Category: Public News

New editor at Kentucky Living

Shannon Brock succeeds Anita Travis Richter

Joel Sams joins Kentucky Electric Cooperatives

After more than 25 years of service to electric cooperatives, Kentucky Living Editor Anita Travis Richter is retiring at the end of 2022. Anita has consistently demonstrated a commitment to professional standards, personal accountability, and creative collaboration. She has distinguished herself as a generous resource and problem-solver for our member cooperatives. Anita’s institutional knowledge has been invaluable, providing insight into industry norms and practices that has aided Kentucky Electric Cooperatives to make informed decisions for the benefit of member co-ops. Her legacy is that of both a leader and a team player, demanding excellence while also being willing to handle unglamourous tasks and unrelenting deadlines…all with a positive attitude. We are grateful to Anita’s husband, Mark, and daughter, Claire, for sharing her with us all these years. We encourage you to congratulate Anita on her exemplary career and thank her for her commitment to Kentucky co-ops.

We are blessed to have on our staff the ideal successor for Kentucky Living editor, Shannon Brock. Shannon will begin her new role as editor as of the January issue of the magazine. Since 2015, Shannon has served as managing editor of Kentucky Living, embracing the mission of the statewide association to be of service to our member co-ops. A Pineville, Kentucky native, Shannon graduated from the University of Kentucky and worked for Landmark Community Newspapers for six years: three at The Anderson News in Lawrenceburg, three as editor of The Spencer Magnet in Taylorsville. She worked at The State Journal in Frankfort as news editor for one and a half years. Shannon and her husband, Josh, live in Louisville with their two children.

Finally, we are excited to welcome Joel Sams to the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives Communications team as the new managing editor of Kentucky Living. Joel brings a skillset and perspective well-suited for our service to member co-ops. He will work closely with the editorial and design teams and will be a primary contact for local section editors and communicators. Joel grew up as a member of Blue Grass Energy in Millville. He’s a graduate of Asbury University and most recently worked as the press and editorial manager/managing editor for The Council of State Governments. Joel lives in Frankfort with his wife, Brittany, and two children.

Beautify I-65 Project in Warren County Receives 2022 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 28, 2022) – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Kentucky Electric Cooperatives President and CEO Chris Perry announced the Beautify I-65 Project in Warren County is the winner of the 2022 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award. For the sixth straight year, the Governor’s Office, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives and their flagship publication, Kentucky Livingcollaborated on the Beautify the Bluegrass initiative to recognize and celebrate efforts that enhance the Commonwealth and make us proud to call Kentucky home.

“It’s a privilege to congratulate the Beautify I-65 project, along with all the other Beautify the Bluegrass initiatives, for their incredible efforts to make Kentucky a better place to live and raise a family,” said Governor Beshear. “The Beautify the Bluegrass program is one of my favorite examples of what it means to be on ‘Team Kentucky.’ I am so grateful to every individual, family and organization who volunteered their time to improve their community.”

“All five of these projects are worthy of this award,” said Johnny Webb, the project’s organizer and fundraiser. “We hope to make other communities in Kentucky jealous of us, but jealous in a good way. We would like for other communities in Kentucky to do what we’ve done because we want to elevate the commonwealth of Kentucky. It creates community pride, and it’s an economic development tool for our community.”

Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation (WRECC) nominated the Beautify I-65 project, which involves planting flowers and trees, installing fencing along five local interchanges and creating “gateway” exits with attractive signs and colorful flags. The project is a partnership among Operation PRIDE, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the City of Bowling Green, and Warren County. Organizers hope to entice travelers to explore the community and engage with local businesses.  

“Because co-ops belong to and are led by people in the communities they serve, improving the quality of life in those local communities is at the heart of the electric cooperative mission. I’m especially pleased that Warren RECC and the entire Bowling Green area rallied around this project to earn this recognition,” Perry said. “The statewide association of electric cooperatives takes great pride once again highlighting impressive, homegrown projects across our Commonwealth that are making Kentucky a better and more beautiful place.”

