One and the Same

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

When you consider the vast array of roles that all of us fill every day — parent or child or both, spouse, employer or employee, religious lay leader,

Little League coach, community activist, part-time musician, full-time volunteer, retiree, student, and on and on — there’s likely one role you don’t attach to yourself, though you should: electric utility owner.

Because, in truth, you’re both a customer AND an owner of this business enterprise that is not merely your electric utility but is truly YOUR electric utility. And to your electric cooperative, your voice matters. Your opinion counts.

There’s another identity most of us don’t think about very much, either, except perhaps at election time. And that’s our role as a constituent of local, state and federal elected officials.

Despite the heightened pitch of these partisan times — and perhaps especially during such times, when we may be tempted to shy away from what seems to be an intractable mess — it’s more important than ever that we stay engaged, and involved.

Because, in truth, you’re both a citizen AND an owner of this civic enterprise that is not merely your country but is in fact YOUR country.

And it’s this intersection — where your roles as cooperative-owner and citizen-voter merge — that marks the precise location of much of the success that electric cooperatives have enjoyed over a lifespan now exceeding three-quarters of a century.

Electric cooperatives today are sound, successful utilities because of grassroots involvement by you, and by the generations of cooperative customer-owners before you. Without active participation by ordinary citizens,

cooperatives would never have been formed in the 1930s to bring electric power to America’s countryside; would never have survived myriad political, financial and growth challenges over the decades since then; and would not still be around today, relevant and reliable, customer-owned and owner-driven.

Electric cooperatives have always worked hard to empower our customer-owners. In the late 1980s, Virginia’s electric cooperatives joined together to publish a comprehensive guide to Virginia’s General Assembly. For almost a quarter-century now, this annual guide has provided a clear communications path for you as a constituent to contact your legislators, with photos, maps, phone numbers, and street and email addresses for all 140 state delegates and senators.

Almost 500,000 copies of the 2012 Virginia State Legislative Guide were bound into this month’s issue. About 30,000 additional copies of the guide were printed and provided to citizens and clubs and libraries and schools across the vast expanses of this Commonwealth, from the Cumberland Gap to Chincoteague, and from Clarke County to Clarksville.

In the center of this month’s issue, you’ll find your copy of this 16-page guide to your state legislature. Please view it as a resource, and use it like an old-fashioned phone book, or a newly minted GPS system.

And please be sure to stay in touch with your state delegate and senator. They care about your views. They value your opinion. And of course they’re hoping for your support come Election Day.

The power of your voice — and the importance of your views — were perhaps never on more prominent display than in last year’s General Assembly. Thanks to an outpouring of emails, letters, phone calls and visits from concerned electric cooperative customer-owners, the General Assembly turned down efforts by the large cable companies to pass a bill that would have resulted in unfair, additional costs to electric cooperatives.

Last year your voice resonated loudly and your views resonated clearly with our state legislators. We thank all those who spoke out. Please stay in touch with your cooperative, both through these pages and through other communications from your utility. The adverse cable company bill in last year’s session was merely the latest in a long line of political challenges that electric cooperatives have faced over the decades.

Many other challenges, of course, lie ahead. But electric cooperatives will be ready. After all, most companies must deal with such political challenges by having the owners ask the customers for their support with state legislators or members of Congress.

However, it’s easier to ask for such support —and to receive a powerful response — when the owners and the customers are one and the same.  


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