s work can also be creative and radical. The Co-op is in the process of creating a long-term plan and needs the Board to be fully involved in creating a plan that will work for our community and our store. This means thinking critically about ways to remain relevant and competitive in an ever-expanding natural foods market. Compelling, visionary, and open-minded thinkers are required for the Co-op to grow. 

Finally, both diligent communication and meeting attendance are essential to a functional Board. This means showing up for monthly meetings and other events, coordinating via email, and contributing to a fair share of the workload. Of course, an abiding passion for People’s’ community, values, and vision is also required!

 
 
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Judith Maron-Friend

Why are you running for the board of directors?

The simple answer, and I believe the most honest one, is that I want to make a contribution in a meaningful way which can contribute to the greater good. Having the ability to be heard and to have an influence in shaping our co-op and keeping it viable in our community, as we all do as Member-Owners, is an invaluable asset. The cohesiveness of such a group has a beautiful power in having a positive and lasting effect on the community at large. I have a passion for healthy foods and co-ops provide some of the finest quality foods in our society today. From the perspective of my work as an Energy Healing Therapist, I know the value of feeding our bodies, not only healthy, chemical-free foods, but also feeding our bodies with foods that have a strong Life Force Energy.

Lots of stores sell natural foods, and more and more retailers are popping up online. What can People's do to continue to stay relevant to our community?

From my perspective, natural foods are only a portion of the equation. What makes the co-op vital is its ideals of inclusion, acceptance and true community. Further, it continues to surpass many of these other organizations because it remains true to sustainability and working with local farms. We have an obligation to uphold these ideals and more importantly to educate our growing community regarding just how vital it has become to protect the environment and the planet by not abandoning these ideals and not turning away from advancing our positive impact on the environment and the community at large through this commitment. Education is key and by reaching out to the community with the desire to share our knowledge can help to fortify and nurture these objectives. Staying relevant may simply mean to continue to embrace and "expand our individuality" in the marketplace and I believe that there are many ways to do this which need to be explored. However, first and foremost, I feel that it is vital to gain a following through what makes us strong and unique.

What important experience, skills, and perspective would you bring to the board as a director?  

For many years, prior to turning to Energy Healing Therapy as my career focus, I owned my own business and partnered in another. I understand the importance of marketing in keeping a business viable because visibility can be half of the battle. We know we have a superior product at the co-op, now we need to become more proficient at marketing our product. My former career was in advertising as a designer and creative director so I worked closely with the marketing industry and know how effective it can be if it is implemented properly. All this being said, I believe my true abilities lie with my passion for eating healthy foods. I lived in Miami in the 70’s and this was my first introduction to the food cooperative concept. In Coconut Grove there was a co-op called Fruit of Divine and it was just a tiny little shop tucked away on a back street. The first time I happened onto this little store and wandered in I was completely astounded by the abundance and quality of the produce that filled this little space and was sure that I had never seen such a sight. This and one other natural food store became my haven for food during my time in Miami and I have been forever changed by the experience.

Please describe your connection to People's, such as what draws you here, your involvement thus far?

I believe that our co-op is unlike the others in Portland (in my experience) as it has the quality of (a sort of) sanctuary. The grounds, the building and the people feel connected in an earthy way. It has an air of welcome and ease and creates an environment that feels very homey. Many times I simply look for reasons to go shopping so that I can spend time there. It is a relaxed and quite laid back feel overall. My involvement with the co-op thus far has been as a HOO (Hands On Owner) volunteer for the grocery department and I also had an opportunity to participate in the Synthesis Process last year which was another catalyst to become more involved and do more from within instead of from the sidelines, so to speak. I've become more familiar with some more of the wonderful folks who keep the shop running and enjoy interacting with them when I shop. I think I'd like to have more of this interaction.

Where do you see the Co-op in 2030?

For some time now I have felt that the co-op needs to stretch out a bit more. The Synthesis Process put me in touch with how some of the Member-Owners feel about our need to expand our presence in the Portland community. More than ever, I feel that it is vital to keep up with our rapidly expanding community and to keep this steady and ongoing, but surely, in a way that maintains and grows our ideals and commitment to the co-op’s objectives. If we can do it in our current location we can surely transport those ideals and objectives into other locations or a larger environment. This view has met with some controversy but that is my belief. If we do not keep a forward motion in this ever-expanding marketplace, even if we are on the right track we run the risk of getting run over. I see the co-op as a vital, educational force in the community offering more than just healthy nutritious foods and I know that this is a tantalizing aspect to many, and more and more, as folks begin to awaken to the importance of wholesome, nutritious and chemical free foods offered by a heartfelt, committed and vibrant organization.

