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November 2013 Issue

November 2013
Feature 1

KENNEDY
and CO-OPS

Feature 2

SIGNED
to SERVE

Editorial

EDITORIAL
"Co-ops' Loss"

Wisconsin Favorites
Wisconsin Favorites
"Flyways Take Flight"

 

 

 

 

Kennedy and Co-ops

Midwesterners Tapped for Washington Duty

The assassination of President John Kennedy 50 years ago this month stunned and horrified the nation and much of the world. For Wisconsin citizens—similarly left numb by the events of November 22, 1963—an extra measure of sadness set in, as they had come to know Kennedy during the spirited presidential campaign three years earlier. Candidates for the nation’s highest office hadn’t always frequented Badger State gatherings in the run-up to an election, but Kennedy had.

In 1960, Wisconsin was an important state from the spring primary straight through to the fall general election. The Democratic primary race was between Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey and Massachusetts Senator Kennedy. By fall, the opponents were Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon, a Republican.

Hundreds if not thousands of books have been written about the Kennedy Administration, but not as many words or books focus on the historic earlier part of the 1960 campaign when the need to win delegates through the primary process first emerged. JFK went on to claim the delegates and the subsequent nomination at the Democratic National Convention that summer.

Doing so meant Kennedy had needed to campaign heavily for those delegates, and when it came to Wisconsin, he visited a lot of small towns, held hundreds of interviews with community newspapers, ate in local restaurants, and slept in some pretty modest hotels. He also put numerous electric cooperative annual meetings on his campaign itinerary, greeting hundreds of rural members. They came to know him and vice versa.

Migration of Midwesterners

There must have been something about the people he met during his swings through the state that remained with the new president and that he brought to the forefront as he began putting together his administration in Washington, D.C.

The first Midwesterner JFK named was Minnesota Governor Orville Freeman, who had been defeated in the November gubernatorial race, to be his secretary of Agriculture.

Then in March 1961, the new president reached down into southwestern Wisconsin and tapped Norman Clapp, who had been editor and publisher of the Grant County Independent at Lancaster, to be administrator of the Rural Electrification Administration, better known as the REA.

Clapp was no stranger to the REA; he’d served as administrative assistant to the late U.S. Senator Robert M. LaFollette, Jr., of Wisconsin during the period when the REA was created by executive order of President Franklin Roosevelt and during the writing of the Rural Electrification Act by Congress. Returning to Wisconsin in 1944, Clapp and his wife, Analoyce, published the Lancaster newspaper, and through their prize-winning editorials and stories helped champion the fledgling rural electrification program. In addition, two years before heading to Washington, Analoyce had been hired as a freelance writer by Grant Electric Cooperative (now Scenic Rivers Energy) to prepare stories for the co-op’s monthly local pages in Wisconsin REA News, the statewide publication for electric co-op members (which ultimately became Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News).

More from Electric Co-op Ranks

Named assistant to the REA administrator in April 1961 was James Sullivan, an employee of the Wisconsin statewide electric cooperative association since 1948. A management assistant at Wisconsin Electric Cooperative at the time of his posting to REA, Sullivan had headed the statewide’s Public Relations Department and had also twice served as editor of Wisconsin REA News, 1949–52 and 1954–56.

Another appointment to the Kennedy Administration came for Wisconsinite Robert Lewis, who became deputy administrator for price supports in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Stabilization Service. Lewis was Sullivan’s predecessor as editor of the Wisconsin REA News and had later served as administrative assistant to U.S. Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin and as farm advisor to Wisconsin Governor Gaylord Nelson.

The trek from Wisconsin to the nation's capitol also included University of Wisconsin professor Willard “Fritz” Mueller from his post in the economics department to that of chief economist for the Federal Trade Commission.

Clapp's Accomplishments

Clapp stayed on as REA administrator through the Johnson Administration. In the 1970s he returned to Wisconsin where he served as secretary of the Department of Transportation and then chaired the Public Service Commission.

After Clapp’s death in 1998, Patrick Dahl, a longtime employee with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, sent a memo to this publication, detailing Clapp’s many contributions to the cooperative utility industry.

