MAY 14, 2019 BY 

Talking Green column by Sarah Jones with updated ballot due date information
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today | May 12, 2019

By the 1930s, major cities and towns throughout the U.S. had electricity, but nine out of 10 rural farms were without power. With federal support, residents of rural communities came together to start member-owned rural electric cooperatives, and, by 1953, there were over 500 electric cooperatives and more than 90% of rural America had electricity.

The history of Yampa Valley Electric Association, our local electric cooperative, is no different. In 1940, YVEA started with the first board members going door to door and ranch to ranch, asking people to join the cooperative, and the first local power line was energized in 1941.

YVEA, like all rural cooperatives, was started by engaged community members who were invested in the economy and future of the Yampa Valley. Over the years, we have come to take our electricity and the work that went into bringing it to Northwest Colorado for granted. Most of us are pretty disconnected from the organization that keeps our lights on.

It is time to re-engage with our member-owned utility. As part of the electric cooperative model, YVEA holds annual board elections. As owners and members, we have the opportunity to vote. However, in recent YVEA elections, less than 10% of account holders have cast their ballots.

Just as we elect our local public officials to represent our values and future goals, it is important that we participate in the YVEA election to guide the future of our utility and community. YVEA is critical not only for our electricity, but the organization and its board of directors also play a critical role in our local economy — determining our electricity rate structure, bringing broadband to our area and providing energy efficiency programs to reduce utility costs in homes and businesses.

They also play an important role in preparing for the future impacts of climate change by investing in and establishing distribution of renewable energy and building infrastructure resilient to wildfires and floods.

Look for the YVEA ballot in your mailbox around May 24. Read about the candidates, contact them to learn more about their plans for YVEA and our community and, most importantly, vote!

What you need to know:

Completed ballots must be mailed by June 14 to be counted or you can vote in person at the annual meeting at Steamboat Springs High School on June 25. It is important to sign the back of the ballot with the account holder’s name or your ballot will not be counted.

Sarah Jones is the executive director of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.