Natchez Trace Electric Power Association celebrated 75 years of service to home and community this week with their annual meeting held in Calhoun County Monday night.
“This cooperative started in 1939 with a director, a lady in the office, four linemen and a single truck,” said Norma Kilgore, General Manager of Natchez Trace EPA. “We now have more than 60 employees and 2,122 miles of power lines serving more than 16,000 customers.”
And Kilgore said while the world has changed, Natchez Trace EPA’s mission of providing affordable and reliable electricity has not.
“I tell people I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world,” said Kilgore, who joined Natchez Trace in 1966 as a cashier. “We provide the power to the people I know – my neighbors – that keeps the lights on in their homes, drys their clothes and cooks their food. It’s important and everyone at Natchez Trace takes pride in doing that.”
Kilgore pointed out the association is member-owned and led by a board of directors drawn from communities and counties served by Natchez Trace.
“We stretch from Chickasaw County to the back part of Grenada Lake and down into Webster County,” said Kilgore. “We average about seven customers to each mile of line and while that includes a lot of towns it also includes a lot of rural customers, too.”
And since that day 75 years ago when the switch was thrown in Houston and TVA power lit a simple light bulb at the ceremony, Natchez Trace has worked to get affordable electricity to homes, businesses and industry in its service area.
“Our people realize we have to keep the power on 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year,” said Kilgore. “When we had the 1998 ice storm at Christmas, many of us worked all Christmas Day to to get the power back on. Serving our members is just part of the job.”
Kilgore said she never ceases to be amazed at the lengths Natchez Trace employees will go to help a member/customer with a problem. She pointed out they still have people and not machines answering every phone call to the EPA.
She said not only are Natchez Trace workers good employees, they are also involved in their communities, coaching softball teams, holding fundraisers and active in local churches.
“When the tornado came through in 2011 we had employees who stayed on the job until we told them they had to get some sleep,” said Kilgore. “They realized their neighbors were without power. I don’t think people know how hard we work everyday to keep the power flowing to our customers.”
Kilgore said Natchez Trace EPA has always been one of the more progressive entities in the region and has always pushed economic development, the building of homes and helping industry grow.
“They helped me continue my education and they pushed me to take on leadership roles in a day and age when women didn’t always do that,” said Kilgore. “We’ve always had co-op students in our office and have hired a number of them. We are local people who care about our members and our communities.”
And Natchez Trace EPA is headquartered in Houston.
“There is a lot of history in this cooperative and when I say that what I really mean is there are a lot of people who have given their time and talent to Natchez Trace,” said Kilgore. “Without electricity the gas pumps at the service station don’t work, the lights at your house don’t work and the business or factory where you work doesn’t open its doors.
“What we have done for the past 75-years has been important,” she added. “What we do today is just as important.”