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Traditions: The foundations we are built on

by Mark Johnston, general manager


“I believe in traditions; I believe in the idea of things being passed between generations and the slow transmission of cultural values through tradition.” ~Graham Moore


The holiday season brings out many traditions – in customs and food, and even in the games we play while celebrating with family and friends.  When I was a kid, our family opened one gift on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning. This tradition was, of course, difficult for me personally. Like most kids, I always wanted to open all of my presents right away. 


After I was married, my wife introduced me to her family’s traditions. And we even began a new one ourselves: We watch the same movie every holiday season. It is not a holiday classic like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Elf” or even “Die Hard”.  Our tradition is to watch the lesser known holiday classic “Love Actually.”  Why?  Because it came out the year we got married. 


Traditions, whatever they may be, are cherished by their keepers.


America’s electric cooperatives, like Mountain Parks Electric, are no exception. MPE was built on meaningful traditions that are reflected in its seven guiding principles:


  • Open and Voluntary Membership
  • Democratic Member Control
  • Members’ Economic Participation
  • Autonomy and Independence
  • Education, Training, and Information
  • Cooperation Among Cooperatives
  • Concern for Community

Many of these ideas can be traced back to the traditions of our forefathers, the people that formed America’s electric cooperatives – namely rural residents, ranchers and family farmers.  Their traditions of democratic control, independence, cooperating with neighbors and concern for community are, quite simply, part of the rural fabric.


As late as the mid-1930s, nine out of ten rural homes in the US were without electric service.  On May 11, 1935, President Roosevelt established the Rural Electrification Administration (REA).  Within months, it became evident that established investor-owned utilities were not interested in using federal loan funds to serve sparsely populated rural areas.  But loan applications from farmer-based cooperatives poured in, and electric cooperatives formed to make rural electrification a reality.


In the four years following World War II, the number of rural electric cooperatives in the United States doubled. The number of electrified U.S. consumers connected more than tripled, and the miles of energized power lines increased more than five-fold.  


The foundations of MPE were laid in those years.  Jackson County residents established North Park Electric Association (NPREA) on October 16, 1946.  NPREA obtained federal loans to construct power lines, bringing electricity to local residents.  NPREA’s first power lines were energized in 1950.  Between 1953 and 1959, NPREA combined several area power companies including Granby’s Mountain Utilities Corporation and municipals in Grand Lake and Kremmling.  


Today the consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives are unique within the $391 billion U.S. electric utility industry.  There are more than 900 cooperatives in 47 states provide electric service to 42 million people.


At MPE, we focus on 22,000 of them.  Our focus for the past 73 years has been you.  That is our tradition.


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