 
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Chris Eykamp

Why are you running for the Board of Directors?

Last summer's proposal to sell our building and relocate the store to a leased site elsewhere was a wake up call for me.  That a decision of this magnitude would or could be made without input from the Board, with the intent of finalizing it without a vote of the Owners was a shock.  That we would spend $160,000 studying it was a disappointment.

I am running for the Board because 1) I believe the Board has the ultimate responsibility to ensure the financial stability and viability of our store; and 2) I believe the co-op must be more transparent in the way decisions are made, money is spent, and information is communicated.

Specifically, I want owners to have a greater voice in the long-term strategic planning of the co-op.  Major decisions that would change the character of People's should be voted on by owners. We need increased financial transparency, and greater empowerment of owners who want to understand how the co-op is operating and to participate in making the big decisions that will shape our future. This is difficult when even basic information, such as our general budget, is withheld from owners, contrary to our bylaws.

More than anything, I want People's to continue to be healthy and strong.  Our community is a rich resource and our greatest strength. Not everyone will have the interest or bandwidth to participate, but we need to draw upon the experience and resources of those that do.  

Lots of other stores sell natural foods, and more and more retailers are popping up online. What can People's do to continue to stay relevant to our community?

I am very happy to see an increasing number of stores offering healthy, organic foods – it means our values are winning in the marketplace. But shopping is more than just product selection and price, it is a physical experience, and, at its best, creates social connections and community. New Seasons offers many products that People's cannot, but the shopping experience is anonymous and impersonal. Those who shop at People's are choosing a human-scale experience, one that cannot be replicated in a larger store. That experience is what differentiates us from our competition.

What important experience, skills, and perspective would you bring to the Board as a director?

I am a community organizer, and I have been part of People's for over two decades.  I know our history, our people, and our roots. I have strong communication, community-building, and organizing skills, all of which are necessary for a position on the Board.  I also have technical skills and can offer ideas for improving our digital communication and outreach. And, of course, I have the financial skills needed to help make good decisions about how to best steward the co-op.

During 2017, the co-op proposed selling our building, and moving into a leased storefront elsewhere.  We spent over $160,000 to determine the plan didn't make financial sense, and, as a direct result, our cash reserves fell from over $1M to about $940,000.  In 2018, the co-op has budgeted spending $300,000 more on additional planning and consulting services, the vast bulk of which will come from our remaining cash reserves.

I want to see the Board exercise greater oversight over how we spend our savings, and ensure we are making a wise investment in our future.  Rather than paying consultants, I would invest our funds in capital projects (like fixing our back stock areas), in new lines of business (like a deli cart in the courtyard), or in upgraded equipment (like replacing the freezer that broke recently, when we lost all our ice cream).  For $300,000 we might be able to do all three.

Please describe your connection to People's, such as what draws you here, your involvement thus far?

I initially became a member of People's because I live near the store, it was convenient, and it was a good source of fresh, healthy produce at a time when there were few other good options.  Over time, I have learned much more about, and eventually came to internalize, the values of the co-op, such as a connection to farmers and ethical food production. I believe that by making the store welcoming to new customers, exposure to our values will give people an opportunity to grow, as I did.

Where do you see the Co-op in 2030?

We're a small, community-owned grocery store offering a different experience in an increasingly corporate and impersonal natural foods marketplace. In order for us to still exist in 2030, we need to ensure our finances are sustainable and our operations profitable. Currently, we have two huge advantages: we don't have investors demanding a fixed return, and we own our building, which keeps our cost structure lower than our competitors, and ensures we are not beholden to a landlord who could raise the rent or sell our building. I could see us opening a second (or third) store in the next decade, but only if it makes financial sense, and I would like to see us building deeper connections to other co-ops, perhaps using our expertise to foster the birth of new, independent cooperative grocery stores in other parts of the city.

 
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Gordon Davis

Why are you running for the Board of Directors?

I’ve been a Member-Owner of People’s since 2010 and a Hands-on Owner since 2015. I’ve worked with and within food co-ops since the late 70’s, although no where near continuously. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I believe I have a some good ideas. I’m also ready to learn things that I don’t know that I don’t know. What I do know is that it is all about SERVICE. We need to continually improve our level of service.

Lots of other stores sell natural foods, and more and more retailers are popping up online. What can People's do to continue to stay relevant to our community?