“More than any single figure or government official, it is Norman Clapp who can be credited with the emergence of the rural electric generation and transmission (G&T) program as we know it today,” Dahl wrote.

“Because of Clapp's hard bargaining and convincing arguments at the White House, hefty budgets for G&T loans, with approving nods from the Kennedy and Johnson White Houses, came forward to accelerate the G&T program.

“REA loans for power plants or transmission lines, no matter how small, had always been ‘red flags’ to the investor-owned utilities (IOUs),” Dahl continued. “Much to the ideological dismay of the IOUs, REA’s Clapp—the brash, young New Frontiersman from Wisconsin—built the G&T program right under their noses. More than any other REA Administrator, Norman Clapp gave the power companies ‘fits.’”

Cooperative Stances

During the 1960 campaign, both Kennedy and Nixon issued statements and made remarks about their specific stands on cooperative issues.

In a television interview, Nixon said he felt that cooperatives were “essential for the purpose of helping farmers close the gaps between the prices they receive for their products on their farms and prices the housewife has to pay in the store.” He went on to say he believed cooperatives should engage in activities “that are directly related to their purpose and not in activities which are completely extraneous and thereby compete with private business.” He said he did not favor a “special tax status” for co-ops that would enable them “to compete unfairly with private business that might also be in the same field.”

But Kennedy took a much stronger stand in favor of cooperatives: “Farmers who choose to sell their products and buy their supplies through their own cooperatives have an unqualified right to do so. The federal government should defend and protect that right, instead of attempting to abridge it.

 “The federal government has no moral nor legal right to single out the investments made by farmers in their own cooperatives for special restrictions and penalties,” he continued, declaring co-op patrons should be liable for a single tax on their income just as other citizens are, including that part of their income that comes to them through their cooperatives.

Kennedy called farmers’ marketing, purchasing, and service cooperatives “an essential part of our American system of private enterprises and as such must be given an opportunity to function effectively.”

In November of 1960, The Wisconsin REA News printed a summary of the voting records on REA/co-op issues of not only presidential nominees Kennedy and Nixon but also of their vice presidential running mates—Senator Lyndon Johnson and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., respectively. The tally showed Kennedy and Johnson with the most favorable ratings.

Freeman’s View

Kennedy appointee Orville Freeman in his post as secretary of Agriculture echoed the cooperative views of the times when, in September of 1961, he spoke to delegates of cooperatives from across the nation at the American Institute of Cooperation in Minneapolis.

“If dairy cooperatives concern themselves only with legislation affecting dairying, if cotton cooperatives consider only the cotton problem, if grain cooperatives devote themselves to grain programs, and electric cooperatives only to legislation affecting the REA—then the voices of these cooperatives will be small and fragmented and relatively ineffective as applied to the overall picture.”—Developed from a story written in 2008 by Joan Sanstadt and published in Agri-View

 

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Signed To Serve

Catching Up with the Young Vets


All with multiple deployments to war zones and completion of advanced training and education on their resumes, the three young West Point cadets we featured on our November 2002 magazine cover continue with impressive military careers.

Josh Glonek, Elsa Johnson, and Joseph (Joey) Williams drew our interest for that cover story because at the time they were the three Wisconsin cadets who hailed from families on electric co-op lines—Josh from Gordon (East Central Energy), Elsa from Holcombe (Chippewa Valley Electric), and Joey from Black River Falls (Jackson Electric). Josh and Elsa graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 2003, Joey in 2005. We ran one update on their Army careers in 2007 and, with a nod to Veterans Day, we caught up with the trio again.

Two War Zones, Teaching

Josh, now an Army major and married with two daughters, headed for Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, this summer to begin attending the Command and General Staff College. Being selected for that advanced training cut short his assignment as an economics instructor—back at West Point—that began last year. He’s had two overseas deployments since his 2003 graduation from the academy and Army Ranger School: He served six months in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne and 13 months in Afghanistan commanding a Stryker (rapid-response mobile) company.

