A Word from Our CEO

Celebrating co-op independence

July is the time we celebrate our nation’s independence. In the midst of apple pies and hot dogs, fireworks shows and parades, it is also a good time to think about the independent streak that inspired groups of farmers around America’s countryside to band together and improve their quality of life.

Aside from President Franklin Roosevelt’s promise of federal aid in the form of low-interest loans and engineering expertise, rural Americans didn’t have much help in bringing electricity to their homes. They pulled themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps and did it themselves.

This independence not only tends to inspire cooperatives; it’s a guiding principle. The Fourth Cooperative Principle, “Autonomy and Independence,” means that each of Arkansas’ 17 electric distribution co-ops, including Craighead Electric Cooperative, is an independent entity with its own democratically elected board of directors. We work together with our sister co-ops in Arkansas and across the nation, but we are operated independently, guided by your locally elected directors.

To create the electric cooperative program, it involved many battles on the state and national political stages. The big power companies, which were primarily serving the highly poplulated cites across the nation, opposed the formation of the co-ops at every turn. In Arkansas, as across the nation, there were many battles fought over service territory allocations and the right to build  power plants, among other issues. Like the nation’s founders, co-op leaders were undaunted in their pursuit of affordable and reliable power for the nation’s rural areas, which, until 1935 when President Roosevelt signed the law creating the rural electrification program, had been left behind. 

Today, electric cooperatives form a vast network across the country, from coast to coast. Co-op lines are strung in 47 states, serving 42 million people — a different world from 1935, when much of America remained dark. This July, as we recognize the hard-fought war that created the United States, let’s remember Arkansas’ electric co-op founders, who beat incredible odds to make life better for themselves and their neighbors.