I use the internet to research all sorts of commodities and products but I draw the line at shopping on the internet unless I absolutely can’t get it local and would never, ever shop online for food or supplements. This trend away from local brick and mortar is death to our communities! I want an actual connection with any business I patronize and the people who make that business happen. I’m not referring to a virtual internet connection here. I prefer to do business with worker or member-owned businesses that adhere to the seven principles as closely as possible. The co-op stays relevant to our community by continuing to follow the seven principles and to begin to actually implement them more fully. No one needs to be reminded that it is best to know where your food comes from, who grew it and how it was grown. One can never be sure in regular retail let alone from the internet. Connecting people with the food and the food producers is vitally important for those in the know and will become increasingly so as time goes on. We need to emphasize the high quality and great plethora of rare items that are available at People’s. Yes, one can purchase these things online but who knows how long the product has sat on a shelf and who can really say what is in it. People’s has earned my trust in a way that an online store could never do even if I gave them the chance. If I have questions about a certain product, I know I can go to the buyer and get the answers I seek or be told where to go to find those answers. One can rarely do this on the internet or even in most conventional retail grocery stores.

What important experience, skills, and perspective would you bring to the board as a director?

I’ll be the first to admit that this is my first run for a board. I know that our co-op faces a myriad of challenges from both within and without. Over the years, I’ve been involved with the operation of several co-ops and have seen how they work at a nuts and bolts level. I’ve also been involved in consensus decision making which usually involved a bit of thinking outside the box. I’ve also done much troubleshooting of systems, set up processes to streamline aspects of the work. As part of this process thing, I’ve set up and facilitated training on systems that have been agreed upon in consensus. I’m also doing this to learn more and to give back. I am committed to our success whether I ever serve on the Board or remain the Sunday morning bulk HOO.

Please describe your connection to People's, such as what draws you here, your involvement thus far?

My major connection with People’s was re-established when I moved to southeast from east county in 2010. It was the farmer’s market that initially drew me in. That first day, I ran into people that I knew from other activities I’d engaged in around town so, for me, it became a weekly meeting place. I soon began a dialogue with some of your vendors and staff and since I was now in the neighborhood, I decided I’d rather throw my support towards your business than any of the nameless, faceless other establishments where I could buy “food”. I had wanted to volunteer from the time of my first contact but didn’t find the time until April of 2015. my sunday HOO shift fits well with my work schedule and after three years, I’d rather be in the bulk section at 6am Sunday mornings than just about anywhere else.

Where do you see the Co-op in 2030?

I see People’s in place and stronger than ever in 12 years provided we begin now to flesh out one or more of the seven principles. My areas of most interest concerning the seven principles are:

  1. Education, Training, and Information - for customers, staff and volunteers.
  2. Cooperation Among Cooperatives - combining resources to prevent duplication of effort and to increase buying power.
 
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Vishal Dhandia

Why are you running for the Board of Directors?

I am running for the board as I intend to make a positive and meaningful contribution to mankind, to the community and to my neighborhood. I see myself as a board member for many years to come and look forward to taking on a role as spokesperson of the Member-Owners and managers within the board meetings. As a board member, I want to work to promote involvement of Member-Owners and management in policy making. I envision an ethical cooperative model for People's which encourages diversity and inclusion, humanity, humility, equality, trust, justice, transparency and wellbeing of all our employees, members and non-members. My idea is for People's to have more robust and holistic short-term (1-5 years) goals and long-term (5-10 years) vision which may require more progressive and innovative and maybe unconventional policies and I would like to bring in those new ideas and perspectives on the table and eventually convert those ideas into new policy framework. I also wish to see our cooperative moving towards a zero waste, cruelty-free, eco-friendly, fair trade, local farmer friendly ecosystem and I believe much of my contribution if selected as a board member will be in this sphere. A cooperative like ours is promoting communal living and we must spread this goodness to others around us by creating a bigger, happier and harmonious community. I aspire to create a more engaging atmosphere at our beautiful cooperative with more people becoming part of this community.    

Lots of other stores sell natural foods, and more and more retailers are popping up online. What can People's do to continue to stay relevant to our community?

