Co-Mo Electric Cooperative CEO Ken Johnson is taking the helm of the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service with a proven record in electric co-op leadership when it comes to efficiency, infrastructure and broadband.
“The ongoing collaboration between RUS and electric co-ops remains essential to the success of rural communities across the nation as co-ops invest in infrastructure upgrades to modernize the grid and meet consumer expectations. Ken is exceptionally qualified to serve in this role, and we look forward to working with him in his new capacity,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson.
Johnson has served as general manager/CEO of Co-Mo Electric in Tipton, Missouri, since 2005. As RUS administrator, he will draw upon that co-op experience to benefit all rural Americans.
“I am honored and deeply humbled to have been selected for this opportunity to serve,” said Johnson. “I’m looking forward to working with the administration on infrastructure, primarily helping to close the digital divide between urban and rural America. Rural Americans need high-speed broadband. It’s a necessity in order to live a quality of life that all Americans deserve.”
In 2011, Johnson pioneered a path to bring the fastest broadband internet access to all his co-op members who were unserved or underserved and falling behind their urban peers in jobs, education and medical services. Electric co-ops seeking to build internet access for their members across the country still look to the “Co-Mo Model.”
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue lauded Johnson’s appointment and what it means for the rural agriculture economy. RUS provides loans and grants to support critical infrastructure in rural communities, including electricity, water, telecommunications and wastewater systems.
“As President Trump pursues his comprehensive agenda of infrastructure improvements like increased broadband access for rural communities, adding Ken Johnson to the USDA team is exciting,” said Perdue. “Ken’s experience with rural utilities, including real success in expanding access to high-speed internet, will serve us well as we strive to increase prosperity across rural America.”
Perdue’s Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Taskforce report concluded internet access is essential for the economies of small communities dotting the country.
Johnson, who grew up on a farm near Edgar, Nebraska, is a director and past president for Central Electric Power Cooperative in Jefferson City and a director for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. He began his career with the Nebraska Public Power District.
Barry Hart, executive vice president and CEO of the Missouri statewide, said that Johnson’s leadership, ingenuity and deep appreciation of electric co-ops portends great things to come.
“Ken Johnson is one of the top co-op managers I have ever worked with in my 40-year career. He has never forgotten that he works for the co-op members at the end of the line,” said Hart.
Cathy Cash is a staff writer at NRECA.