A Moment with the CEO
BY SUZANNE LANE
In November, we were honored and privileged to host our 47th annual meeting of the KEPCo membership, which marked my 4th annual meeting as your G&T cooperative’s leader. In the past, both at the annual meeting and in this year-ending article of Newsmaker, I have summarized the successes and challenges that occurred over the course of the year. For 2021, though, many events transpired that were unprecedented, that seemed to break tradition, or that just didn’t go as planned. So it seems only fitting that I follow suit with my comments by also veering a bit from what’s been done in the past.
The past year has been a challenging journey for your G&T cooperative — likely one of the most challenging in our 46-year history. Our Members and employees are well-aware of the difficulties, the hurdles, the trials, and the tribulations we’ve experienced over the past year — some of them were beyond our control and, frankly, some of them weren’t. The commonality among all of the challenges we experienced? We learned and continue to grow from each and every one of them.
For this commentary regarding the conclusion of our 46th year, I prefer to not look back and dwell on those challenges, but to look forward and focus on how we can apply the many lessons we learned this past year towards a bright future for KEPCo and the Members we proudly serve.
So what is my vision for this bright future of which I speak?
- One that continues to incorporate every word of our purpose and guiding principles, where affordable, reliable power supply for our Members remains our core focus in order to keep electric rates as low as possible for the thousands of rural Kansans we serve — and continuing to assure we secure this supply in the most safe, reliable, economical, and environmentally responsible manner through existing and future owned resources and contractual arrangements;
- One where we are constantly striving to be a top-notch member services organization, continuously looking for value-added services and programs, supporting our Members’ economic development efforts, and ultimately earning the role of being all of our Members’ trusted energy advisor;
- One where we incorporate all of the lessons learned from Winter Storm Uri, so we are as prepared as possible to support our Members, respond and communicate frequently and effectively, and do all that we can to mitigate related costs and service disruptions, should another, similar grid emergency occur in the future;
- One where we remain financially strong, where we always meet our financial targets, and where we evaluate new business ventures and investment opportunities to find the ultimate value and rate relief for our Members;
- One where our advocacy and engagement at regulatory, legislative, and other industry-related agencies continue to provide benefit for our Members — in the forms of cost savings, relationship enhancement, and/or policy improvement; and
- One where our greatly-enhanced safety and cyber security focus and training efforts keep our employees, our Members, the public, our assets, our systems, and our information safe and secure.
So how will my vision for a bright future for KEPCo be achieved?
It’s simple: by our dedicated Members, our experienced and knowledgeable employees, and our valuable industry partners working collaboratively, supportively, and productively towards the vision I’ve just described. It takes every single one of us working together in lock-step to achieve this vision and the full potential KEPCo has in these regards.
The two key principles that convinced me to join the cooperative family over four years ago are “cooperation among cooperatives” and “concern for community.” These principles have never been more important, more valuable, or more necessary than they are today — and will continue to be tomorrow.
I look forward to continuing on this journey towards a bright future with our Members, our Board of Trustees, our industry partners, and our employee team. I’m honored to be part of the cooperative family and most importantly, I’m honored to serve our Members and staff.
I’m so grateful to our Board of Trustees for their service this past year, and I’m grateful to our employee team for doing all that they do each and every day to serve our Members. I wish everyone a blessed, joyful Christmas, and here’s to a bright 47th year for KEPCo!
Susan Cunningham Graduates from Leadership Kansas
Susan Cunningham, KEPCo SVP of Regulatory & Government Affairs and General Counsel graduated from the 2021 class of Leadership Kansas in October.
The program commenced with a two-day orientation in April, followed by six, three-day sessions from May through October, held at various rural and urban locations across the state. Upon completion of the Leadership Kansas program, graduates are prepared to shoulder more responsibilities, armed with resources from a vast network of business and public sector contacts across the state, and with a keen understanding of key issues affecting the state from border to border.
Started in 1979, Leadership Kansas is the second oldest statewide leadership program in the country. The program was established to identify a group of diverse, established leaders from across the state and develop programming that introduces the participants to the most important topics and issues in Kansas.
“Participating in Leadership Kansas provided me the opportunity to learn more about economic development issues facing Kansas – particularly in rural areas – and the many programs and services that have been developed to address some of the key concerns, such as housing, childcare, job creation, and work force shortages. In addition, the network of contacts I developed will serve KEPCo and our member cooperatives well for many years,” said Cunningham.
KEPCo Participates in Co-op Vote Events
KEPCo’s Phil Wages participated in numerous Co-ops Vote events held at our members’ offices, along with and KEC’s Leslie Kaufman and Doug Shepherd. The events were attended by cooperative members and staff, Kansas legislators, and local elected officials.
“As we move closer to the 2022 legislative session, it is critical that the cooperative family’s concerns are presented and discussed with members of the legislature representing both the rural and urban areas of Kansas. These events, which took place over the past few months, provided Kansas electric cooperatives the opportunity to provide information and answer questions in a setting that accommodates the free-flow of communication,” said Susan Cunningham, KEPCo SVP of Regulatory & Government Affairs and General Counsel.
