Tipton, Mo. (May 23, 2014) — A packed house of more than 1,650 Co-Mo Electric members filled the cooperative’s Operations Center on Thursday for a grand celebration of the electricity provider’s 75th anniversary.

The Annual Meeting saw the election of two new directors and the re-election of another to help govern the cooperative, a special recognition for an employee whose quick action saved a member’s life and the return of an employee who helped start the cooperative back in 1939.

It was that last honor that brought the crowd to its feet. Geraldine Rodgers, 94, now of Raytown, was the first hire of the cooperative’s first general manager, Jack Needy. On her first day as an employee, Rodgers was handed a check from the Rural Electrification Administration for $342,000 — the equivalent of $5.8 million in today’s dollars— and told to open a bank account for the cooperative.  

Rodgers was honored as part of the festivities Thursday night during the business meeting. She told the crowd of her first actions with Co-Mo as a 19-year-old young woman, purchasing the accounting books and basic supplies from the local drug store to start the heartbeat of the cooperative. When she finished telling her story, she was met by a standing ovation from the crowd that included dozens of retirees and former board members.

The meeting brought a change in the cooperative’s leadership. Rick Everhart Sr. and Craig Allee unseated the incumbents in their races for positions on the nine-person, member-elected Board of Directors. Rick Purdon won re-election to his seat on the board.

“The foundation of a cooperative is Democracy,” said Co-Mo’s CEO and General Manager, Ken Johnson.“Part of the cooperative difference is that members are elected to the board of directors by their fellow members. I look forward to working with Rick and Craig and having them as part of our leadership team, and I congratulate Rick (Purdon) on his re-election.”

At the Board’s re-organizational session after the Annual Meeting, Rodney Schad of Versailles was chosen to serve as president for the coming year.

In addition to the honor for Rodgers and the board vote, Versailles resident Tom Hulse, who serves as the cooperative’s Energy Services Advisor, was announced as the winner of the fourth annual O.B. Clark Members First Award. The award honors an employee whobest lives out the cooperative’s values.

Hulse won the award for stopping a member from throwing water on a sparking downed power line during restoration efforts from snowstorm Rocky in February 2013.

Entertainment for the 75th anniversary celebration was provided by the bluegrass family band The Martins. Pike Electric presented a live-line demonstration to increase members’ awareness of electrical safety. Temporary tattoos, face painting, a bounce house and visits with Buddy Bear, the cooperative’s mascot, entertained the children in attendance. Lutz’s BBQ catered dinner.

Members were given a commemorative Co-Mo Electric history book written by the cooperative’s communications manager, John Agliata, and Rural Missouri magazine editor Jim McCarty. The book chronicles the cooperative’s growth from the rural electrification movement’s start in the mid 1930s to the next generation of light the cooperative is bringing its members today through its Co-Mo Connect Internet, TV and telephone service. Members who didn’t attend the AnnualMeeting can pick up a copy of the book at the cooperative’s Tipton headquartersor the Lake District office in Laurie while supplies last.

Johnson said he was happy to see such a large crowd turn out for the meeting.

“The Annual Meeting is something that sets cooperatives apart,” he said. “To have such a large crowd shows that people know they are a part of something different, something special. It was so rewarding to see so many of our member-owners here.” 

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