Electric cooperatives began to spread across rural America after President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935. The Executive Order establishing the REA and the passage of the REA Act a year later marked the first steps in a public-private partnership that has bridged the vast expanse of rural America to bring electric power to businesses and communities.
The formation of Co-Mo actually started with Paul Doll, a civil engineer from Hamilton who was a University Extension Service agent in Cooper County during the years of the Great Depression.
Doll did the planning and legwork and made political connections to form a Rural Electrification Administration independent cooperative.
Moniteau County Agent Vic Gray was also instrumental in Co-Mo’s formation.
After laying the framework, agent Doll suggested to local supporters that a full-time coordinator be hired.
Pilot Grove resident Wally Burger was active in politics, supporting FDR and the New Deal. He knew of a graduate from the University of Missouri’s school of business who had recently been married and was in search of employment. That 1936 Mizzou grad, Jack Needy, became the organizational coordinator.
Needy set-up a network of volunteers to enlist members in three counties. Volunteers used personal contacts and salesmanship to get residents to join at $5 each. Still, resistance came from people not having $5 to spend as well as lacking understanding about the benefits of electricity.
Volunteers and organizers persisted, and by early 1939 enough memberships had been sold that an organizational meeting of members could be scheduled and the power turned on.
Tom Briscoe of rural Tipton was elected Co-Mo’s charter president. Jack Needy was hired as General Manager and continued in that position until 1973, a span exceeding 34 years.
In 1956, one line worker and his assistant moved to Laurie so they could be closer to the growing number of consumers at the Lake of the Ozarks.
In 1991 the old cabin that had been used as the lake area office gave way to a new complex that was constructed between Laurie and Sunrise Beach on the east side of Highway 5.
Co-Mo's Mission: Why We Exist
Co-Mo Electric Cooperative exists to fulfill our Members' needs for superior electric and related services at fair and reasonable prices and support our communities through economic, civic and educational opportunities.
1) Place the interest of our Members above all others'
2) Keep our members, the public and ourselves safe
3) Demonstrate integrity and honesty beyond reproach
4) Maintain a high level of financial stewardship
5) Treat everyone with courtesy and respect
6) Adhere to the 7 Cooperative Principles
The Seven Cooperative Principles
- Voluntary and Open Membership: Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
- Democratic Member Control: Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. The elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
- Member Economic Participation: Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefitting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
- Autonomy and Independence: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
- Education, Training and Information: Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of the cooperative.
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives: Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through their local, regional, national and international structures.
- Concern for Community: While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.