By Haley Smith
For several years, people in iconic green shirts backing Iowa’s electric cooperatives have been seen canvassing the state, appearing at political events and visiting lawmakers at the Iowa statehouse and in Washington, D.C. Modestly. Methodically. Making a Difference.
These advocates are part of Iowa’s Rural Power grassroots effort. They’re your friends, your neighbors, your locally elected electric cooperative board members and staff – and they’re just like you. They’re concerned about supporting public policy that ensures safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electricity – the fundamental cornerstone of your not-for-profit electric cooperative.
Grassroots involvement is at the heart of Iowa’s Rural Power program, and it’s been successful because we believe in an authentic, commonsense approach to everything from operating a cooperative to discussing legislative policies with elected officials. From presidential hopefuls to state representatives to political bloggers, our approach gets noticed for doing a “phenomenal job” and being one of the top “issue groups” in the Iowa caucus.
For electric cooperative member-owners, being involved in grassroots advocacy – talking to others about topics that we believe in – isn’t about accolades. It’s about ensuring our member-owners have a voice when it comes to decisions that impact rural Iowa. It’s the cooperative way – one member, one vote. Since the 1930s, this approach has served us well in our communities and is still relevant today because local control and decision making are keys to helping us prosper. Together, this process works on a larger scale when it comes to policymaking.
A recent example is Iowa’s new Move Over, Slow Down law, which was enacted in July 2017. Iowa Rural Power advocates visited with legislators, sent e-mails, made phone calls and wrote letters to the editor to bring awareness to a safety concern. Motorists were not slowing down for utility vehicles, which presented a significant safety hazard to our employees. Iowa’s electric cooperatives and utility companies wanted this to change. One-by-one, advocates helped spread this message, which ultimately lead to the legislature passing a life-saving law.
However, the power of grassroots isn’t just about politics. As an electric cooperative member, you’re part of a nationwide network of approximately 42 million people that all have ownership in the organization that provides electric service to homes and businesses in 47 states. Not many people belong to a group of this size. When a natural disaster such as a hurricane unleashes unimaginable devastation, we’re there – because we take pride in knowing we can make a difference. Even if it means traveling to Georgia or Florida, we work together until the lights are back on. We do so because it’s the right thing to do, and we know how important electric service is to our member-owners’ quality of life. If the roles were reversed, we’d welcome all the help we could get. That’s the power of grassroots connections.
While the majority of our green shirt-wearing advocates are electric cooperative employees and directors – or Youth Tour participants – we know that folks like you want to be involved too. Being a rural power advocate is something you’re likely already doing in some form – perhaps it’s attending your annual meeting or listening to a candidate forum. As an Iowa Rural Power advocate, you’re engaged one step further with additional information and opportunities that matter to you and your community.
Haley Smith is the advocacy coordinator for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.
Here are five ways you can get involved now
- “Like” and follow Iowa Rural Power on Facebook and Twitter (@iaruralpower).
- Check the websites of your local electric co-op and elected officials.
- Attend a town hall meeting or public forum.
- Write a letter, send an e-mail or call your state and federal representatives.
- Discuss Iowa Rural Power with friends, family and elected officials.