Arkansas Living May 2012 : Page-24
&DSLWRO Carmie Henry Vice President Governmental Affairs 5HEXLOGLQJWKH*UDVVURRWV G L (11 ( 1*/,6+ �f; &+,() EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and former congressman from Oklahoma, is a dynamic public speaker and a forward-thinking executive who takes on really big challenges, such as culture change. English has appointed a committee he’s calling the 21 st Century Committee. It’s composed of chief executive ofﬁcers of electric cooperatives and statewide cooperative organizations, elected directors of distribution cooperatives as well as employees and representatives of generation and transmission cooperatives. The mission is to examine the role of co-operatives in the future and how we can best serve our members while continuing to pro-vide low-cost reliable electric power to homes, businesses and industries across America. English has emphasized that we are beyond the “build out” phase in America. Everyone who wants electricity in their homes and farms either has it or has access to it. During the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s, there was a fervor in rural America to build electric lines across the land. In the 1970s and 80s, and into the 90s, we were building new gen-eration to serve the customers at the end of those lines. It felt like a “movement;” a raw political force. People were involved. Local leaders moved mountains to gain the politi-cal strength they needed to succeed. Former U.S. Rep. Clyde Ellis of Arkansas was such a leader and he had the ﬁre in the belly nec-essary to pass national legislation to make it happen. So did Lyndon Johnson, a former congressman, senator and U.S. president. It was a time when people could read-ily understand how electricity and the tech-nology it made possible would change their culture and their everyday lives. Lives were transformed when a refrigerator, electric range or washing machine was purchased. But we’ve moved on now to computers and smart phones. We shop and pay bills online. We get our movies through Netﬂix, and we share our family news and photos on Face-book. Electricity is old hat now – just keep it coming and ﬁx the poles when ice storms knock them down. And, by the way, make sure you keep my bill low. In short, we want our members of Congress to know our electric consumers/members are actively engaged voters. The political landscape in America con-tinues to change, not always for the better. As our nation’s population demographics contin-ue to become more urban, the next Congress will contain fewer representatives from rural districts than ever before. Under this sce-nario, can a group of rural electric cooperative members remain a viable, uniﬁed and vigilant force in American politics with enough clout to shape public policy to protect the individu-al consumer? English wants to ﬁnd out. Rural electric cooperative members are a special group of people, but we need a good reminding from time to time or we become just another utility passing costs on to con-sumers and accepting the fate given to us by the power brokers in Washington. On April 30-May 1, the NRECA will be conducting its annual legislative conference. This year’s theme is being built around growing our grassroots network and becoming more ef-fective advocates for our mission. In the coming weeks and months, you are going to be hearing more about how you can become more active in this grassroots movement. You’ll be hearing from your local co-op managers about our voluntary email program to keep you informed on votes and legislative actions taken by your elected representatives. You’ll learn of town hall meetings in your areas conducted by members of Congress, and you will be en-couraged to attend those. We also hope you will be motivated to make contact, either by telephone, in-person visits or through email, with your representatives to address issues affecting your cooperative and your electric service. In short, we want our members of Congress to know our electric consumers/ members are actively engaged voters. With your help and active participa-tion, we can continue to build a strong grassroots network together so the voices of rural America can be heard loudly and clearly once again.• &DUPLH+HQU\FDQEHUHDFKHGDWd;32%R[c; b;�f;/LWWOH5RFN�f;$5a;c;  b;RUHPDLOFKHQU\#DHFLFRP 24 , $5.$16$6/,9,1* MAY 2012
Rebuilding the grassroots
Read the full article at http://onlinedigitalpubs.com/article/Capitol+Buzz/1040054/108617/article.html.