Collective consciousness is evolving as we are becoming more aware of ourselves, our health and our environment. We as a community are striving to become more sustainable, eco-friendlier, healthier and more compassionate. People's needs to work in alignment with the change around the world and in Portland of course. Portland is one of the most progressive cities in the US, pioneering the evolution of the new age woman and man and People's has a big responsibility to make sure it's ready to serve to a new way of life. Apart from selling natural organic food, People's needs to take a step forward to progress towards becoming a healthier and affordable food store, serving only the healthiest products which are good for the families, children and their pets and making sure that our operational processes are sustainable and eco-friendly too. Every day more people are becoming environmentally conscious and as a result, more and more zero waste grocery stores are opening around the world to fight plastic waste that’s killing our planet. People's should envision itself becoming a zero-waste store in the coming years and hence start working in that direction. Of course, it would be essential for People's to educate its Member-Owners about the value of going zero waste and the ways and means of doing it. Moreover, online order and bulk delivery system, affordable pricing, a café, a bigger marketing spending to expand our thriving community and more activities such as mixers, soirees etc. will play an important role in shaping People's future

What important experience, skills, and perspective would you bring to the board as a director?

I have worked an Assistant Manager at a non-profit vegan grocery store called Vegan Haven in Seattle, Washington which supported pigs sanctuary called Pigs Peace where I handled store management, ordering, stocking, logistics, accounts and payments, marketing and policymaking. During my time working there, our store witnessed more than 75% sales increase over the last year and overachieved the estimated forecasts which was the result of our hard work and commitment to the store. I have considerable experience working with non-profits and I still work as a Digital Marketing Specialist for a vegan education nonprofit called "Gentle World" where my work is to promote veganism through digital advertising, email marketing and blogging. Moreover, with an MBA degree, my educational experience in business consulting and marketing will translate well in the role of a board member to help making better policies which make good business sense. Travel, diversity, inclusion, love, music, yoga, meditation, environmental consciousness, the idea of live and let live amongst other things inspires my life and the way I live every day. My perspectives come from my inspirations and my intentions to live in harmony with nature, which I shall bring in to the board meetings. Not to forget mentioning, I am fortunate to be living in an eco-community in South East Portland where I live in harmony with other community members and learn what it takes to live with people, to appreciate one another, to inspire and get inspired from others at the same time.  

Please describe your connection to People's, such as what draws you here, your involvement thus far?

Being part of a cooperative, which sets an example of how we the people can create a community where everyone's welfare is of utmost importance attracts me to People's. I adore People's for its distinctiveness from other profit-making grocery stores which hardly align with my values. The idea of a place which is run by the people for the people to provide the best food and engaging activities makes me cherish People's existence in my own neighborhood. I love how everyone who works at the cooperative is a leader and that there is no hierarchy. I am pro-equality and still debate if capitalism is good for mankind and in that regard, I love People's’ influence in the community and am really impressed by the way it has been established, managed and run by its Member-Owners, managers and board members. I moved to Portland two months ago and came to know about People's a month ago through my neighbors. The first time I walked into People's I felt so amazed by the whole idea and immediately became a member and even signed up for the HOO (Hands On Owner) program. Now I work every Saturday in the morning from 7 am to 10 am in the bulk section helping Ben. I see my decision to become a member, shopping at People's and making a choice of spending my dollars towards a cooperative is my little contribution to People's Cooperative but certainly I would love to do much more.  

Where do you see the Co-op in 2030?

I envision a very bright and optimistic future for the co-op. By 2025, I foresee the major neighborhoods in Portland having their own People's Co-op store so that people can walk/bike to where they buy their food and other basic daily necessities and need not use four wheelers to get to their favorite grocery store. And by 2030 I also see more People's Co-op in various cities in Oregon such Bend, Ashland, Eugene, Corvallis, Salem.  I foresee People's revenue growth to be exponential and much more compared to the US Grocery Industry growth forecasts of mere 3-4%. I believe that cooperative stores such as People's provide much more value to the society and communities today than they ever did any time in American history. A 20-25% growth rate year over year will bring People to a total revenue of approximately 160 million by 2030 which could be credited to the various stores that People’s will open in this course time and because of our ever-growing member base. I see People’s not only selling groceries but eco clothing, sustainable plastic free homeware, tiny homes and services such as online order and delivery, healthy food restaurants, naturopathy, Ayurveda therapy, etc. I idealize a member network of at least 100K members with more than 15-20 stores and more than a 1000 employee working in these stores. I am very confident that it won't be long before People’s will start spreading its roots in other states in West Coast including California, Hawaii, Colorado and Washington.

 
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Liz Robertson

Why are you running for the Board of Directors?

