People You Should Know
Thomas Hutch saw the value of cooperatives early in life. As a student at Morehouse College, Mr. Hutch and his roommate wanted to move off campus during their junior year. A fellow student recommended a cooperative that would accept college students, and this started Mr. Hutch’s involvement in the cooperative movement which has continued for more than 45 years. Having served on the Board of Manchester Knolls for more than 33 years, Mr. Hutch has gained some insight on the positive effects of cooperative living.
“In my opinion, co-op living is an excellent option for starting a family. When you buy into a co-op when your income is low, as your income increases, you will get to market rate. But remember to invest the money you save for ten years and become financially independent as your family grows.”
Mr. Hutch has served his Cooperative with distinction over the years, and he credits some of his past experiences as major influences. From his father, a small business owner, Mr. Hutch “observed how he conducted meetings with our employees.” In high school, Mr. Hutch served as Treasurer and President of his junior and senior classes. At Morehouse College, he became President of the Biology Club, and after college he was President of the Loyola Academy Fathers Club in Wilmette, IL.
Needless to say, his prior positions have served him well at Manchester Knolls.
“I like being able to serve my community and give back to society,” Mr. Hutch said when asked what he most likes about being on the Board. Mr. Hutch has advice to board members who want to serve their cooperative effectively. Board members should be volunteer citizens “who want to make their community a decent, safe, prosperous, and happy place for families to raise their children.” In addition, a board member needs to be “unselfish, trust-worthy and have a high-caliber character.”
Some cooperatives have trouble recruiting new members, but Mr. Hutch sees this as an opportunity. “Usually we recruit Members-Owners that have proven their ability and willingness to serve their community by working and volunteering on our Co-op Committees. Being a good member requires active participation. “You have to make decisions that affect people’s lives. They put their trust in you. In public service, your life is under a microscope. You are on the job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
This gives them idea of what they’re getting into, and their work on committees makes them more receptive to working with the current board.”
Serving on a board does pose some challenges. The board serves its Members-Owners to ensure the community adheres to federal, state, and local guidelines, and it must also “make good legal and prudent business decisions based upon good business information without any conflict of interest and confidentiality breaches.”
Mr. Hutch sees the President of the Board as a vital part to the success of a cooperative’s board. The President needs to be strong, trustworthy and have a strong moral character. When asked what prompted him to run for his Board’s president, Mr. Hutch said that “Morehouse College drilled into me to serve the community with the academic skills that Mother Morehouse blessed me with, so when our next door neighbor, Mrs. Davis and my wife were talking about us meeting when I was at Morehouse, Mrs. Davis nominated me to run for our Board. The rest is history. I always only said if asked I will run. Every year since then I have been asked to run for our community.”