“We were involved in heavy fighting with the Taliban throughout our deployment and unfortunately lost a number of men,” he said of his most recent tour of duty. “We did accomplish a tremendous amount, however, removing the Taliban and re-opening schools and medical clinics they had shut down, along with training the Afghan Army and police, who have since taken control of the area.” Upon Josh’s return stateside, he was sent to the University of Chicago, where he earned a master’s degree in economics, leading to his West Point teaching post.

Helicopters, Drones, Faculty

Following her academy graduation and 18 months of Army Aviation training in Alabama, Elsa spent two years in Korea flying Apache helicopters and later deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne in command of an unmanned aerial vehicle (commonly called “drone”) company. A year later she returned to Afghanistan, this time as a headquarters company commander in charge of 120 soldiers and a variety of assignments.

Elsa came back from deployment early to enroll at Georgia Tech, and she earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in May 2012. Soon after, she returned to West Point as an engineering instructor, becoming a major this past spring. “I mentioned grad school and a teaching assignment then,” she said, referring to our 2002 story when she was an academy senior. “I’m doing just that now.”

Three Deployments, Two Years Away

Joey completed Ranger School after West Point, got married, and deployed to Iraq with a Stryker unit for three months in 2006. He spent time in the Philippines helping to train the Guam Army and then returned to Iraq, this time for a full year away from his post at Ft. Wainwright, Alaska. More specialized training followed, and he was assigned to Ft. Drum, New York, from where he deployed to Afghanistan with a unit of the 10th Mountain Division this past January, coming home September 30.

“The first half of the deployment was as a company commander running huge convoys that were transitioning forward operating bases to the Afghans,” Captain Williams said, noting the second half was with a small security team that worked with U.S. forces and Afghan commanders to help with the leadership transfer. “We saw huge strides in the confidence of the Afghans while we were there,” he commented.

Eleven years ago while just a sophomore at West Point, Joey told us, “I signed up to serve, and I’ll do so at a moment’s notice.” The devotion to duty displayed by all three of our featured cadets from co-op country affirms that such willingness among these young veterans continues.—Perry Baird

 

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EDITORIAL
by Perry Baird

Taking aim at anti-cooperative policies of the Eisenhower administration, then-Senator Kennedy addresses the 1959 NRECA annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Behind him is the figure of Willie Wiredhand, dressed in colonial garb to highlight NRECA’s “Minuteman” program, an early effort to mobilize electric co-ops’ grassroots support to counter harmful actions by opponents—both in the government and out.

Writing in the December 1963 edition of Wisconsin REC News (our magazine’s earlier name), General Manager Bill Thomas of the statewide electric co-op association observed:

“With a twitch of the forefinger against the trigger of his mail-order rifle, a Marxist assassin blasted into the fabric of the American scene, ripping and tearing it beyond repair. The numbing international shock that followed gave way, in turn, to the almost painful tingle of reawakening, and with the reawakening came the sobering knowledge that few things on the day after would be as they had been on the day before.”

For those of us old enough, we know Thomas’ assessment in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination was spot-on; all of us will forever recall where we were when the news first reached us.

Broad Appeal

Thomas continued his commentary: “The vibrant vitality of the fallen President John F. Kennedy had within it the magic command that literally compels response among other men. This was the magnetic person‑to‑person pull that brought to him a worldwide personal popularity equaled by few, if any, of his predecessors,” he wrote. “His youth and the broad appeal of his evident warm concern for just plain people made the tragedy of his brutal passing all the more poignant. People everywhere knew this man was their friend. He said so, and he meant it. And he repeated it often with ringing conviction.” Thomas cited an example from earlier that year.

In April 1963, Thomas and other cooperative leaders met with Kennedy outside the White House (this month’s cover photo). Six major cooperative organizations including the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) sponsored a two-day “Cooperatives and the Future” conference in to promote stronger bonds among the nation’s various member-owned businesses.

Thomas quoted Kennedy’s speech to the co-op group that day in the Rose Garden: “I am very hopeful that as a result of this meeting you will develop programs that will help improve the lives of our people . . . and see, also, if we can transfer the experience we have had to other countries, particularly the newly emerging ones.”

