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LIVEWIRE | PAGE 3


Cowboy Co-ops Continued from page two


Once power was flowing, members reported how much they used and the cooperative sent them a hand-prepared bill by regular RFD mail. No automatic meter reading systems or computerized billing options. Ledgers formed the permanent record of transactions.


Today these tasks are completed using digger and bucket trucks assisted by mechanized tensioners. Distribution systems are controlled by smart devices, and cooperatives can provide more consistent levels of service and quality at a much lower cost. Te work remains dangerous and arduous, but modern safety tools, clothing and practices reduce the risk substantially. And technology continues to improve our ability to control system operation and costs while continuously improving quality and member service. Automated systems abound that improve the accuracy of bills and simplify data management.


Given all that has happened, some might think the cowboy cooperative is a thing of the past. But they would be wrong to think that. Te cowboy cooperative is needed just as much in 2014 as it was in 1935. Changes are sweeping through the electric utility industry, and if the cooperatives are to retain the benefits that electrification has brought to rural America, bold, decisive action by a new breed of cooperative cowboy will be required.


A new generation of members is coming onto cooperative lines. Members who saw electric co-ops as “saviors” by bringing in the simple benefits of light, refrigeration and other appliances are fading into memory. We must now wrestle with the perception of just being another utility. Quite a fall from the savior ranks.


Community involvement is a staple of TCEC. Today we are actively involved in many community organizations as a means of improving where we live and work beyond the simple provision of power. As these efforts continue, we recognize that community for many of our new members resides on the Internet – a collection of electronic representations of individuals rather than meeting in person. New members expect immediate response and limitless information. It is a challenge worthy of a cowboy response.


Engaging our membership in the future will be challenging, but so was bringing electricity to rural America. While the tools differ, the cowboy cooperative mindset and ethic have not changed. Tink about the points James Owen identified. Tey reflect values still consistent with the seven cooperative principles and underscore the relevance of the cowboy co-op in facing today’s challenges.


Te frontier life of today is different indeed. In the 21st century, co-ops will continue to work in their self-interests. Tis means employees and members alike pitching in and doing whatever they can individually and collectively to be sure that the interests of our community are well served and that electricity remains affordable and reliable. Just as it was in the 1930s, working in our self-interest won’t be selfish, it will be for the benefit of the families in our communities – and that’s who we, here at TCEC, are here to serve. n


Tom Tate writes on cooperative issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.


TCEC LINEMAN ALLEN KEENE.


CEO VIEW Continued from page one


provider that exists to serve the best interests of our members. And, we are based right here in the communities we serve. You can come see us or talk to any one of us anytime, and many do.


That includes those who joined us on Thursday, September 4 at the Texas County Activity Center for our annual meeting. We appreciate the time you took out of your day to participate and hear news of your electric cooperative. It was good to report the strong financial health of TCEC. Energy sales, primarily in the oil and gas sectors, have increased more than 30 percent over the last five years – strong growth for any organization.


Another indicator of your cooperative’s solid financial footing was the news that TCEC is retiring four more years of patronage capital – 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2007, totaling $4.8 million. This is all the more remarkable as most electric distribution cooperatives are just now retiring capital from 20-30 years ago. All TCEC’s patronage capital from 1945 through 2001 has been retired.


Also a pleasure to share – how proud we are of the response by TCEC members to our request that all join in the grassroots effort to submit comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its rules for both new and existing power plants. TCEC leads the state with more than 1,500 of our members submitting comments on these regulations that could have a major impact on rates. Thank you for stepping up and standing up for America’s energy future.


There are talented people at work here in service to TCEC’s future and we are especially pleased with the progress we have made in our staffing reorganization begun in 2013. While not all the positions are filled, the experienced professionals who have joined TCEC in the last year are hard at work with their teams putting in place the process and procedure best practices essential to plan for and effectively meet the coming needs of the cooperative. This effort, along with several others, will help your cooperative be more efficient, competitive and ready to provide our members the service you deserve. n


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