Rural Missouri - February 2012 - (Page 8)

Better Together he year was 1937 and electric cooperatives were just getting started in Missouri. No one had yet energized a line, although work was underway at three systems. Frustrations ran high as the leaders of those pioneering electric cooperatives — more accustomed to working cattle or planting corn — learned to deal instead with contractors and government bureaucrats. Recognizing their plight, attorney Fenton Stockard, who did the legal work for most Missouri electric cooperatives, sent out invitations to the eight electric cooperatives then in existence. He invited them to meet at the University of Missouri’s Mumford Hall, home to its Extension service. The purpose of that meeting on Feb. 11 was to discuss common problems the fledgling cooperatives were experiencing. What took place that day was the beginning of a statewide “cooperative for cooperatives,” then called the Missouri State Rural Electrification Association. Seventy-five years later, the organization is now the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, or AMEC. It carries out the task of helping electric cooperatives do their jobs better. The association exists to do the things local electric cooperatives can’t afford to do on their own, as well as what makes more sense to do jointly. “AMEC is the glue that holds us all together,” says Tom Steska, president of the association’s board and manager of Black River Electric Cooperative. “To have a hub that all of the spokes can flow into is what makes the wheel go around. All that is offered by AMEC would be virtually impossible for us to do on our own.” At that first meeting, Boone, Callaway, Lewis County Rural, Ralls County, Howard, Missouri Rural, Northwest Missouri and Intercounty electric cooperatives sent representatives. They were joined by Stockard and Ken Huff, an extension agricultural engineer who advised many electric cooperatives on technical matters. The group elected Ralls County Electric Cooperative Manager J.A. Weaver as its chairman. They then took turns telling about their progress in bringing electricity to their communities. In the spotlight was Lewis County Rural’s manager, Harry Ward. This system hit the ground running after its incorporation in June 1936. It would be the first in Missouri to energize a line, and everyone wanted to hear how the co-op got such a fast start. Before the meeting ended, Wayne Sandage of Andrew County offered a resolution setting the association’s T by Jim McCarty 75 Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives celebrates 75 years of cooperation WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP Above: Former AMEC Manager Frank Stork, right, welcomes U.S. Sen. Kit Bond to a meeting during one of many legislative events in Washington, D.C. Political action has been one of many important roles for the association. Below: Safety instructor Chuck Reese, standing, leads a class at the association’s training facility in Jefferson City in the 1970s. Linemen learn new skills and safety at classes held here. role. It would coordinate development; consider plans for standardized wiring and lighting; study legislative issues; consider group purchase of appliances; and work to increase use of electricity. As the months went by, new systems joined the association. Ideas were shared, demonstrations from suppliers took place and the need for a strong statewide association to protect the interests of the cooperatives in the state Capitol became apparent. One of the issues was tax assessment. Some electric cooperatives reported their lines were not assessed at all, while others paid rates higher than the norm. A committee was set up to research what the proper tax rate should be and provide sound arguments for its adoption. The association had powerful friends to keep an eye on issues at the Capitol. Fenton Stockard’s son, Gregory, who took over as the association’s attorney, was also Missouri’s secretary of state. And attorney John Dalton, who helped organize two southeast Missouri electric co-ops, was Missouri’s attorney general and would later be governor. Dalton was hired to write legislation. These early managers and directors had a “take no prisoners” attitude when it came to lobbying. When state Sen. Phil Donnelly blocked their efforts to move a vital piece of legislation out of committee, he was given the title of “No. 1 Enemy of Rural Electrification in Missouri.” They also descended en masse on the state highway department to protest what they believed were outrageously high bonds the department demanded for line construction along highways. By 1941, high accident rates for co-op employees became a major concern. Platte-Clay Electric’s Howard Alexander pushed for the formation of a Missouri REA Safety and Job Training program, and he held a demonstration safety meeting at his co-op. The association’s first two employees were training instructors hired to travel the state and put on safety meetings for employees. Talk of establishing a statewide publication began in 1945, when Boone Electric’s L.L. Anderson suggested the idea after seeing similar publications in Wisconsin and Illi- nois. His efforts would not bear fruit for three years, due to the shortage of paper caused by World War II. The first issue of the Rural Electric Missourian, with a press run of 90,000, rolled off the presses in January 1948 and continues today as Rural Missouri. That same year, Farmers’ Electric Manager Ernest Wood suggested the association purchase a circus tent and chairs to solve the problem of finding a place large enough for annual meetings. Out of that idea grew the “Annual Meeting Electrical Fair,” which brought not only the tent and chairs but also demonstrations of electrical equipment and entertainment to annual meetings around the state. The tent still makes its rounds today. Another vital role for the association began in December 1948, when Boone Electric Manager R.J. Martin came up with a plan to speed up outage restoration after major storms. He felt a coordinated call for help would speed crews from unaffected areas to assist those at the damaged system. Ironically, just a month later, Boone Electric became the first electric cooperative to use the Emergency Assistance Program. Today, this wellcoordinated effort is one of the Association’s most important roles. Training became critical as employees and directors were called on to do new tasks. So the association set up training classes and conferences for directors, manager, bookkeepers and power-use advisers. All of this was done without a manager nor an office. At this time, the work was carried out by committees composed of directors or managers from the electric cooperatives. There were no full-time employees. The younger Stockard drafted legislation in his Jefferson City office, and members learned about it from the publication, which was put together by editor Homer Hill in St. Louis. That changed in 1949 when Julius Helm was hired as the first manager, and an office was opened in Jefferson City’s News Tribune newspaper building. In 1970, a new office would be built on the east side of town. This site now includes a state-of-the-art training school where linemen can be trained in all aspects of their jobs. Through the years, the association has fought for the rights of rural people. One of its greatest achievements was in bringing early severe weather warnings to rural people by finishing the job of installing Weather Radio transmitters. In 1976, Frank Stork replaced A.C. Burrows as manager. While serving as assistant to Burrows, Stork was tasked with creating a family out of the 48 member systems, which were apt to go in different directions without regard to direction from the associa- 8 http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2012

Rural Missouri - February 2012
Table of Contents
Better together
A plague of enmity
Out of the Way Eats
Rink redemption
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Radio revivalist
If the shoe fits
Around Missouri
Mr. Aviation

Rural Missouri - February 2012