By TRAVIS MORSE
---- — MT. VERNON – Newly named Jefferson County director Kathy Withers looks forward to bringing a “business perspective” to the Tri-County Electric Cooperative.
Withers was elected by the co-op at the agency's 75th Annual Membership Meeting Saturday. She is the first woman to serve as a co-op director in this county and has owned Holiday Travel in Mt. Vernon for 30 years.
“I'm really looking forward to being on this board,” Withers said. “I think it's nice to bring a perspective from the business community. A lot of our directors are from the farming community.”
More than 1,700 co-op members were on hand for the annual meeting. In addition to agency business, the event also featured a “live-line” electricity safety demonstration, children's activities, informational booths, and more.
Three directors were elected Saturday, representing the three counties that are covered by the co-op. Withers was named to the Jefferson County seat previously held by Jerry Corners who did not seek re-election. Tom Beyers and Phil Carson were re-elected to their seats, representing Marion County and Washington County respectively.
Each of the three counties has three co-op directors. These directors serve on the agency's nine-member board.
“It's nice to be on that board with people who know where utility is going,” Withers said. “We're all looking at rates and trying to figure out how in the future we can serve our members (by) keeping rates as low as possible.”
Several speakers addressed the crowd Saturday, providing a history of the organization and discussing more current issues.
Co-op General Manager Marcia Scott said President Obama's recent mandate to reduce carbon emissions from electric power plants is a cause for concern. It could result in the closing of many coal-fired plants and an increase in utility rates.
The co-op, Scott said, supports an “all-of-the-above” approach to providing energy through traditional and alternative means.
To co-op member Rick Morris of Nashville, Saturday's annual meeting offered many benefits to those in attendance.
“I think the people are exposed to some of the things that Tri-County does on a day-to-day basis,” said Morris, a member for 13 years. “This is a good time to see your neighbors and talk to other people and find out some of the things that Tri-County offers.”
Also on Saturday, patronage checks for the years 1984 and 1985 were handed out to long-time co-op members.
One such member, Duane Snow of Iuka, received a $31 rebate check. He said belonging to a co-op has several advantages when compared to dealing with a larger utility company.
“It's run by us,” Snow said of Tri-County. “Whenever you call, you don't have to talk to a machine.”
The co-op has a rich history in this region and its 75th anniversary is a major milestone, said Duane Noland, president and CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives.
“We've gone from where electricity was a rare luxury in the rural areas to where today everyone takes for granted safe, affordable electricity,” Noland said. “And the significance of a cooperative is that the membership who are served by these lines are actually an owner of the cooperative.”
For more information, contact Tri-County Electric Cooperative at 244-5151.