When I moved to Portland by myself, I was in search of new communities of people to engage with on professional and personal levels. Most natural food co-ops that I have shopped in are successful in providing organic, nutritious, and wholesome foods. People’s Co-op is the first that I have discovered in creating a welcoming and truly active space within the community. From the year-round weekly farmer’s market, to the Hands-On Owners program, to the yoga classes and diverse array of events and courses in the community room, People’s Co-op sets itself apart. People’s has helped me find happiness in calling Portland home, and I am thrilled for the opportunity to run for the board and to play a more direct role in collaborating with the co-op’s community as we look ahead during these challenging and exciting times.

Lots of other stores sell natural foods, and more and more retailers are popping up online. What can People's do to continue to stay relevant to our community?

With growth, expansion, and change on the horizon, it’s important for People’s to stay true to its roots as a cornerstone of the community. There are countless stores in Portland that sell natural foods, but how many of those have an Ends Statement that they tirelessly work towards achieving, with the goal of prioritizing the needs and well being of shoppers, Member-Owners, Collective Managers, and the environment? Not many. To stay relevant in a time when organic, natural, and local foods are taking up more and more shelf space in mainstream grocery and box stores, People’s can continue to balance growth and expansion with maintaining the values that originally drew each of us to the co-op.

What important experience, skills, and perspective would you bring to the board as a director?

Professionally, I have a diverse background in the natural food industry, non-profit organizations, and environmental conservation. Working for these small organizations I’ve had the opportunity to develop my skills in communication and cooperation, collaboration, and outreach. Within the natural foods industry, I worked for a small web-based local food delivery service, and for Veritable Vegetable, which grew from its roots as an operation out of the founders’ garage to one of the largest organic distributors on the West Coast. In 2016 I spent six months living and volunteering on a variety of organic farms in Hawaii, from a not-for-profit community farm in a food desert on Oahu, to a family-owned lettuce farm on the Big Island, to a biodynamic farm on Molokai. With my experience working for operations ranging from very small to large scale, I am well versed in the challenges, opportunities, and growing pains that are all part of the process when small operations look to expand.

Please describe your connection to People's, such as what draws you here, your involvement thus far?

A natural foods co-op is a must-have for any city I choose to live in, so when I landed in southeast Portland People’s was one of the first spots I checked out in the neighborhood. I quite literally “came for the food, and stayed for the community.” I became a Hands-On-Owner last summer, and have the pleasure of stocking the bulk bins with the Monday morning crew. It’s a great way to start my work week, and people who know me well know that pouring a 25 pound bag of orca beans into a bulk bin is my happy place.

Where do you see the Co-op in 2030?

It’s hard to look ahead in a time when our day to day reality changes so drastically year after year with a global push to constantly change and evolve our world with technology. When I think about the year 2030, worrisome thoughts seem to come to mind first – --ocean pollution, deforestation, population, human rights, the global water crisis; the list goes on. I find solace in thinking of People’s Cco-op being there for all of us in 2030, with two thriving locations (if not more), wide aisles, comfortable work spaces, year-round farmers’ markets (plural!), and Member- Owners and Collective Managers who are active as leaders in social and environmental justice and continue to work together to maintain a cooperative space where all are welcome and all feel at home.

 
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Peter Siracusa

Why are you running for the Board of Directors?

Because People's has a chance to do things that really make a difference. For example, the palm oil industry continues to grow not just in tropical Asia, but is also expanding its vast acreage of monoculture into Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras, nations where the rule of law is weak. In all of these countries, marginalized human communities are displaced from their ancestral lands by armed actors paid by big businesses. Our own coop sells palm oil products grown on land violently taken from Afro-Colombian campesinos. I believe that this coop can do better. Let's make a difference that other health food stores notice and talk about. Let's start something.

Lots of other stores sell natural foods, and more and more retailers are popping up online. What can People's do to continue to stay relevant to our community?

By learning to engage the creative energy of the general membership. The owners of People's have millennia of accumulated life experience. Some have decades of co-op experience.  They are unsure of how to share their gifts. Let's find a way. As a start, maybe a night of old co-op stories.

What important experience, skills, and perspective would you bring to the board as a director?

A concern for what is sacred. For me, that includes openness, transparency, democratic process, responsiveness. These are all values that require vigilance and hard work.

Please describe your connection to People's, such as what draws you here, your involvement thus far?

Because I still find hope here. We are small enough that an individual can still be heard.

Where do you see the Co-op in 2030?

We start our own brand of CBD-infused fair-trade coconut sunblock. It goes nation-wide and money is never a problem again.

Ballots are due by 10pm on July 14th.

Cast your vote Online, by mail or in the store!