Jessica Zufolo, deputy administrator for the USDA Rural Utilities Service, was a guest speaker at the 75th anniversary of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) celebration in McCook, Nebraska late last month. Also attending were USDA Rural Development Nebraska State Director Maxine Moul, Colorado State Director Jim Isgar, and former Administrator for the Rural Utilities Service Chris McLean along with more than 100 attendees. McLean is a former Nebraskan.
The Deputy Administrator discussed with the crowd the REA and Rural Utilities Service of today and its mission and vision for the future.
The Master of Ceremonies was the Rev. Clark Bates of McCook (as U.S. Senator George Norris). Additional guest speakers included John Allen, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Utah State University; and Robert Harris, a McCook native who is with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Honorable service recognitions were presented by Ron Asche, President/CEO for the Nebraska Public Power District.
For Nebraska there are strong ties to the REA as Nebraska had the first community, Tecumseh, Nebraska, to receive power through the REA system. McCook is also home to U.S. Senator George Norris, who helped craft the REA legislation.
Today, REA’s successor, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), a mission area of USDA Rural Development, finances electric, telecommunications (including broadband), and water and waste systems across rural America.
The Rural Electric Program was designed around the ability to collectively come together in a cooperative manner to share knowledge and resources that would provide electricity to every rural household. Several individuals have devoted their lives to this cause at the Wheat Belt Public Power District. It is this team that used their vision, management and sweat to make the dream of rural electrification possible and to continue its existence.
The event was sponsored by the Nebraska Humanities Council, Nebraska Public Power District, USDA Rural Development, Nebraska Rural Electric Association, the Norris Institute, Mid-Plains Center for Enterprise, McCook Public Power District, Southwest Public Power District and Twin Valleys Public Power District.