by | Mar 20, 2023

I never know what I’m going to find when my brother shoots me a text. Recently it was a photo of a spittoon at the Bates County Courthouse. It made me chuckle for a lot of reasons. I knew right away he was in the middle of a trial back in God’s country.

Some of the best lessons I learned were when I was a small-town lawyer. When you are in a courtroom, you have to figure out the lay of the land pretty quick. I always knew when I saw the judge or even the opposing counsel walk in the courtroom wearing cowboy boots or chewing tobacco you could rely on one thing: You were dealing with a straight shooter who was from rural Missouri.

Make no mistake, they were going to be tough, but fair. Most importantly, when they gave you their word, you could take it to the bank.

That’s why I enjoy working with the folks at Missouri’s electric cooperatives so much. The people that work at your local co-op are the same folks you see at church, the coffee shop and the local high school basketball game. Much like finding a good rural Missourian in the courtroom, when you talk to your local co-op employee, they are someone you can trust.

When Lindsey and I built our farmhouse on Boone Electric Cooperative’s lines I used their services a lot in order to decide what appliances and HVAC system would give me the best return on my investment. They even helped me get tax credits for a ground-source heat pump, reducing my electric bill dramatically in the process.

It doesn’t make much sense for the guy who sells you electricity to help you figure out ways to use less, but that’s what makes our electric co-ops so great.

Sometimes doing the right thing may not be the most profitable way to go. Your electric co-op is able to do this because of two very important reasons.

One, cooperatives are non-profit businesses — which means they are not sharpening their pencils at the end of the year to see how much money they made.

In fact, if they do make a profit, they give it back to the members of the cooperative as a capital credit.

The other fact that makes cooperatives so special is they are member-owned and governed. That means every one of you owns a piece of those wires, poles and transformers that keep your lights on.

Cooperative members also get to elect a board of directors to run the cooperative.

This structure has allowed electric cooperatives to focus on doing what is best for their members instead of looking at the bottom line.

I always say that if everyone did what was right all the time, I probably would have just stayed on the farm and raised hogs instead of going to law school.

Sure seems to me like the electric co-ops have figured things out. It’s good to have an expert in your corner.

Caleb is the executive vice president and CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Boone Electric Cooperative.

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