“Brothers and sisters, I want to tell you this. The greatest thing on earth is to have the love of God in your heart, and the next greatest thing is to have electricity in your houses.” (Farmer giving witness in a rural Tennessee church in the early 1940’s)In 1936 Congress approved the Rural Electrification Administrative Act. This was born out of the need to provide electricity to the many families who lived in rural America. Many of these people lived in sight of the towns and could see the city lights. Rural life was a grim struggle and had few rewards and little conveniences.
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Concordia Electric had its beginning shortly after the passage of the REA Act of 1936. It was the vision of the community leaders, County Agents, the Extension Service, Farm Bureaus and individuals that began the hard work to what they had long dreamed of.
Families were told all across America, from local power companies, that rural electrification would never be profitable or practical. So they turned to REA and with their help began holding meetings to organize home-owned, non-profit cooperative.
Some of the local pioneers of Concordia Electric included Country Agent C. P. Seab, L. F. Marks, S. L. Winston, Jr., Maybel M. Denham, John Dale, Jr. and Sam Calvert. They worked long, hard hours getting Concordia Electric established under Louisiana laws on July 24, 1940.
At this point, it was little more than a dream and a pioneer spirit to see the lights turned on. They had no office or equipment and worked hours to obtain the members needed. These organizers paid their own expenses and often paid or loaned the $5.00 membership fee needed to assure the three members per mile that REA required.
The first REA loan was received on April 11, 1941 for $120,000.00 for the construction of 140 miles to serve 344 members in the Black River and Lake St. John communities. One of the most historic events in northeast Louisiana followed when the first lines were energized serving 205 members. On hand for the celebration were board members, S. L. Winston, Jr., President; L. R. Alwood, Vice-President; Sam Calvert, Secretary; Cliff B. Godbold, Treasurer; Edwin Ford, Warren P. Cross, Sam E. Dale, Mrs. Lucille Otey Godbold, and Mrs. H. W. Moreland. Today Concordia Electric has 2,496 miles of line, 8,690 Members and more than 12,000 meters. Concordia Electric Cooperative, Inc. territory covers part of 8 parishes. They are Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, Franklin, Grant, LaSalle, Rapides and Tensas Parishes.
The first manager was Elton Barnette. Along with Mr. Barnette there were two employees, Clara Rabb and E. M. Stanley. There was one point of delivery or substation at Clayton and one service vehicle. Today there are 60 employees and 33 vehicles and four points of delivery and ten sub-stations. That first year the members used an average of 53.9-kilowatt hours per month…today an average bill is 1000 kWh for a single residence. But where our early members used only 53.9 kWh per month, now we sometimes use more than that in one day. It was considered a luxury to have electricity in the 40’s, 50’s and in some areas in the early 60’s. Today, electricity is a commodity necessary for our everyday living.
In the early years Concordia Electric operated its main office in Ferriday, LA, later opening a branch office in Jonesville and Jena. The office in Jena was closed in the early 1990’s and in 1993 the headquarters was moved from Ferriday to Jonesville. This placed the office in the center of its service area and all of the operations under one roof.
Ownership and control of Concordia Electric is still in the hands of its membership. It is the members who vote for the nine board of directors, who in turn pass the policies that govern most of the everyday procedures at the cooperative. The Board of Directors then hires the CEO and General Manager to take care of the everyday operation of the co-op.
There have been 10 General Managers from the beginning of the Cooperative to present date. The CEO and General Manager today is Billy D. Harris.