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A helping hand
by Caleb Jones |

There’s no other place I’d rather be than rural Missouri. For me there is something a little special about forgetting to grab the keys from my truck and knowing it will still be there when I get back from lunch or stopping by the feed store to hear about who nailed the biggest buck of the year.

I know I don’t have to sing the praises of small-town life to you, and I know I don’t have to list the challenges. When I travel the back roads across the state, I hear about empty downtowns, a lack of reliable workers, few childcare options and nothing to keep young people in small towns.

What makes rural Missouri so great is no matter what challenge each of us is faced with, there are always friends and neighbors willing to lend a helping hand.

We had one of our good friends stop by United Electric Cooperative in Savannah recently. U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt visited the office to talk about what rural Missouri needs to be successful. When Eric needs to know how legislation will impact those of us who live in rural Missouri, he goes straight to the source.

Normally I get pretty nervous about a politician showing up at one of our co-ops, but not with my friend Eric. His family owned a furniture store a few miles from our family farm in Moniteau County. Back in 2015, when I was a young member of the Missouri House of Representatives (and had more brown hair than gray), I spent countless hours in Eric’s office when he was a Missouri state senator. Together we worked through legislation to help children suffering from epilepsy. Without his help this legislation would not have passed.

While at United Electric, Eric learned how electric cooperatives are bringing much-needed broadband to rural areas, whether by stringing fiber on poles or by working to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of deployment. He also discussed how the EPA is trying to force co-ops to shut down our coal and gas plants, jeopardizing the reliable electricity we need to survive.

Down on the farm, a good friend shows up when the cows are out to help get them back in the barn. I have learned it helps to have a good friend, like Eric, in Washington, D.C., when the “government folks” think they know more about rural Missouri than you.

As I reflect this holiday season, I’m thankful for good friends and good neighbors. That team spirit is what has made rural Missouri and all of our electric cooperatives successful in the past and will guide us in the years ahead. I’m proud to be part of the team. Merry Christmas from Lindsey, Max, Charlie and me.

Caleb Jones is the executive vice president and CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives in Jefferson City. He is a member of Boone Electric Cooperative.

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