NRECA CEO Hosts Youth Leadership CouncilBy Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: July 24th, 2014
NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson welcomed members of NRECA’s Youth Leadership Council, as they returned to the nation’s capitol a month after visiting Washington, D.C., for the 50th Annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour.
“When I served in Congress, my favorite meetings were with young people from home, and the bright students involved in our rural electric cooperatives always made a big impression,” said Emerson, who invited YLC members to her Arlington, Va., office, July 21. “I had 13 co-ops in my old congressional district.”
Emerson, who represented a mostly rural Missouri congressional district for 17 years, hosted 43 youths selected by the 1,644 Youth Tour 2014 attendees. The Youth Leadership Council will represent young co-op members at electric co-op events through June 2015.
“If every young person your age is exactly like you, then this country is in great hands,” Emerson told the group.
She fielded questions on a wide range of topics, including electric cooperatives, energy policy and community involvement. Emerson also offered insights into her career and private life.
When asked about rural broadband and the role electric co-ops could play in its development, Emerson said she believes the cooperative principle of concern for community guides an important segment of NRECA members’ work.
“Being able to expand to offer Internet services is a good thing,” Emerson said in response to a question from Bethany Schultz of Lake Region Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Hulbert, Okla.
“Any time you can add value and give consumers more than just turning on the lights,” that mission is being served, Emerson said.
Emerson told youth leaders that visiting with co-op members, staffers and management is the most rewarding aspect of her job, but she also admitted the travel schedule can be hectic, and she’s learned to pack light.
Since assuming the NRECA CEO post 16 months ago, Emerson has visited co-ops and statewide associations in dozens of states from coast to coast. She told the group she was between trips to Montana and Idaho, before heading to Chicago.
Emerson told YLC members that NRECA is committed to leading in global electrification. She said the association will continue building alliances with organizations with similar constituent interests, citing rural development and rail transportation as examples.
“Every single thing we do here at NRECA impacts millions of people,” said Emerson. “As long as things we do on the legislative front help the members at the end of the line … that empowers people.”