Beyond Borders

This last statement clearly referenced action Kennedy had taken the previous November when he facilitated an agreement between NRECA and the Agency for International Development, designed to help bring the benefits of electricity to developing nations. Thomas took a personal interest in that particular comment of Kennedy’s; within two years he went on to spearhead Wisconsin’s involvement in an assistance program with Nicaragua.

Thomas concluded: “When the doctors turned at last in despair from their hopeless task in a Dallas hospital, much had been lost . . . and much would be needed to replace it.”

In many respects, it can be argued we’re still seeking to reclaim the optimism and energy lost on that day 50 years ago.

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At this time of year, a glance skyward will often yield the familiar and fantastic sight of flocks of waterfowl flying south before winter’s chill sets in. A glance inside a new museum yields a fantastic display of information about those very birds.

Of course, you’ll want to take much more than a glance inside the Flyways Waterfowl Museum, located on the north entrance to Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo. Dedicated to the waterfowl that migrate along the Mississippi Flyway, the museum offers exhibits featuring more than 60 species of waterfowl as well as interactive displays, a theater, art galleries, and even a virtual laser arcade.

Most of the items on display are part of the personal collection of owners Nichol and Craig Swenson of Baraboo, who combined their backgrounds in conservation and outdoor sportsmanship to create a unique site for waterfowl education and appreciation.

Craig collected all of the museum’s mounts himself over 30 years of hunting with Ken White of Montello. A member of Adams–Columbia Electric Cooperative, Ken did all of the taxidermy work on the mounts in the museum’s various exhibits.

“My wife commented that we had so many birds we could open a museum,” Craig said.

True, but the couple’s motivation was greater than finding space for Craig’s collection. Both are passionate about conservation; Nichol earned a master’s degree in conservation from UW–Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and works with the Department of Natural Resources at the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center. She wrote and designed all of the museum’s exhibits, which teach visitors how to identify the various species of waterfowl as well their habitats, feeding habits, and predators. The exhibits also offer ways for people to get involved with waterfowl protection.

“I really wanted to get the word out about conservation,” Nichol said.

Craig brings 27 years of experience serving on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, and he and a brother also maintain 100 acres for prairie wetland restoration.

The Swensons worked for several years blending their passions into a museum, which they opened to the public in June.

Conservation is a dominant theme in the museum, but it’s not the only one.

“This is a very comprehensive museum,” Nichol said. “We have some history, we have some art, we have education. There are just so many different components to waterfowl, and that’s what I love about this subject.”

Among the more unique exhibits is an interactive touch-screen display of bird sounds, courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University. Another touch-screen exhibit provides short films on a variety of waterfowl topics, including duck calling, habitat restoration, and the Duck Stamp program. A special theater plays “Sounds of the Marsh,” a short film produced by Micheal Derrick, an art and technology instructor at Oregon High School.

Display cases hold historic collections of duck calls, bands, and decoys. Throughout the building, hallways are filled with artwork and information about the federal and state Duck Stamp program.

This past summer, the museum even hosted a traveling exhibit of the original artwork submitted for the Federal Duck Stamp and Federal Junior Duck Stamp programs, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Future plans call for additional exhibits devoted to even more water-fowl-related topics. For example, Nichol said she’d like to design an exhibit on dogs and their role in hunting.

In addition, the upstairs of the museum contains classroom space where the Swensons hope to host classes in hunting and conservation.

“We’re definitely a work in progress,” Nichol said. “There’s so much more we’d like to do.”

The Swensons welcome school classes and organizations for group tours; this past summer they enjoyed hosting young campers from the Chicago area, most of whom had no prior knowledge of waterfowl or wetlands.

The couple also encourages guests to pair a visit to the museum with a stop at the nearby Fairfield Marsh Waterfowl Production Area, just two miles east of Baraboo, where they can watch for the waterfowl they’ll learn about. After a trip to Flyways, visitors will likely have a whole new appreciation for what flies overhead
.—Mary Erickson.

Flyways Waterfowl Museum is located at S5780 Highway 123, Baraboo. Fall hours are Thursdays–Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Mondays–Wednesdays. The museum will close for the season December 15 and reopen May 15. For more information, call (608) 356-0084 or visit duckmuseum.com. Call ahead to arrange for group tours.

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©2013 Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News