By Debbie Miles, General Manager

July is the time we celebrate our nation’s independence. In the midst of apple pies and hot dogs, fireworks and parades, I can’t help but think about the independent streak that inspired groups of farmers around America’s countryside to band together and improve their quality of life.

Aside from President Franklin Roosevelt’s promise of federal aid in the form of lowinterest loans and engineering expertise, rural Americans didn’t have much help in bringing electricity to their homes. They pulled themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps and did it themselves.

This independence not only tends to inspire cooperatives; it’s a guiding principle. The Fourth Cooperative Principle, “Autonomy and Independence,” means that no matter what contracts Ontonagon REA might enter into, we will always remain an independent entity.

Each year, Ontonagon REA’s annual meeting becomes an independence celebration. You vote for candidates on the board of Ontonagon REA, and we discuss co-op business. We share a meal and have some fun.

Electric cooperatives form a vast network across the country, from coast to coast. Co-op lines are strung in 47 states, serving 42 million people—a different world from 1935, when much of America remained dark. This Fourth of July, as we recognize the hard-fought war that created the United States, I’ll also tip my hat to Ontonagon REA’s founders, who beat incredible odds to make life better for themselves and their neighbors.