In the 80 years since its official establishment on Aug. 18, 1941, Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (KEC) continues its mission, focused on promoting rural electrification and fostering the principles on which electric co-ops were founded in addition to tackling the modern-day challenges facing our rural Kansas communities.
The work KEC does on behalf of Kansas electric cooperatives benefits you, the consumer-members of the electric co-ops. As the statewide service organization for 27 electric distribution co-ops and three generation and transmission co-ops, KEC actively addresses issues important to rural Kansas and the consumer-members served by electric cooperatives. Whether it’s rural development, rural broadband, agriculture or other policies directly affecting rural areas of the state — KEC functions for the mutual benefit of its members to promote rural electrification and foster the principles on which electric cooperatives were founded.
We regularly talk about these principles in the magazine as does your electric co-op within their local pages beginning on Page 16A, but how do they affect you and why should you care? These principles are the key reasons Kansas electric cooperatives operate differently from other electric utilities, such as investor-owned electric companies and municipal entities. Co-ops put the needs of their members first. Period. Your friends
and neighbors who work for your electric co-op or serve on your co-op’s board of directors in essence work for you. Every decision they make for your co-op affects them as well, so you can be assured they are looking out for you and your community.
Using the seven cooperative principles as its guide, KEC built a solid foundation of co-op advocacy in its 80-year history that will lead to future initiatives benefitting rural Kansans. A few highlights through the years:
> KEC led the charge on key issues such as electric rate stability and co-op territorial protection to help co-ops offset the cost of serving sparsely populated areas. Today, KEC, with the assistance of its member co-ops, has blazed new trails in the Kansas Statehouse, edu
cating elected officials on all matters important to co-ops and the rural communities they serve.
> KEC’s leadership began offering more services to its member co-ops including a Job Training and Safety Department (now the Loss Control, Safety and Compliance Department) for electric cooperative lineworkers. Safety continues to be at the forefront of the electric co-ops’ work today as KEC develops and coordinates training and safety programs for electric cooperative employees and directors. The focus on electrical safety goes beyond co-op employees, with Kansas Country Living bringing safety tips and electric safety articles each month to co-op consumer-members and the co-ops providing safety demonstrations to various civic, school and other organizations.
> The development of a Communications Department within KEC assisted the electric co-ops in communicating regularly with you, the co-op consumer-member. One of the most impactful communications tool developed was the precursor to Kansas Country Living, the Kansas Electric Farmer magazine, launched to inform cooperative members about legislative issues, electrical safety and wise energy usage. Today, the magazine reaches more than 132,000 Kansas electric cooperative members and has evolved into your cooperative’s most cost-effective way to share important co-op news, from board elections to storm restoration efforts.
> To highlight the importance of member education, KEC established two youth programs: the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., in 1961, and an energy seminar (now Cooperative Youth Leadership camp) in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in 1977. Kansas electric co-ops continue to support youth programs that promote leadership, sustainable development for our rural Kansas communities, and a better understanding of the cooperative business model.
> With rural voter engagement declining and concerns this could potentially diminish the voice of rural Kansans, KEC joined the Co-ops Vote initiative in 2015. This program of America’s electric cooperatives, connects co-op decision-makers and consumer-members with lawmakers to bring a powerful voice to local, state and national issues impacting co-ops and rural communities.
Our beginning may have started with a flicker of light and the goal of bringing electricity to every rural Kansas home and business, but we didn’t stop there. We will continue to support rural Kansas communities to ensure their viability well into the future. Stay tuned for an even brighter future.
As KEC celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, look for reader contests and special editorial content in Kansas Country Living aimed at engaging you not only as a reader but also as a consumer and an owner of your electric co-op.