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Rural Missouri Magazine

Be like Rex

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

In 1974, a soft-spoken Ralls County farmer joined the board of his local electric cooperative. Like a draft horse at the plow, he became known as a hardworking, devoted co-op director who was involved in just about every issue but rarely showed up in the spotlight.

On Aug. 5, during the board meeting of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, we honored Rex Cragen for his 35 years of untiring service to Ralls County Electric and the rural electric program in general. He retired from the Ralls County board at that co-op’s annual meeting a few days later.

In the many years I have known him, Rex has taught me a lot about what electric cooperatives stand for. “No matter what the issue, you need to stay loyal to the cause,” was one thing he impressed upon me.

Whether it was packing issues papers to Capitol Hill during the annual Rural Electric Legislative Conference or keeping the peace during a rancorous board debate, Rex could be counted on to do his part. Now, with him and so many other devoted directors retiring, I wonder who will fill those shoes?

Remember the Nike ads that ran when Chicago Bulls basketball star Michael Jordon was at the peak of his game? They encouraged us to “Be Like Mike.” The ads implied that all you had to do was don a pair of Air Jordan shoes to be transformed into a player who defied gravity.

Forget Jordan — today, electric cooperative members need to “Be Like Rex.” We need thousands of members who, like Rex, work quietly behind the scenes in the fight to maintain affordable and reliable electricity.

The issue at hand is climate change legislation. Already the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a climate change bill, and the focus now moves to the Senate.

When serious debate on this issue began a year ago, it was apparent that consumers, and especially rural consumers, would be asked to pay the bill when climate change legislation became a reality. But thanks to those of you who stepped forward at annual meetings, county fairs and the Tour of Missouri bike race, electric cooperatives gained a seat at the table during the debate.

Our message that keeping electricity affordable and reliable was just as important to the nation as reducing carbon dioxide emissions makes sense, and it resulted in dramatic changes to the House bill that will save consumers an estimated $3 billion over what was proposed in earlier versions of the bill.

But before rural people can support a climate change bill, more changes need to be made that address fairness, affordability and the ability to achieve climate change goals in the first place.

And that’s where we need your help. In the past 35 years, we could always rely on Rex Cragen to study the issues, to speak his mind and then to grab the rope and help with the heavy pulling.

Please do your part. Be like Rex and get involved. Join the Our Energy, Our Future campaign either at your annual meeting, your local co-op office, the 2009 Tour of Missouri or online at www.ourenergy.coop.

We are now focusing our efforts on the Senate with postcards that will be collected and hand-delivered to Sen. Bond and Sen. McCaskill. This effort has already begun, and every indication is that electric co-op members are concerned about this issue and want to take part.

Thanks to all of you who have answered the call and signed the cards.

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

E-mail Barry Hart

 

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102
573-659-3423

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