Author: Wade Harris

Shelby Energy consumer-member wins Derby

Congratulations to Kentucky Derby 150 winning jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr., a consumer-member of Shelby Energy, who delivered one of the most spine-tingling finishes in Derby history. Aboard the 18-1 shot Mystik Dan, Hernandez rode the rail and gamely held off the late charges of Sierra Leone and Forever Young in a head-bobbing result.

Hernandez and trainer Kenny McPeek combined to win their first Derby, one day after teaming up to win their first Kentucky Oaks on Friday with Thorpedo Anna.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, it’s so unbelievable. We came into the weekend thinking that we had a really big chance at winning both Friday and Saturday. For the horses to pull it off for us, we have to thank the guys back in the barn. It’s definitely a surreal moment,” Hernandez said.

So close was the margin in the $5 million Derby that it took several minutes for the order of finish to be posted, capping a dream weekend at Churchill Downs for connections.

“The last 20 years I’ve ridden in Kentucky, and as a young kid out of Louisiana, I had the chance of sitting in the same corner as Calvin Borel. Watching him ride all those Derbys all those years, and today with Mystik Dan, being in the 3 hole,” Hernandez said. “I watched a couple of his rides, with Super Saver and Mine That Bird, and I decided that we were going to roll the dice. That’s the nice thing about Kenny (McPeek), he lets me make those decisions. We had the right kind of horse to give him that kind of trip.”

Earth Day kicks off Beautify the Bluegrass

Today on “Earth Day,” Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are kicking off the 2024 Beautify the Bluegrass campaign, an annual initiative to recognize local efforts that make our Commonwealth a great place to live. For the eighth straight year, the co-ops, Kentucky Living and Kentucky’s Governor are encouraging Kentuckians to submit and nominate projects that preserve our state’s natural beauty or help their communities shine.

“We want to recognize the folks who roll up their sleeves to improve their hometowns,” Governor Andy Beshear says in a video message being released today. “My office is proud to support Beautify the Bluegrass and we want to make sure that the Kentuckians who do the hard work get a pat on the back.”

Any project completed between August 1, 2023 and August 4, 2024 is eligible. Kentuckians can submit their own project or nominate someone in their community at

Once finalists are announced during Kentucky Living’s Best in Kentucky Awards Show in August, Kentuckians can vote online for their favorite project through September 1, 2024. Governor Beshear and Kentucky Electric Cooperatives will then jointly announce the winner of the 2024 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award.

“Co-ops Vote Aims for Voter Turnout Rebound

For the ninth straight year, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are partnering with Kentucky’s secretary of state to boost voter registration and turnout.
At the Kentucky State Capitol on Wednesday, nearly 100 high school students representing electric cooperatives across the commonwealth on the Frankfort Youth Tour joined Secretary of State Michael Adams to kick off the 2024 Co-ops Vote campaign. The nonpartisan initiative began in 2016 with the goal of reversing a downward trend in rural voting.
Inspired by the Co-ops Vote message and Adams’ remarks last year, several Frankfort Youth Tour students launched voter registration drives at their high schools, including Central Hardin High School senior Sophia Stover, who in 2023 partnered with Hardin County Clerk Brian D. Smith and Nolin RECC to launch the first county-level “Co-ops Vote” project.
“I implore you to see voting not just as a right, but as a privilege that generations before us fought tirelessly to secure,” Stover addressed the youth tour students. “Let’s honor their sacrifices by actively participating in the democratic process. Our future is in our hands, and it’s up to us to shape it.”

A review of State Board of Elections data in the last ten presidential elections shows Kentucky voter turnout has yet to rebound since a steep decline in voter participation 28 years ago. In 1992, Kentucky reported 73.2% of registered voters cast a ballot in the general election. Just four years later, voter turnout dropped to 59.3%. Despite modest increases in subsequent presidential election cycles, voter turnout dipped even lower, to 59.1% in 2016, then clawed back to 60.3% in 2020.

“Over the past 4 years, our commonwealth has received attention and praise nationally, and even internationally, for how we conduct our elections,” Adams said. “I encourage all Kentucky voters to take advantage of the increased ease in voting, and to be heard.”

Since Adams took office, Kentucky has deleted from voting lists the names of more than 350,000 people who are no longer eligible to vote because they moved out of state, were convicted of a felony, were ruled incompetent or died. Meanwhile, January marked ten consecutive months of voter registration increases.

Kentuckians can connect with elected leaders and candidates and stay informed on issues facing rural Kentucky on, a grassroots portal that links to Co-ops Vote resources.

“We are grateful to Sec. Adams for his partnership on Co-ops Vote,” said Mallory Wafzig, manager of cooperative outreach for Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “Like our youth tour program, Co-ops Vote is nonpartisan and does not endorse any candidate. This is all about civic engagement.”

“Because co-ops belong to and are led by the people they serve, our consumer advocacy is personal,” added Joe Arnold, vice-president of the statewide co-op association. “The concerns of our rural communities need the attention that only voter participation can demand.”

The Co-ops Vote initiative includes several programs to connect voters with their elected officials and publicize registration and ballot deadlines through social media and Kentucky Living, the flagship publication of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives. Earlier this month, the magazine distributed more than 500,000 copies of the 2024 Kentucky Electric Cooperatives Legislative Guide.

In addition to helping Sec. Adams launch this year’s Co-ops Vote initiative, the Frankfort Youth Tour students also met with Gov. Andy Beshear and several members of the legislature who are members of the newly formed Rural Electric Cooperative Caucus, including co-chairs Sen. Robin Webb and Rep. Ashley Tackett Lafferty, and Rep. Samara Heavrin.

Lineworker scholarships for associate degree

Electric cooperative lineworkers have a new pathway for a college degree in Kentucky. With support from Kentucky Electric Cooperatives and Kentuckians who purchase lineman-themed specialty license plates, the Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College System plans to incorporate lineworker training and education into a degree program.

At Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College, representatives from the statewide association of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives presented a check for $50,000 to college leaders. The funds represent donations tied to the Linemen “Power For Your Community” specialty license plates on thousands of vehicles in Kentucky. Proceeds will fund scholarships for eligible lineworkers.

“On behalf of SKYCTC and the entire Kentucky Community and Technical College System, we are so grateful for this level of partnership with Kentucky’s electric cooperatives,” said Dr. James B. McCaslin, Provost of Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College. “The future of education is competency-based education. That’s what our employers need, and this helps ensure that Kentucky’s electric lineworkers receive the most world class and safest training.”

The degree program will recognize as college credit the training received in the Lineman Apprenticeship Program administered by Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the association of all 26 electric co-ops in the commonwealth. Safety instructors lead the four-year formalized apprenticeship training and certification program utilizing the curriculum of Northwest Lineman College, an industry leader in lineman safety and education.

“Electric lineworkers rely on rigorously tested skills and knowledge to safeguard their lives and the safety of every electric consumer,” said Randy Meredith, safety and training director of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “This partnership recognizes the professionalism of this crucial career and invests in the talented people who commit their lives to the craft.”

The $50,000 donation will fund scholarships for eligible lineworkers who, after completing the apprenticeship program, can work toward an associate degree at Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College.

“A gift like this is wonderful,” said Heather Rogers, Vice President of Resource Development & Executive Director of the SKYCTC Foundation. “We are very thrilled and thankful that Kentucky Electric Cooperatives has selected us to work with, and we are very excited to be able to apply this to our matching grant program through KCTCS and double the funds.”

“Apprentice lineworkers will continue to get high-level training, but now they’ll also be able to get an associate degree from SKYCTC, which really reinforces to those who are going into this industry that this isn’t just a job; it’s a career,” McCaslin said. “We want to provide opportunities for them to be able to grow in that career.”

The historic start of the Electric Cooperative Caucus 

For the first time in the 87-year history of electric cooperatives in Kentucky, lawmakers in Frankfort have made the historic move to form the Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Caucus, advocating for the interests of local co-op consumer-members across the commonwealth. 

“Electric cooperatives are a vital and vibrant part of rural communities,” says Sen. Robin Webb (D-Grayson), one of the four founding caucus chairs. “This caucus was formed to give legislators an up-close look at their local co-op and develop a better understanding of how the electric grid functions.” 

As consumer-owned utilities, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are the consumer advocates for the people they serve. The consumer-members of a local co-op elect the board of directors for that local co-op. 

“Just as a local co-op board is accountable to the co-op members who elect them, state legislators like me also serve these same people,” explains caucus co-chair Rep. Wade Williams (R-Earlington). “The co-op caucus provides a great opportunity to connect so we can all serve more effectively.” 

Electric cooperatives provide power to more than 1.8 million Kentucky residents and businesses in 117 counties. 

“Co-ops power some of our largest industries,” says caucus co-chair Sen. Amanda Mays Bledsoe (R-Lexington). “It is crucial that co-ops have reliable fuel sources to keep the lights on for these businesses, which provide good paying jobs and critical community services.” 

The formation of the caucus comes at a critical time for electric co-ops that face new rules and regulations monthly from Washington, D.C. 

“Co-ops rely on informed and dedicated public servants to help them fight for affordable, reliable and safe power,” says Chase Crigler, community and government affairs director for Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association representing all 26 electric co-ops in Kentucky. 

“It is always important that the voices of our constituents are heard,” says caucus co-chair Rep. Ashley Tackett Laferty (D-Martin). “We are proud to form this caucus to ensure the voices of local co-op members are heard on critical issues affecting the reliability and affordability of the electric grid and more affordable power bills.” 


Sen. Jared Carpenter (R-Berea) 

Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Benton) 

Sen. Matthew Deneen (R-Elizabethtown) 

Sen. Greg Elkins (R-Winchester) 

Sen. Shelley Funke Frommeyer (R-Alexandria) 

Sen. Rick Girdler (R-Somerset) 

Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) 

Sen. Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon) 

Sen. Jason Howell (R-Murray) 

Sen. Amanda Mays Bledsoe (R-Lexington) 

Sen. Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield) 

Sen. Gerald A. Neal (D-Louisville) 

Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) 

Sen. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) 

Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) 

Sen. Brandon J. Storm (R-London) 

Sen. Lindsey Tichenor (R-Smithfield) 

Sen. Robin L. Webb (D-Grayson) 

Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) 

Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Fruit Hill) 

Sen. Gex Williams (R-Verona) 

Sen. Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green) 

Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) 

Rep. Chad Aull (D-Lexington 

Rep. Shane Baker (R-Somerset) 

Rep. Kim Banta (R-Ft. Mitchell) 

Rep. Danny Bentley (R-Russell) 

Rep. Adam Bowling (R-Middlesboro) 

Rep. Josh Branscum (R-Russell Springs) 

Rep. Josh Bray (R-Mount Vernon) 

Rep. Randy Bridges (R-Paducah) 

Rep. Beverly Chester-Burton (D-Shively) 

Rep. Mike Clines (R-Alexandria) 

Rep. Jennifer Decker (R-Waddy) 

Rep. Jonathan Dixon (R-Corydon) 

Rep. Myron Dossett (R-Pembroke) 

Rep. Robert Duvall (R-Bowling Green) 

Rep. Daniel Elliott (R-Danville) 

Rep. Daniel Fister (R-Versailles) 

Rep. Patrick Flannery (R-Olive Hill) 

Rep. Deanna Frazier Gordon (R-Richmond) 

Rep. Chris Freeland (R-Benton) 

Rep. Jim Gooch Jr. (R-Providence) 

Rep. Daniel Grossberg (D-Louisville) 

Rep. David Hale (R-Wellington) 

Rep. Mark Hart (R-Falmouth) 

Rep. Richard Heath (R-Mayfield) 

Rep. Samara Heavrin (R-Leitchfield) 

Rep. Thomas Huff (R-Shepherdsville) 

Rep. Mary Beth Imes (R-Murray) 

Rep. Kevin Jackson (R-Bowing Green) 

Rep. DJ Johnson (R-Owensboro) 

Rep. Kim King (R-Harrodsburg) 

Rep. Matthew Koch (R-Paris) 

Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D-Louisville) 

Rep. William Lawrence (R-Maysville) 

Rep. Derek Lewis (R-London) 

Rep. Scott Lewis (R-Hartford) 

Rep. Matt Lockett (R-Nicholasville) 

Rep. Candy Massaroni (R-Bardstown) 

Rep. Bobby McCool (R-Van Lear) 

Rep. Shawn McPherson (R-Scottsville) 

Rep. David Meade (R-Stanford) 

Rep. Michael Meredith (R-Oakland) 

Rep. Suzanne Miles (R-Owensboro) 

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser (R-Taylor Mill) 

Rep. Amy Neighbors (R-Edmonton) 

Rep. David W. Osborne (R-Prospect) 

Rep. Michael Sarge Pollock (R-Campbellsville) 

Rep. Phillip Pratt (R-Georgetown) 

Rep. Rebecca Raymer (R-Morgantown) 

Rep. Brandon Reed (R-Hodgenville) 

Rep. Steven Rudy (R-Paducah) 

Rep. Scott Sharp (R-Ashland) 

Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson (D-Lexington) 

Rep. Ashley Tackett Laferty (D-Martin) 

Rep. Nancy Tate (R-Brandenburg) 

Rep. Walker Thomas (R-Hopkinsville) 

Rep. Killian Timoney (R-Nicholasville) 

Rep. James Tipton (R-Taylorsville) 

Rep. Timmy Truett (R-McKee) 

Rep. Ken Upchurch (R-Monticello) 

Rep. Bill Wesley (R-Ravenna) 

Rep. Wade Williams (R-Earlington) 

Rep. Nick Wilson (R-Williamsburg) 

Bold denotes co-chairs 

Caucus list as of December 6, 2023. Updated membership roster available on

Jim Gooch and Brandon Smith recognized for energy leadership

For their leadership on issues affecting the ability of electric cooperatives to deliver reliable electricity as efficiently as possible, two veteran lawmakers are the recipients of the 2023 Kentucky Electric Cooperatives Power Partner Award. 

Sen. Brandon Smith, of Hazard, and Rep. Jim Gooch, of Providence, received the awards October 19 in Lexington at a meeting of the managers of Kentucky’s 26 electric cooperatives. Co-ops serve about 1.8 million people in 117 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. 

“With the interests of local Kentuckians their priority, both Sen. Smith and Rep. Gooch are tireless in their advocacy,” says Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “As many new public officials take office, the leadership of these knowledgeable and conscientious legislators is invaluable.” 

In their respective roles as chairmen of the Senate and House Natural Resources & Energy committees, Smith and Gooch are consistent and articulate advocates for safe, reliable and cost-efficient electricity. In their long-term service and commitment to their constituents, both legislators have demonstrated diligence, staying up to date on the often complicated issues involving electric utilities. 

“This is an incredible honor and I appreciate the opportunity to highlight my commitment and the legislature’s work to ensure Kentuckians have access to reliable and affordable energy,” Gooch says. “I consistently hear from constituents, both individuals and businesses that are job creators. Energy is a fundamental priority for them. Simply put, it is a basic need. I value my partnership with the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives and look forward to continuing to work together to identify the best ways to provide our residents with the energy security they deserve.” 

“This award is truly humbling, and I can’t thank Kentucky Electric Cooperatives enough for their partnership in helping the General Assembly deliver a good energy policy to benefit Kentucky residents,” says Smith. “We as lawmakers should be laser-focused on the safety and security of our residents, and a big part of that is ensuring that Kentucky has adequate power generation to provide our residents affordable and reliable energy. I look forward to continuing to work with Kentucky’s electric cooperatives to identify legislative action that will provide the energy security our Kentucky families deserve and need.” 

Big Rivers names Don Gulley new CEO

Succeeds Bob Berry after nationwide search 

After an extensive, nationwide search, the Big Rivers Electric Corporation board of directors has named Don Gulley as the organization’s next president and chief executive officer. Gulley has been president and CEO of Southern Illinois Power Cooperative (SIPC), a generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative, for ten years. He will succeed Bob Berry who is retiring from Big Rivers after a 43-year career with the cooperative and nine years serving as CEO.

Gulley has over 35 years of diverse utility management experience working for regulated & merchant investor-owned utilities (IOUs), as well as G&T cooperatives. Before joining SIPC, Gulley served as Vice President of Regulatory and Market Affairs for Sunflower Electric, a G&T cooperative located in western Kansas. Gulley began his career with Ameren, formerly Union Electric, in 1988, where he worked in various leadership capacities for both the regulated and merchant business units.

Gulley will start with Big Rivers on January 8.

‘Cleaning Up Kentucky’ Recognized as the 2023 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award Winner

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 29, 2023) – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Chris Perry, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives President and CEO, presented the 2023 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award to Whitney Lewis of Cleaning Up Kentucky today. For the seventh year in a row, the Governor’s office, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives and their flagship publication, Kentucky Living, partnered on the Beautify the Bluegrass initiative to recognize Kentuckians who help make the Commonwealth a great place to live and call home.
“All of the beautification projects we’re celebrating today have made Kentucky a better place to live and raise a family,” said Governor Andy Beshear. “I am so grateful to every individual, family and organization that volunteered their time and showed love to their communities by improving their hometowns. I also want to thank Kentucky Living for sharing these amazing Kentucky stories.”
The program recognizes Kentuckians who take an active role in preserving the state’s natural beauty and helping their communities shine.
“I’ve always picked up trash when I’m out in nature. I take my girls and we go out and enjoy nature. Now we pick up trash while we’re there to give back a little bit,” said Whitney Lewis, recipient of the 2023 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award. “Thank you to everyone that has supported me. I’m so very grateful. I’m thankful for my girls and my friends that believed in me and I hope to inspire others.”

Whitney Lewis of Jessamine County has made it her mission to make Kentucky cleaner while kayaking or hiking. She attempts to make the places she visits a little cleaner and better than she found it. While recording her trash pick-ups on social media, she inspires others and posts often to keep track of her trash pickups. As of this year, she has collected more than 2,000 bags of trash. 
“Like the electric co-ops that were built by local Kentuckians to improve their communities and help their families, these Beautify the Bluegrass projects are homegrown,” said Chris Perry, Kentucky Electric Cooperative President and CEO. “These projects were not completed to win an award. They were the result of these Kentuckians taking it upon themselves to identify how they can make our Commonwealth a better and more attractive place to live. We love sharing these stories in Kentucky Living – which celebrates the energy of Kentucky – and we greatly appreciate the Governor and his team partnering with us to make sure that these efforts do not go unnoticed.”
In August, Kentucky Living and Governor Beshear announced five Beautify the Bluegrass finalists, and Kentucky Living readers voted online for their choice to receive the 2023 Governor’s Award. The other finalists included: 

  • Somerset Veterans Memorial Park (Pulaski County)   
  • Manchester Splash Park Upgrade (Clay County)  
  • Art in the Garden (Marshall County)
  • “Community Crossroads” Mural (Shelby County)

It takes every Kentuckian to beautify the Bluegrass, so start your 2024 Beautify the Bluegrass project today and watch for the nomination form to go live next year. This annual program is about more than recognition or honor, it’s about making the state and our communities as beautiful as they can be.

$12M in broadband funds to Pennyrile Electric

The broadband expansion efforts in the Pennyrile Electric service territory are getting a $12 million boost from the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund. In 2021, the Kentucky General Assembly allocated $300 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to the fund for the construction of high-speed internet infrastructure to connect areas currently without access. On Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced 56 grants totaling more than $196 million.

Pennyrile Electric Cooperative is honored to be selected as a recipient of broadband funding support from Gov. Beshear and the state of Kentucky,” said President and CEO Alan Gates. “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the state to build a fiber-to-the-home network for our members who are without access to reliable high-speed internet in unserved or underserved rural areas. This funding will allow these areas to grow and thrive economically. We are grateful to the state of Kentucky for their support of the members in the Pennyrile Electric service territory.” 

“Kentucky’s historic investments in broadband expansion would not have happened without the vision and commitment of Rep. Phil Pratt, Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, and Representative Brandon Reed,” said House Speaker David Osborne. “They recognized the need to expand broadband services throughout the commonwealth and drove the legislative initiatives that created and funded the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund and the Office of Broadband Development, despite the Governor’s vetoing critical provisions of the plan.”

Big Rivers HQ officially open

Congratulations to Big Rivers Electric Corporation as it officially opened its new headquarters with a ribbon cutting in Owensboro on Tuesday.

The cooperative’s board and staff were joined by representatives from member-owners Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative, Kenergy Corp and Meade County RECC, as well as city officials, community members and Governor Andy Beshear.

“Big Rivers Electric has always been there for Kentuckians,” Beshear tweeted. “From ensuring service reached our farmers at the company’s inception to now serving new business and fueling economic growth, Big Rivers Electric Corporation is helping us succeed and the new Owensboro headquarters will be another win.”

The 47,000-square-foot modern facility positions Big Rivers in a central location to serve the entire 22-county service territory. The new construction at 710 W 2nd Street consists of a four-story building and a design incorporating more modern meeting and collaboration spaces that match future utility needs. 

The City of Owensboro provided incentives to offset the projected $10.8 million building cost, including a full rebate of the downtown property purchase price.