ORLANDO, Fla.—NRECA honored co-op leaders with several prestigious awards at the annual meeting this week. Here's a look at their accomplishments:

Clyde T. Ellis Award

The highest honor went to Martin Lowery, board chairman of the National Cooperative Bank and executive vice president emeritus of NRECA.

The award, named in honor of NRECA's first CEO, honors those who have made exemplary contributions that promote the principles and progress of rural electrification and the development and use of natural resources.

Lowery, who was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in May 2014, is the elected U.S. representative to the board of the International Cooperative Alliance. He is chairman of the ICA's Principles Committee and serves on the Membership Committee.

Lowery also is NRECA's representative to the board of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, where he advocates for diplomacy and development as key to U.S. international affairs.

"Martin is extraordinarily dedicated to the cooperative purpose and stands out among the leaders within our industry," said former NRECA President Phil Carson. "His contribution to the success of NRECA and its members is unparalleled."

Lowery said it was "a great honor to receive this award and be recognized for contributing to a cause I care so deeply about."

President's Award

Two co-op leaders dedicated to expanding rural broadband service won this award: Ken Johnson, former CEO and general manager of Co-Mo Electric Cooperative in Tipton, Missouri, and Bob Hance, president and CEO of Midwest Energy & Communications in Cassopolis, Michigan.

Johnson was honored for his role in creating Co-Mo Connect, which makes broadband service available in rural central Missouri.

"Ken is a standard-bearer and a wealth of knowledge for electric cooperatives that are working to bridge the digital divide," Carson said.

Hance was honored for his state and national advocacy on behalf of bringing high-speed internet service to rural America. He has testified before Congress about the issue and was the force behind passage of the 2018 NRECA members' resolution calling for federal funding for co-ops to help bring broadband to unserved and underserved areas.

"Bob has been a change agent," Carson said. "Through his advocacy efforts and sheer willpower, he has helped bring rural broadband and the needs of rural communities to the fore."

Cooperative Purpose Award

Dakota Electric Association won this award, which recognizes co-ops for meaningful contributions to their local community.

The Farmington, Minnesota-based co-op was honored for deploying the first all-electric school bus in the Midwest and introducing new technology to boost energy efficiency, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve safety.

The all-electric bus was part of a partnership the co-op had with Great River Energy and Schmitty & Sons. The bus, which began transporting students in the fall of 2017, can go 100 miles without a recharge in the brutally cold Minnesota winters.

"Innovative projects like this require outstanding leadership and an impressive ability to leverage new partnerships to improve lives. Dakota Electric clearly has both," Carson said.

Paul Revere Award

Lyn Opalka, former longtime board president of Mohave Electric Cooperative in Bullhead City, Arizona, won this award for outstanding achievement in mobilizing grassroots advocacy among co-op consumer-members.

She was deeply involved in grassroots campaigns to fight the repeated threat of electricity deregulation in Arizona and gather support to press state regulators to approve a co-op rate decrease for generation and transmission cooperatives. She also led local efforts to gather more than 11,000 comments opposing the Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse gas rules.

"Lyn's 35 years on Mohave Electric Cooperative's board—27 years as president—were marked by a sincere dedication to the cooperative and its members," Carson said. "She also demonstrated a strong commitment to grassroots advocacy, working tirelessly to advance the interests of the cooperative and her community."

George W. Haggard Memorial Journalism Award

Ohio Cooperative Living magazine, published by Ohio's Electric Cooperatives, won this award for the co-op publication that demonstrates the most forthright, concise and balanced presentation of ideas advancing co-ops and their consumer-members.

NRECA CEO Jim Matheson congratulated editor Jeff McCallister and the entire staff for "beautifully telling the co-op story."

"They have the perfect balance it takes to deliver a polished, professional magazine," he said.

Photo Gallery: See the Award Winners

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