Kentuckians cast votes for their favorite beautification project from five finalists on The other finalists included: 

  • Veterans Memorial Park Beautification Project, Liberty;
  • Eastern Elementary Garden Club, Pleasureville;
  • Lifeline Recovery Center Playground, Paducah; and
  • Hodgenville Elementary School Natural Trail and Outdoor Classroom

North Carolina co-ops and employees donate over $20,000 to Kentucky flood relief

North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have joined together to support co-op communities in Kentucky affected by recent flooding. In late July, portions of eastern Kentucky were struck by torrential rainfall and devastating floods that led to the destruction of homes, businesses and livelihoods. At least 39 people have died as a result of the historic flooding, and two women remain missing. Thousands of people lost their homes, and it remains to be seen how many businesses and jobs will be restored.

In response to this disaster, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives activated the Human Connections Fund to provide needed support to people and communities impacted. Electric cooperatives and co-op employees from across North Carolina made generous donations to aid relief efforts, raising a total of $20,205 to assist communities and families impacted by the flooding.

“The long-term recovery from the flooding devastation in eastern Kentucky is going to need a lot of assistance” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “We are humbled but not surprised by the generosity and leadership of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives who immediately stepped up to help their co-op family in this critical time Kentucky’s electric cooperatives enjoy a long and sincere friendship with our counterparts in the Tarheel State, from mutual aid after disasters to advocacy for the members we serve. When I think of the co-op spirit of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, I am reminded of their state motto: To be, rather than to seem. Thank you for being there for Kentucky.”

“In times of crisis, co-ops and their employees always step up to assist our neighbors,” said Nelle Hotchkiss, senior vice president and COO of association services for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Whether it’s through sending line crews to assist in outage restoration efforts or donations to local charities and non-profits, the cooperatives’ focus on community and the power of human connections shines when their members need it most.”

The Human Connections Fund was established in December 2005 and gives North Carolina electric cooperatives and their employees the ability to assist sister cooperatives and their members in times of need. The initiative has previously provided donations to those affected by severe storms, hurricanes and other disasters here at home and throughout the country.

In Time of Rapid Change, Matheson Tells Electric Co-ops ‘It’s Good to Be Us’

NRECA CEO Jim Matheson urged electric cooperative leaders at Regional Meetings 1&4 to take on the historic changes and opportunities emerging across the industry and know the association is ready to lead and partner to ensure co-ops are equipped to best serve their members.

“It’s all about change and the opportunities it brings,” Matheson said in his keynote address Wednesday in Indianapolis.

“This meeting is your chance to meet the people at NRECA who are leading these efforts, and for you to learn more.”

Matheson noted three key areas of transformation and opportunity for co-ops—broadband, infrastructure and politics—and how NRECA is evolving in its own right to meet their needs.

“It’s the most important work we’re doing right now, and we want you to make the most of these opportunities to invest in your co-op’s reliability, resilience and relevance,” he said.

NRECA Broadband launched in July for co-ops delivering high-quality internet, building networks or finding other ways to help close the digital divide. Its team of experts are steeped in telecommunications policy, regulations and its highly competitive politics, he said.

“We’re positioning NRECA to best support our members [and] to make darn sure we are on a level playing field,” said Matheson.

When it comes to infrastructure, the $1.2 trillion federal law offers enormous opportunities for co-ops to invest in electric vehicles, disaster mitigation and technologies for a smart grid, microgrids and cybersecurity.

To help smooth the complex compliance process, NRECA is bringing co-ops together to work on projects and grant applications.

“NRECA is here to make it as easy as possible to access these programs and put them to work for you,” Matheson said.

In the political arena, polarized gridlock may be a constant, but “electric co-ops will be as respected, as relevant and as effective in politics as we’ve ever been,” he said.

“You have credit and credibility on both sides of the aisle for the work you do. NRECA’s reputation, your reputation, is sterling. And that matters more now than ever before.”

For example, Congress came together last month to pass the budget reconciliation bill with provisions giving direct-pay tax credits for electric co-ops to deploy new energy technologies—a top priority for NRECA.

“It covers any tax credit for energy technologies—renewables, storage, carbon capture—anything the federal government might offer as an incentive to a for-profit utility, a not-for-profit co-op can now use, too,” Matheson said. “Now, and in the future. And that’s a pretty big deal.”

In many ways, NRECA member co-ops “are much bigger than politics,” he said. By revolutionizing the electric industry and making key investments in their communities, co-ops draw bipartisan recognition in Washington, he said.

“It is a time of rapid change—to be sure—but it’s also good to be us,” Matheson said. “Thanks to the work of your co-op, we have every advantage with us as we lead the way to that bright future.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.

