Tri-County Electric Cooperative was incorporated August 14, 1945, by nine founding members. The original incorporating members were: Orlan Bell of Gray; W.M. Deck of Balko; John R. King of Dombey; Rellis Loring of Hooker; J. S. Houston of Dombey; W.E. Depuy of Hooker; Russell McDaniel of Felt; Raymond Thompson of Boise City; and Ward Hanes of Keyes. Those nine members represented the three counties of the Oklahoma Panhandle.
The months following the incorporation were spent organizing and obtaining funding to get started. E.V. “Pete” Loomis of Lindsay, Okla., was hired as the cooperative’s first general manager in 1946. The first round of billing was also issued in 1946 to 479 residents of Hooker, which is where the cooperative’s office has always been located.
The cooperative had an unusual start in that it acquired the town of Hooker in 1946 from an existing electric utility and acquired seven additional Panhandle towns in 1947. Many cooperatives were established and served only rural areas outside of towns at that time.
In the early 1950s, the cooperative began building distribution lines to those rural areas of the Oklahoma Panhandle without power. The cooperative was replacing some of those same early lines and equipment in 2012.
In August 2006, the cooperative acquired the remaining parts of the Oklahoma Panhandle and extended its reach into Texas and Kansas with the acquisition of service territory from Xcel Energy. This was done through the leadership of the cooperative’s fifth general manager, CEO Jack L. Perkins. Tri-County Electric Cooperative has more than 12,000 members, about 23,000 meters and more than 5,000 miles of line.
The cooperative’s original office in downtown Hooker was built in 1961 and remodeled in 1986. Growth in the number of employees and kilowatt-hour sales led to the need for a new facility that would house all the cooperatives people and assets in a single location. In August 2015, the cooperative moved into its new headquarters located on a 128-acre tract northeast of Hooker between Highway 64 and Highway 54. The building, including the warehouses and offices, is approximately 120,000 square feet and occupies 25 acres.
In June 2015, TCEC became the first utility in Oklahoma to launch a community solar project. Community Solar subscriptions became available to members in March 2016.
Zac Perkins stepped into the position as the cooperative sixth chief executive officer on January 1, 2017, upon the retirement of Jack Perkins. Zac had been the acting CEO since May 2016. He started working at the cooperative in July 2007.
The cooperative’s system has been decimated by significant ice storms at least four times in its history, during the years 1957, 1979, 2006/2007 and 2017. On January 15, 2017, TCEC was hit by an ice storm that significantly damaged the eastern part of its service territory. On April 29, 2017, a blizzard struck TCEC territory with high winds and wet accumulation, causing significant damage. In 2017, TCEC lost about 5,000 poles due to both storms combined and costs to repair the system over the next four to six years were estimated at $150 million.
In 2020, TCEC celebrates its 75th anniversary. It has a long, strong tradition of serving members in the Oklahoma Panhandle and surrounding area.
In mid-March, 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic swept across the United States. TCEC implemented its pandemic plan on March 16, sending most employees to work remotely from home and staggering crews along with other precautions on March 19. About 17 employees continued to work from the office, when two positive cases of employees were discovered on April 27, the remaining employees were sent home to work remotely. Operations personnel went on standby status for emergency work only and a 14-day quarantine began.
Powering our communities is part of our mission at TCEC and one of the ways that happens is through the cooperative principle of “Concern for Community.” We take community involvement seriously and that’s why the Operation Round Up program launched in January 2021 to help members support local charitable causes.
The February 2021 weather event, also called the Deep Freeze or Winter Storm Uri, caused TCEC’s wholesale power provider Golden Spread Electric Cooperative, and subsequently TCEC, to incur extremely high power costs. Unfortunately, TCEC must recover those costs. After much deliberation, TCEC reached an agreement with Golden Spread Electric Cooperative, of which TCEC is one of 16 member cooperatives. Golden Spread Electric Cooperative agreed to finance $35 million, TCEC’s portion of the power bill for those eight days in February. The cooperative will pay this back with interest over approximately ten years.
The TCEC Board Advisory Collegiate Delegate Program, launched in May 2021, is a new program designed to engage with younger generations to teach the importance of the cooperative business model. Applications were open to any student currently enrolled at Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU).