2020 Board Candidate: Elias Vlanton

Occupation

Retired Teacher and Writer

Education

BA in Psychology, Washington University, 1973
MAT in Education, Johns Hopkins University, 1997
Doctorate of Philosophy, St. Mary's College of Maryland, 2009 (Honorary)

Community Involvement

For three years I was on the co-op board in its early years and on more than a dozen co-op committees (publicity, co-op newsletter, intangibles, Nicaraguan sister co-op, etc.). I worked for 17 years as a high school teacher locally, and was very involved in a range of volunteer activities.

Why are you interested in serving on the Board?

As a long-term member, I have been very supportive of how the co-op has been run in recent years. The co-op did an amazing job of surviving during the pandemic, but it must have taken a serious economic toll. The proposed mega-development next door--eliminating parking for the co-op and other Junction businesses--threatens the survival of the co-op. A food store without a loading dock is unacceptable. If I serve on the board I will encourage considering moving the co-op if its survival continues to be threatened.

Why are co-ops in general and TPSS Co-op in particular important to you?

I see the co-operative movement as pre-figuring a society not based on profit. Co-ops show that another economic system is possible. I have watched this co-op grow from a small space with a few part-time employees to one of the largest, most diverse, and best paying businesses in the city. It shows what is possible.

What volunteer or professional experiences have you had with other co-operatives or organizations that will help you strengthen the TPSS Co-op Board?

Prior to arriving in Washington, I volunteered at a food co-op in St. Louis, MO. I participated in several Takoma Park organizations, mostly around political issues, and while teaching high school I created a program to help low-income students attend college. In retirement, I have volunteered as a high school tutor, and am beginning to volunteer on an community development program abroad.

What is your favorite Co-operative Principle and why?

I am not sure if "Concern for Community" is my favorite co-op principle or if it is one TPSS needs to emphasize. Our co-op does great things for the Takoma Park-Silver Spring community, but I am not sure that our members are always aware of what we give back to the community. I think that is something I would work on.

Describe your experience with financial oversight, particularly of a business or organization's budget and financial performance.

During my three previous terms on the TPSS board, I helped guide the co-op during difficult times, including the opening of the Takoma Cafe. From this and other experiences, I can analyze a budget and make valuable suggestions.

Why are diversity and equity important to you, and how do these principles show up in your life?

Touting my diversity credentials is virtue-signaling; I don't develop friendships to publicly advertise how woke I am. I am happy to discuss these issues one-on-one with other members, but it's too important to leave to a 25 words or less statement. The most important way the co-op can advance equity is to continue to pay high wages to its workers and good prices to the people who produce our food.