The award “has a long and distinguished history of recognizing national leaders who make essential contributions to electric cooperatives and the communities they serve,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson.
“It is reserved for those who demonstrate repeated support for the 42 million Americans who belong to electric cooperatives,” Matheson wrote in a letter informing Portman that NRECA’s board of directors had voted unanimously to give him the award.
“Your strong commitment to rural America and your leadership on behalf of the Americans who live and work in the communities we serve mirror the community-oriented service mission of America’s electric cooperatives.”
Portman was the chief Senate sponsor of the RURAL Act, which protected more than 900 co-ops throughout the nation from the risk of losing their tax-exempt status when they accept government grants for disaster recovery, broadband service, renewable energy and other programs. If the bipartisan legislation had not passed in 2019, some co-ops would have had to start paying taxes—a cost that would have forced many to raise electric rates for their members.
As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Portman also helped spearhead passage of the bipartisan SECURE Act, which saved co-ops from paying millions of dollars in pension insurance premiums to the federal government.
“Senator Portman has been and continues to be a staunch supporter of the electric cooperatives, our business model and way of life,” wrote Patrick O’Loughlin, president and CEO of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, in a letter to NRECA board members. “The senator has been a true friend to Ohio’s rural electric cooperatives.”
Portman has announced that he will retire in January 2023 after serving 12 years each in the Senate and House.
Erin Kelly is a staff writer for NRECA.