Co-ops Vote is a non-partisan campaign which strives to inform both our members and candidates about issues important to America’s electric co-ops and the communities they serve, from the continued need for affordable and reliable electricity to broadband access and other rural economic development issues.
KEPCo Holds 47th Annual Membership Meeting
The 47th KEPCo Annual Membership Meeting was held November 17, 2021 in Mayetta, Kansas, at the Prairie Band Casino and Resort. Suzanne Lane, KEPCo EVP & CEO, addressed the challenges faced in 2021 and her visioning of how to achieve success in 2022 and beyond. After the meeting, KEPCo was pleased to host its traditional reception, dinner, and evening of activities, including the infamous “KEPCO,” trivia, raffle, and wide range of prizes. “It was a delight and honor to see so many of our members, retirees, staff, industry partners, and guests,” said Lane. “The opportunity for fellowship with old and new acquaintances alike is always a highlight of KEPCo’s annual meeting,” said Lane.
KEPCo Elects New Officers
At its monthly board meeting in November, the KEPCo Board of Trustees voted on the board officer positions for the coming year, electing Doug Jackson as President (Rolling Hills), Mike Morton as Vice President (Bluestem), Larry Froese as Secretary (Ark Valley), and Bryan Coover as Treasurer (Twin Valley). Elected to the Executive Committee were Chuck Goeckel (Flint Hills), Kirk Thompson (CMS), and Mark Scheibe (Heartland).
Steve Foss (FreeState) did not run for re-election as board Vice President, as he will be retiring in January 2022. Chris Parr, FreeState Assistant General Manager, has been selected to succeed Foss.
KEPCo Donates to Charities
Through KEPCo’s Charitable Giving Program, KEPCo and KEPCo staff have committed to contributing over $17,500 to local and regional charities in 2022. KEPCo will also be applying for matching funds through CFC’s charitable giving program. The charities, which were chosen by KEPCo staff, are Topeka Rescue Mission, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Harvesters, Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, Osage County Help House, Project 2 Restore, and TARC. These organizations do amazing and valuable work in our communities and KEPCo is proud to support their efforts.
In addition, the KEPCo Employee Experience Team recommended that KEPCo staff support two local families that need assistance this Christmas season. As such, KEPCo staff adopted two families through the United Way Christmas Bureau. One is a senior citizen who loves doing word searches and working puzzles, and the second is a single mom of three young children, with a baby on the way in January.
A Christmas tree was placed in the breakroom of KEPCo’s main office, adorned with paper ornaments, with each ornament listing an item needed by the adopted families. Staff could choose an ornament, purchase the item, and then place the item under the tree. The gifts were wrapped by staff and delivered to the families. “The seventh cooperative principle is Concern for Community. KEPCo and KEPCo staff are proud to support organizations and agencies within our communities and surrounding areas that provide valuable services to those in need,” said Suzanne Lane, KEPCo EVP & CEO.
KEPCo Hosts South Central Delegation at Prairie Sky Solar Farm
KEPCo, along with representatives of KEC, hosted eight members of the south central Kansas legislative delegation and other guests for an afternoon of solar energy discussion, which included formal presentations and a tour of KEPCo’s Prairie Sky Solar Farm. The first presentation was The Cooperative Difference, presented by Leslie Kaufman, KEC VP of Government Relations & Legal Counsel, followed by Integrating Solar in Cooperatives: Prairie Sky and More, presented by Mark Barbee, KEPCo SVP & COO.
Following the presentations, members of the delegation were invited on a tour of Prairie Sky Solar Farm, which was led by Mark Barbee. “As the utility industry transitions to additional renewable resources, it is valuable for members of the Kansas legislature to see a utility scale solar project in person in order to understand how solar energy can be successfully integrated into an electric cooperative’s resource portfolio,” said Barbee.
Prepare Your Car for Winter
As we enter into winter driving conditions, here are a few tips to help keep you safe when Old Man Winter arrives.
- Have your battery tested. Battery power drops as the temperature drops.
- Make sure the cooling system is in good working order.
- If using all-season tires, check the tread on your tires and replace if less than 3/32 of an inch.
- Check the tire pressure. Tire pressure drops as the temperature drops.
- Check your wiper blades and replace if needed.
- Add wiper fluid rated for minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid a gas line freeze.
Before You Start Out:
- Clean your car’s external camera lenses and side view mirrors so you’ll be able to see what’s around you.
- Remove dirt, ice, and snow from sensors to allow the assistive-driving features, like automatic emergency braking, to work.
- In frigid weather, you may want to warm up the car before you drive it to allow the fluids in the car to perform properly.
- To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, never leave a vehicle running in your garage – even with the garage door up.
- If the forecast indicates inclement weather, wait out the storm if possible. If you must travel, share your travel plans and route with someone before you leave.
- Make sure you have your cell phone with you in case of an emergency.
How to Avoid a Crash:
- Avoid using cruise control in wintry or wet conditions.
- Steer in the direction of a skid, so when your wheels regain traction, you don’t have to overcorrect to stay in your lane.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly.
- Increase following distance to 8 to 10 seconds.
- If possible, don't stop when going uphill.