Rural Missouri - November 2017 - 12
Right: Barry Hart, CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric
Cooperatives, listened as Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural
Electric Cooperative Association, addresses the annual meeting crowd.
Matheson talked about national issues facing electric cooperatives,
including lack of broadband. Below: Callaway Electric CEO Tom
Howard, left, and Manager of Administration Clint Smith spoke about
their work to establish a culture of safety. Bottom: State Sen. Sandy
Crawford tells about the recent agriculture trade mission she took part
in to open more overseas markets for Missouri goods.
A year to celebrate
photos by Zach Smith
AMEC Annual Meeting looks at rural broadband, EPA regulations and issues
by Jim McCarty | email@example.com
alling 2017 "A year to celebrate," Barry Hart, CEO of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, kicked off the annual meeting of
the statewide association Oct. 4 and 5 in Branson with a presentation on the work the association does on behalf of electric cooperative
members. Recalling his start in the electric cooperative program as a college
intern in 1971, Hart spoke about the visit by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt
to the Thomas Hill Power Plant this past spring. Pruitt used the occasion to
announce he had heard the plea of thousands of electric cooperative members
concerned that federal regulations would increase their electric bills.
"I never thought I would see the day that an administrator of EPA would
come to one of our plants and praise us for our work on behalf of our members,"
Hart said during the annual gathering of electric cooperative leaders. "I know
you take a lot of pride in your environmental stewardship. Every month you
pay a bill that pays for all of this environmental equipment that was installed
on your power plants even when EPA didn't require it. This is the first time an
EPA administrator has come to our state to say thank you for what you have
done for the environment."
Hart added that the administrator's visit also signaled the federal government would move away from deciding the winners and losers in the energy
industry. "We can do the right things, we can protect the environment, but we
can also create jobs," Hart said. "In our communities, we don't have to do away
with the tax base local institutions rely on, we don't have to wreck our economy
and lay off employees. And we can still look at ourselves in the mirror. What a
great thing to celebrate."
AMEC President Tom Werdenhause praised the employees of the association for the work they do on behalf of electric cooperatives around the state.
He also commented on the change in leadership he has seen since taking the
office two years ago. "In just the past year, six new managers have joined our
ranks," he said. "There are even more new directors, some replacing legendary men and women
who have served as long as 42 years. Those numbers include the unsung heroes who worked in
the trenches of the program, from building and
maintaining power lines to serving the needs of
members at the reception desks in our offices.
Today as I look around I am pleased to see we
have found the right people to fill those shoes."
At the meeting Werdenhause passed the gavel
to new president Jack Baker from Osage Valley
Electric. Other officers include Vice President
Carmen Hartwell, Gascosage Electric, and Secretary-Treasurer John Bledsoe, SEMO Electric.
The meeting included a look at national issues
from Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural
Electric Cooperative Association. Those gathered
also learned about efforts to bring high-speed
internet service to rural areas and work to create a culture of safety to protect employees. They
learned about efforts to pass a farm bill and
RURAL MISSOURI | NOVEMBER 2017
about a recent agriculture trade mission from state Sen. Sandy Crawford. The
group also heard from an old friend, former Gov. Roger Wilson, who told them
that fallen lineworkers would now be included in the Missouri 10-33 Benevolent Fund that offers assistance to the families of first responders who die in
the line of duty.
Matheson praised Hart for his grassroots advocacy leadership. He said this
played a big role in the EPA's decision to move away from the Clean Power Plan
that would have dramatically increased electric bills for rural people.
NRECA will be at the table pushing for new environmental rules that will
remove the uncertainty power providers felt under the Obama administration
plan. "I don't know what EPA will propose," he said. "But we have certainly
been at the table trying to describe what makes the most sense for co-ops."
The national leader also spoke about the need to bridge the urban/rural
divide when it comes to high-speed internet service, saying that 34 million
rural Americans lack access to broadband. "There is no question that access to
broadband is a critical building block for any economic opportunity," he said.
"With the low densities in rural areas it's going to take a subsidy to get this
done. I know that is not the most popular thing to say in Washington these
days but if we want to be realistic about these places with two people per mile,
it's going to take some kind of financial subsidy to make this work."
David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, also
spoke on the rural broadband issue. Legislation recently passed in Tennessee changed the state law, allowing electric cooperatives to provide service to
unserved rural people. "We could lose a generation," Callis said of the lack of
high-speed internet service in rural America. "If you don't have broadband,
they will not stay in your community."
Tom Howard and Clint Smith from Callaway Electric Cooperative told the
group how they changed their cooperative from one where safety was not a
priority to a place where safety comes first.
The association also presented awards to a number of deserving individuals.
Clyde Hawes, a retired director for SEMO Electric,
and Dan Brown, retired manager of Cuivre River Electric, were honored with the Distinguished
Service Award. AMEC honored the late Garold
Scobee, manager of North Central Missouri Electric, with the Frank Stork Democracy Award and
David Klindt, AMEC's retired vice president, with
the Cooperative Champion Award.
The association presented its Legislative Leadership Award to state Sen. Dan Hegeman, who
helped pass Missouri's new Move Over Law.
In closing out the meeting, Hart dwelled on
the unity that has become a hallmark of the
state's electric co-ops. "As long as we stay united we have a fighting chance at affordable and
reliable electricity for our members," Hart said.
"Let's don't ever forget what those early pioneers
did in building this grassroots advocacy program. When we make a call on legislation or a
public issue, roll up your sleeves like you always
have and fight with us."
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - November 2017
Rural Missouri - November 2017 - Intro
Rural Missouri - November 2017 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - November 2017 - Cover2
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