We are pleased to share the appointment of Jackie Kittrell to seat 7 of the Board of Directors, which became vacant with the passing of Helen de Haven last summer. Jackie is the Executive Director of the Community Mediation Center (CMC), a nonprofit that provides mediation services to our community in Knox and surrounding counties, regardless of ability to pay, and with a focus on vulnerable populations in need of mediation services and training services. She is also a licensed TN attorney, practicing employment law, civil rights law, and family law for over 35 years.
Jackie recently attended Cooperative Board Leadership 101 along with newly elected Directors Alhen Drillich and Adam Hughes. This training, a benefit of Board service, is provided by Columinate, a consulting cooperative serving mission-driven organizations. Here are some reflections on this learning experience:
Alhen Drillich: “In my recent CBL 101 course from Columinate, we explored cooperative economics, governance, and financial management, starting with the history of African American cooperative development. We discussed examples like the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, highlighting how communities built economic support systems during segregation.
The course emphasized the active role of cooperatives in economic and social resilience, recognizing contributions labor unions in establishing co-ops. We debated the balance between cooperative values and market competition, stressing the importance of member engagement and education.
In break-out groups, we shared experiences from our co-ops, discussing challenges like member engagement, trust-building, and balancing sustainability with accessibility. The course concluded with a focus on the responsibilities of Board members, including fiduciary duties and the importance of transparency and accountability in decision-making.
Overall, the course provided a comprehensive insight into cooperative principles and their practical application in today’s cooperative landscape.”
Adam Hughes: “I’ve been thrilled and honored to join the Board of Three Rivers Market – I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t admit to sometimes feeling overwhelmed. After taking Columinate’s CBL 101 training, I was struck by the feeling of how bold and difficult a task we as members and staff have taken on by trying to run a principled, successful market. Markets like ours run on a razor’s edge; the typical cooperative market needs to sell $5 million worth of goods in order to turn a mere $50,000 profit. Some of the largest companies in the world are working to “disrupt” our industry and take our market space. New entrants in the market, expanding options in big-box stores, the rise of online ordering…all of these threaten to peel off our customer base and force us to respond.
The advantage we’ll always have, however, is community. It’s the amazing community of Three Rivers member-owners that provides our competitive advantage, and it’s there we need to look to maintain our distinctiveness. When you shop at Three Rivers, you’re building equity in a store you own with your neighbors; as a Board, we need to uplift the power of that shared model. When you have thoughts on how Three Rivers can be even better, you’re invited to participate in the governance process; as a Board, we need to welcome in a variety of members, and provide opportunities for participation that meet everyone’s schedule. When you purchase food at Three Rivers, you can buy products sourced as locally and ethically as possible; as a Board, we need to show off our amazing farmers and providers and situate ourselves in a thriving East Tennessee food economy.
I hope you’re proud every time you shop at Three Rivers or encourage your friends to become members. In that pride, we find our greatest strength. As a Board member, this is the challenge that will motivate me in my work: am I helping to build a cooperative that we can all be proud of?”
New Directors’ next training is the four-part series Finance Training for Directors, which will enable them to better understand their role in financial oversight and evaluating risk. All Directors have the opportunity to attend additional educational and interactive sessions throughout the year on a variety of topics of interest to those involved in cooperative leadership. We look forward to continually furthering our learning in service to Three Rivers Market.