CEO Message – February 2018
Most cultures have a creation story: The Raven, Zeus, Adam and Eve, or the Big Bang Theory, to name just a few. What these stories have in common is that they describe the earliest beginnings of the present world. More importantly, a creation story contains enduring truths that guide one generation after another.
Wells Rural Electric Company has a creation story of its own. Borrowing from a well-known creation story, “In the beginning”…a couple of ranchers in Clover Valley saw the growing benefits of electricity every time they went to town. A few ranchers had “light plants,” but those primitive generators had very limited capacity and were noisy, unreliable and expensive. They asked Harry Cazier, who had founded and owned Wells Power Company, to build a power line into Clover Valley.
Cazier understood their predicament, but told them that he was too old and didn’t have enough money for such a project. He recommended they apply for a loan from the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). If they were successful, he offered to sell them Wells Power Company to provide a base on which to build.
Word spread about the effort to bring central station electricity to Clover Valley. Ranchers from Ruby Valley, Starr Valley, Metropolis and Contact soon joined.
The founding members celebrated when the REA loan was approved May 14, 1958.
The next step was replacing aging and inadequate diesel generators with safe, clean, abundant, reliable hydroelectricity by building a transmission line from Idaho to Wells. That contract was signed May 27, 1958.
The cooperative business model created immediate benefits. Retail rates for commercial members in Wells were reduced by 8%, while residential rates were reduced by 20%.
During World War II, Wendover was powered by generators at Wendover Air Base, The StateLine Hotel and Casino, Peterson’s Market and the Western Service Station. Each generator was connected a handful of neighbors.
In 1947, Clarence McLeod, who owned Western Service Station, led a small group of investors in forming Wendover Power Company. By 1958, the generators that had originally served the Wendover Air Base were wearing out and the community needed more electricity. McLeod offered to sell Wendover Power Company to WREC. The Board of Directors voted to extend service to Wendover and the sale was completed in 1962.
WREC built a transmission line from Wells to Wendover, and connected Oasis and a few ranches along the way.
Carlin had been relying on the generator taken from the Metropolis Hotel in 1922 and on generators the railroad also connected to a few homes and business. The City of Carlin eventually operated their own generators. When Carlin outgrew those generators and the cost of fuel skyrocketed in the 1970’s, WREC extended service to Carlin. Again, the cooperative business model, and a connection to the hydroelectric dams, reduced rates 10%.
The are several enduring truths from our creation story that continue to guide WREC to this day. First, WREC was created by, and for, its members. Second, WREC is democratically controlled. Third, WREC has created a way to serve every load, regardless of the size. Fourth, the not-for-profit cooperative business model always provides affordable electricity. Lastly, by working together, we can overcome any challenge. We have always been, and always will be, more powerful together.
Clay R. Fitch,
Chief Executive Officer