By Kent Singer, CREA Executive Director
You may have heard the Johnny Cash version of the country music classic “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Australian singer Geoff Mack. Although the song was written in 1959 and different versions have been recorded by many artists, Cash’s rendition from his 1996 “Unchained” album (backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) is the most famous.
The song is sort of a travelogue, listing all the towns the narrator’s hitchhiking adventures have taken him to in a tongue-twisting set of lyrics. The song originally referred to cities in Australia but was modified for an American audience when it was first recorded by Lucky Starr in 1962. Colorado gets a shout-out in the fourth verse:
“I’ve been to Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelbourg, Colorado, Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg, El Dorado …
“I’ve been everywhere, man.”
I think of this song every summer since summertime is annual meeting time for Colorado’s electric co-ops. As the executive director of the co-ops’ statewide trade association, my job includes attending the co-op annual meetings. It’s one of the best parts of the job. I travel the state to meet with not only the board of directors and staff at our member electric co-ops, but I also get to meet the consumer-members served by those local co-ops.
The best way to understand the issues facing rural Colorado and the consumer-members of our state’s 22 electric co-ops is to attend these annual meetings and hear what’s on people’s minds. In addition to providing a meal and entertainment, each of the co-ops sets aside time to take questions and hear the concerns of their consumer-members.
This is one of the important distinguishing features between electric co-ops and other types of utilities. Co-ops are owned by the consumers they serve and their governing boards are also comprised of residents of the local community. If a consumer has a question about a bill or any other aspect of the co-op’s business practices, he or she can speak directly to the co-op directors or management and get an answer. At the annual meetings I have attended so far this year, the Q&A periods were extensive with excellent discussions about energy policy, power supply, operational issues and other matters of concern to the co-op’s consumer-members. In every case, the co-op board and management responded to the questions with detailed answers or assurances to follow up if further research was necessary.
While important business is conducted at these co-op annual meetings, one of the most gratifying features of every meeting is the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” As hard as it is to believe, these American traditions seem to have fallen into disfavor in some circles. I’m glad to report that’s not the case in Colorado’s electric co-op country where every annual meeting opened with the pledge and anthem.
In every corner of our great state (electric co-ops serve over 70% of Colorado’s landmass), the electric co-op program is thriving and co-op consumer-members are proud to be associated with their local electric utility. Electric co-op consumer-members appreciate the personal service, the commitment to making their communities a better place and the forward-thinking attitude of their electric co-ops.
So, with apologies to Geoff Mack and the late, great Johnny Cash:
“I’ve been to Alamosa, Broomfield, Buena Vista, Durango, Fort Morgan, Granby, Hotchkiss, Lamar, Loveland, Monument, Ridgway, Sedalia, Steamboat Springs, Wray …
“I’ve been everywhere, man, crossed the deserts bare, man, I’ve breathed the mountain air, man, I’ve been everywhere.”
Kent Singer is the executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association and offers a statewide perspective on issues affecting electric cooperatives. CREA is the trade association for your electric co-op, the 21 other electric co-ops in Colorado and its power supply co-op.