AEPCO Board Member Dan Barrera says National Co-op Month and Co-op Community Support Should be Recognized

(Benson) — Dan Barrera, former teacher, coach, and long-time board member at both Arizona’s G&T Cooperatives (AzGT) and Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Co-op (SSVEC), wanted to do something special for the cooperatives to kick off national Co-op Month for October.

“I’ve been wanting to do this since I’ve been a director and every year recognition of October as Co-op Month has rolled around and things have just gotten in the way, but this year I started planning it early,” Barrera said.

“It” was the idea of having representatives from AzGT and SSVEC present the game ball during a special opening ceremony at the Benson Union High School football game on Oct. 2. Barrera also invited representatives from the local ACE Hardware outlet because ACE is also a member-owned cooperative, something he said many people aren’t aware of.

“I went to athletic director Darin Giltner with the idea and he said great, let’s do it, so that’s what we did,” Barrera said.

Barrera introduced the co-op representatives, Dave Bryan from SSVEC, Geoff Oldfather from AzGT, and Les Orchekowsky from ACE, and talked about “the cooperative difference and the way co-ops are involved in their communities.”

“Our co-ops and our employees are just amazing and people need to realize how much they contribute to their communities, not just with funding and donations but by donating their own time to worthy causes,” Barrera said.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) points out on its website that not-for-profit electric utility cooperatives have been celebrating Co-op month every year since 1930. According to the National Cooperative Business Association more than 29,000 cooperatives across the country are involved in activities recognizing October as Co-op Month.

“There really is a cooperative difference. It means the members own the co-op, the system, and they have a say in what we do, it’s one of the reasons I’m an elected director who represents the members at the end of the line,” Barrera said.

“It’s also about the employees at AzGT and SSVEC and all the other electric co-ops who do their best every day to bring us safe, reliable, and affordable power, and they do it because they believe it and they believe in their communities,” Barrera said.

Barrera pointed out many BUHS graduates have gone to work for the co-ops, building successful careers and raising families.

“My three children all graduated from BUHS, my wife Pat graduated in 1973 with me, and we like seeing all the people in our communities who are employed because of the co-ops,” Barrera said.

Barrera is serving his third year on the AEPCO board; he has served on the SWTC board, including as chairman, and is in his second year on the Sierra board, where he is chairman.

Barrera was a 7th and 8th grade math and science teacher in the Benson school system for 25 years before retiring last year. In 1994 he was recognized as Arizona Middle School Science Teacher of the Year by the state of Arizona. He coached cross-country, wrestling and track, and is active in the First Baptist Church.