Allen Purnell of Purnell’s ‘Old Folks’ Country Sausage Honored as Distinguished Rural Kentuckian

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (August 17, 2022) – Kentucky’s electric cooperatives honored Allen Purnell as the 2022 Distinguished Rural Kentuckian. Purnell of “Old Folks” Country Sausage has been making “gooo-od” sausage in Simpsonville for more than half a century. The company has over 250 employees. The Distinguished Rural Kentuckian award is the highest honor bestowed by Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, which consists of 26 member co-ops across the Commonwealth.

Chris Perry, CEO and president of the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, presented the award following a special video tribute to Purnell at the 76thAnnual Meeting of the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives on Monday, August 15. The tribute and remarks from the meeting can be viewed on the association’s YouTube channel.

Photo by Tim Webb

“The Good Lord has been with this company,” Purnell said in an interview for the video tribute. “We’re country and proud of it! I do the best I could, and I really love what I do. It’s not hard.”

“For generations, Kentuckians have been greeted by Al with a wave and a warm ‘Hello, Friend.’ His entrepreneurial success, paired with his love for the Commonwealth he calls home, make him a wonderful choice for this year’s Distinguished Rural Kentuckian award,” said Chris Perry. “Every year, this award recognizes someone who leaves a lasting impact on Kentucky and its people. I’m proud Al ‘the Sausage Man’ Purnell is joining the ranks of our honorees.” 

The Annual Meeting’s Monday night banquet also featured a keynote address from former college basketball coach and ESPN sportscaster, Bob Valvano, in front of several hundred co-op members, friends and guests.

Background on Distinguished Rural Kentuckian Award:
Since 1982, the Distinguished Rural Kentuckian honor has been awarded by Kentucky’s member-owned electric cooperatives. Previous Distinguished Rural Kentuckians include elected leaders, authors, journalists, business executives, physicians, and sports champions. The award recognizes outstanding individuals who have devoted their lives to Kentucky in a way that matches the co-op mission of enhancing the quality of life here.

Co-ops send help after floods ravage Eastern Kentucky

Two months after South Kentucky RECC handed out buckets and light bulbs at a member appreciation day drive-thru, many of those same consumer-members are driving back to the co-op to drop off donations for victims of massive flooding in Eastern Kentucky.

“Our membership and our cooperative family are a blessing,” said Robin Pendergrass, a supervisor at the co-op’s call center. “We are just so thankful for everybody.”

In a video at the co-op’s member appreciation day on June 8, Pendergrass explained that it was her favorite time of the year to step out from behind the scenes to meet face to face with co-op members. Now, she is letting members know that their generosity and compassion for flood survivors is personal for her. She is a native of Perry County where her relatives are literally digging out of mud, muck and debris.

Yet their focus is not on what they have lost.

“I am very blessed to say that my nephew survived,” Pendergrass says with a sob catching in her throat. “Oh my goodness, I’m sorry.”

Her nephew, Eric Watts, got caught up in surging floodwaters while trying to drive home to his wife and three children in Vicco, Kentucky, a tiny city that sits in a mountain valley. Waters from a tributary of the North Fork of the Kentucky River filled that valley when more than 10 inches of rain fell in under 48 hours in late July.

“It was chest deep inside his vehicle, and he had to swim out,” Pendergrass explained. “We’re just blessed he was physically able to fight the water and to get to safety.”

After managing to get his family to higher ground at his mother-in-law’s home, Watts returned to find his own home overtaken by the flash flood. He and his wife are now trying to clear the home of several feet of mud, armed with cleaning supplies donated by electric cooperative members.

“We got such a huge response from our employees and members,” said Morghan Blevins, a service center representative at South Kentucky RECC. “People were still bringing stuff in as we were loading up to deliver it.”

Blevins is a native of Knott County, where ten adults and four children died in the flash flooding and where some survivors are still trying to assess what can be salvaged and others are still trying to locate their homes.

“The amazing thing is the resilience of the mountains,” Blevins emphasized. “The people have pulled together like nothing that I have ever seen. People who have lost everything. Instead of dwelling on that or mourning that, they’re helping people two or three houses up the road who didn’t lose their home. They’re helping them clean up and salvage what they have. It’s just a testament to the people of the area and it just makes me proud to be able to say that that’s where I grew up, and that’s where I’m from.”

Blevins and Pendergrass are among dozens of electric cooperative employees coordinating relief efforts in the region.

Several Jackson Energy employees spent a day in Oneida, Kentucky helping restoration efforts and taking care of neighbors in Clay County.

“It was humbling to see just a glimpse of the damage to the roads that are still impassible, homes that are destroyed and the daily livelihoods that will never be the same,” said Lisa Baker, the co-op’s executive administrative assistant. “But the care and concern shown through the donations and people wanting to help was immeasurable.”

At its Paintsville office, Big Sandy RECC is inviting members to drop off items and the co-op will see that they are given to families in need. Licking Valley RECC has delivered supplies and encourages more donations in hard-hit Breathitt County. Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association of co-ops, coordinates the Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund which assists electric cooperative employees who have suffered any losses.

Meanwhile, Appalachia is focusing on survival.

“There is no time right now to mourn what you’ve lost or dwell on that,” Blevins said “You’ve just got to clean up.”

Co-op effort to help flood victims

Eastern Kentucky disaster affects multiple counties and communities

Electric cooperatives in Eastern Kentucky are doing their part to help their neighbors affected by devastating flooding that began on July 26 and continues to take its toll on a wide swath of the commonwealth.

Though power outages persist in Southeastern Kentucky, all but a handful of the outages are tied to investor-owned utilities and not electric cooperatives. Kentucky co-ops employees, relatives and board members have been affected by the disaster.

Co-ops from across Kentucky and the country have inquired of how and where to help.
Here is a sample of efforts aligned with Kentucky co-ops. We will update this list as we confirm co-op and local efforts.
Big Sandy RECC is inviting donors to drop off items at its office in Paintsville:

504 11th St, Paintsville, KY 41240

The co-op will see that these items are given to families in need. The co-op office is open 7:00am – 5:30pm Monday-Thursday. Please let co-op staff know at the drive-thru that you have items to donate and they can help unload them. “Together, we can make a difference in the lives of our neighbors that have been devastated with the flooding in our area,” the co-op posted on its Facebook page. “No gift is too small.”

Licking Valley RECC has delivered supplies and encourages more donations in hard-hit Breathitt County:

First Church of God – 1772 Hwy Ky 30

Items requested by relief workers include mops, buckets, manual can openers, Clorox, baby diapers, totes, rubber gloves, brooms, flash lights, toilet paper, trash bags, baby wipes, plastic silverware, paper plates and anything camping such as tents.

Jackson Energy is collecting donations for their neighbors in Clay, Owsley and Lee counties. Items can be dropped off at one of the co-op offices in London, McKee, Manchester or Beattyville by August 8 – or you are welcome to send items directly to:
Jackson Energy Cooperative
115 Jackson Energy Lane
McKee, KY 40447
The most requested items are: cleaning supplies, toothpaste and toothbrushes, brooms and mops, toiletries, toilet paper, batteries, trash bags, non-perishable food, baby items, clothing and shoes, buckets, gloves and shovels. Once the items are collected, Jackson Energy will reach out to local agencies to see that the items are given to families in need.

Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association of co-ops, is thinking of and praying for everyone affected by the devastating flooding.
Electric cooperative employees who have suffered any losses can receive immediate assistance from the Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund.

.If a cooperative would like to make a contribution it can be sent to:
Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund
1630 Lyndon Farm Ct., Ste. 200
Louisville, KY 40223

NRECA Broadband Will Give Co-ops a ‘United Voice in Washington’

NRECA has launched a new level of service for electric cooperatives that provide broadband or are considering offering it.

NRECA Broadband, which opened July 12 to NRECA voting members, offers a growing number of exclusive resources, including additional legislative and regulatory experts to represent participating co-ops’ interests in Washington, D.C.

“Co-ops entering the competitive broadband business face a whole new set of regulations, reporting requirements, tax implications and other issues specific to the telecommunications space,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson.

“Through this new service tier, we aim to be a strong, united voice in Washington to represent our unique interests and stand toe-to-toe with big telecom.”

Co-ops that participate in NRECA Broadband will gain access to new strategic communications services, education and events, and focused business and technology support in addition to targeted advocacy. The first NRECA Broadband Leadership Summit for tier participants will take place Nov. 17-18 in Washington, D.C.

“This new level of service will amplify our voice as a national organization in Washington, where telecommunication issues are discussed and where telecommunication business policies are decided,” NRECA Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Connor said.

“This is about building partnerships that NRECA can develop to be a more powerful voice for our members’ interests,” he said.

Participation in NRECA Broadband is voluntary and open to any NRECA voting electric co-op. The annual fee for co-ops that are in the broadband business is $12,000 plus $1 per broadband customer. The annual fee for co-ops not yet delivering broadband is $6,000.

Matheson said the time was right to expand NRECA’s service in broadband as hundreds of member co-ops work to bridge America’s digital divide.

“NRECA’s mission is to be an advocate for quality of life in the rural and diverse communities our members serve and has been for 80 years,” Matheson said. “NRECA Broadband services are a natural extension of our advocacy. We are committed to serve electric cooperatives for broadband as we do for the electric side of their business.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.

Shelby Energy welcomes international copper producer Wieland 

Shelby Energy Cooperative today welcomed Wieland North America to Kentucky as the international copper producer broke ground for a $250 million copper and copper-alloy recycling facility in Shelbyville, Ky. 

“Wieland’s tremendous dedication to quality, people and sustainability makes the company a perfect fit for our community, and we welcome them with open arms,” said Jack Bragg, President & CEO of Shelby Energy Cooperative, which worked with state and local officials to help recruit Wieland. “We are proud Wieland chose Kentucky and particularly Shelbyville as the location for the next chapter in its 200-year history.” 

Wieland is constructing the new recycling facility on a 79-acre site near Interstate 64 in Shelbyville. With 75 full-time employees, the operation will melt copper and copper-alloy for recycling for use in manufacturing semi-finished copper and copper-alloy products for customers throughout North America. The facility is expected to begin production in 2023. 

“With customers located throughout North America and the globe, Wieland was looking for a centrally located site with outstanding transportation access, and we knew this site would fit their needs,” said Brad Thomas, Manager for Economic Development for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. “We are thrilled to play a role in helping Wieland find a home here in Kentucky.” 

Wieland North America manufactures copper and copper-alloy products, including sheet, strip, foil, tube, bar and other fabricated components for its North American customers. The company also rerolls and forms other metals, such as stainless and carbon steel. 

Last year, Wieland, based in Ulm, Germany, brought its North American headquarters to Louisville. 

Story: Nick Comer

Hazelrigg retires, Hunt succeeds at Fleming-Mason

Flemingsburg, Ky (June 29, 2022) – The Board of Directors of Fleming-Mason Energy is pleased to announce that Brandon Hunt, manager of engineering and operations, will become the co-op’s eighth president and CEO in its 84 year history.
Hunt will succeed veteran Fleming-Mason President & CEO Joni Hazelrigg who is retiring on July 8 after 37 years with the electric cooperative.
“It’s been a wonderful honor to be a part of the cooperative program for so many years,” Hazelrigg said. “One of the things I admire most is how electric co-ops are always willing to share information, best practices, storm assistance and other key ideas with each other. This makes each of us individually stronger. I will truly miss my cooperative friends and wish each the best.”
The co-op honored Hazelrigg at its annual meeting and member appreciation day.
“On behalf of the Board, I want to thank Joni for her excellent management and stewardship at Fleming-Mason Energy during her tenure as manager,” said Board Chairman Tom Saunders. “I also wish her a very long and healthy retirement.”
Commending Hazelrigg for her decades of service to the cooperative, Hunt said he is “grateful and excited to be selected as Fleming-Mason Energy’s next President and CEO.”
“I am looking forward to building on the trust the board bestowed on me as we continue our member-focused mission of providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity to the communities we serve,” Hunt said.
Hunt began his Fleming-Mason Energy career as a student intern in the engineering department while attending the University of Kentucky, later joining the cooperative full-time after his graduation in 2006. Since then, he has worked as a system engineer, engineering manager, and engineering and operations manager. A Fleming County resident, Hunt and his wife Michelle have three children.
Hazelrigg started her Fleming-Mason Energy career in 1980, working about three-and-a-half years as a file clerk, then returning to the co-op for good in 1988. She worked her way up the ranks as cashier, billing, general office supervisor, accountant, chief financial officer and ultimately chief executive officer in 2014.
Fleming-Mason Energy has about 50 employees, including approximately 30 line technicians. Joni Hazelrigg is one of the few female electric distribution CEO’s in the United States.