by Scott Faughn
The past of rural Missouri is shaped by electric cooperatives delivering power to every home in the state, and the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives work to ensure that the future of rural Missouri continues to be bright, by ensuring stable electric rates and possibly bringing broadband to places in Missouri that might have never received it.
“Our guiding principle is care for community. Helping enhance the quality of life in rural Missouri is our foremost concern,
” said Barry Hart, Executive Vice President and CEO. Hart worked for his local Co-op in high school, and after college, he went to work for the state association under then manager Frank Stork in 1977. He later went back to his local Co-op in Kansas City to raise his 2 sons close to family. During their high school years, he ran the Kansas state Co-op association before returning home to Missouri and AMEC. “Co-op leaders in Kansas never made me root for the Jayhawks, and I always appreciated that,” Hart said.
Just as all 47 local electric cooperatives are governed by members of their locally elected board of directors -— elected by the one member one vote rule — the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives is also governed by a body comprised of those locally elected board members. The current president of the board is Tom Steska with Black River Electric Cooperative in Fredericktown..
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association will now have a direct connection to Missouri as they have recently named now former Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson as their new CEO. “We conducted an exhaustive search to identify the very best individual to lead a great association,” said NRECA Board President Mike Guidry. “We’re convinced we found that person in Jo Ann Emerson. Her background as a Member of Congress and a trade association executive – coupled with her extensive knowledge of the issues facing electric cooperatives and rural America – make Jo Ann eminently qualified to lead NRECA and represent the interests of our members. The respect she has from both sides of the aisle and her proven ability to bridge political and policy divides and find common ground will serve NRECA well.”
There are seven cooperative principles that govern the AMEC and its non-profit member electric cooperatives: Voluntary and Open Membership, Democratic Member Control, Members’ Economic Participation, Autonomy and Independence, Education, Training, and Information, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, Concern for Community.
One of the most important aspects of the AMEC’s mission is the training opportunities they offer employees, directors, and managers from around the state “We have 8 people on staff dedicated to training and safety, and we are proud to have one of the best safety programs in the nation,” Hart said.
“We have also received national recognition for our youth leadership development and our publication, Rural Missouri, which has the largest circulation of any publication in our state!”
The AMEC legislative priorities are developed by their legislative standing committees and board representing every co-op in the state and their efforts in the capitol are led by former senator David Klindt the association’s Vice President of state legislative programs. “I love working on behalf of our cooperatives to help enhance the quality of life in rural Missouri.” Klindt said.
Some issues they are closely monitoring include ensuring that cooperatives continue to be run by their local boards and not placed under the jurisdiction of the PSC as investor owned utilities are, monitoring net metering stays as it was passed, working to toughen laws on copper theft, and a pole attachment easement bill to promote broadband in rural areas.
“Broadband is a huge issue for rural America. The towns that don’t have hig speed internet are going to be left behind. Currently 3 cooperatives are bringing fiber optic to the home, and there are many people watching, and if they are successful they will do it across rural America”, said Hart.
“Quality of life is as important in Poplar Bluff as it is in downtown Kansas City and Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives will always be there for our rural communities,” Klindt concluded.
What Others Are Saying About AMEC:
“I always look forward to having my friends from our electric cooperatives come and visit us at the capitol. They do a great job of explaining what they need to help our rural communities and they are a major player in building the infrastructure necessary to attract and keep jobs in our communities. I share their goal of making Missouri a great place to live and I appreciate the low electric rates they work to keep low.”
Sen. Mike Cunningham
“As the State Representative for District 138, I have more than a legislative interest in W.R.V.E.C. because I’m also a member of the coop, and have been for over three decades. They rose to the occasion during last year’s “Leap Year Storm” when our area was struck by a tornado causing widespread power outagaes across the district on Feb 29th. White River’s tireless commitment to its members was a remarkable thing to behold as crews worked through the night to restore service in record time! W.R.V.E.C. provides an invaluable contribution to our community!”
– Rep. Don Phillips
“Missouri is blessed to have some.of the cheapest electric rates in the country, and one of the reasons is our electric Cooperatives. They are customer owned and do a wonderful job of providing dependable eclectical service to rural customers. Barry Hart and his team do a great job of communicating what will help our Cooperatives serve their customers.”
– Rep. Wanda Brown
“While I represent a district in St. Louis County I have come to respect and appreciateMissouri’s electric Cooperatives. They do a tremendous job of serving their customers and are a great example to the other utilities in our state. Electricity is the most reasonably priced energy source and commodity I purchase in my monthly budget. Whenever I have questions on how a utility issue will effect Missouri I ask David Klindt and Mary Scruggs because I know they will give me an honest answer.”
– Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst