This year, Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) is proudly joining its members and communities in celebrating its 85th anniversary and the electrification of the Texas Hill Country. Before PEC was founded, most Central Texans living in cities like Austin and San Antonio had electricity, but more than 90% of rural families did not. City homes were typically equipped with lights, appliances, and running water, while country life was still rather rustic, with gas lamps and wood burning stoves.
On May 19, 1938, then-Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) and area rancher E. “Babe” Smith met in Austin with representatives from Blanco, Burnet, Gillespie, Hays, and Llano counties to sign documents that officially incorporated PEC and kickstarted the process of bringing electricity to rural parts of the Texas Hill Country.
“PEC was created by Hill Country Texans to provide safe, reliable, and low-cost power to our communities, and we have been focused on that mission ever since,” said CEO Julie C. Parsley. “As we look back at 85 years of serving our members and energizing their communities, we are proud to have brought Central Texas to light. We are also looking forward to the future and our next 85 years of faithful service.”
Over the past 85 years, PEC has grown to become the largest electric cooperative in the U.S., serving more than a million Central Texans in some of the nation’s fastest growing counties. Highlights of our shared history include:
- July 1938: PEC has about 3,000 paid memberships — sufficient to meet the guidelines of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) loan requirements.
- September 1938: The REA grants PEC a loan of about $1.3 million to construct around 1,800 miles of line to serve nearly 3,000 Hill Country families. It is the largest, single allotment yet by REA.
- January 1939: The first PEC Headquarters building is erected in Johnson City. The location is chosen because it was close to the homes of LBJ and founding board officers, Hugo Weinheimer of Stonewall, and Richard Klappenbach, a native of Johnson City.
- October 1939: The first section of PEC’s 1,800-mile transmission line is also energized through a substation in Bertram and 422 members in Burnet County join E. Babe Smith in receiving electricity for the first time. A few days later, on October 31, Meter #1 on the Ranch of E. “Babe” Smith in Oakalla, Texas is energized.
- October 1959: PEC installs streetlights in Lago Vista, the first rural community in the U.S. to have street illumination.
- December 1999: PEC begins scholarship program, which has since awarded more than $1.4 million in scholarship funds to local students seeking to further their education.
- January 2000: Y2K (turning of the century) is a nonevent for PEC and power flowed into members’ homes without any Y2K-related interruptions.
- July 2000: PEC announces merger with Kimble Electric Cooperative in Junction, effectively doubling the PEC service territory.
- December 2006: PEC launches Power of Change Program which has to date, provided more than $575,000 in community grants and support for nonprofits across the Texas Hill Country.
- December 2017: Cooperative reaches 300,000 active accounts.
- December 2017: Julie C. Parsley becomes PEC’s first female CEO.
“LBJ spoke for every person who has ever served as part of the PEC team when he once said, ‘Of all the things I have ever done, nothing has given me as much satisfaction as bringing power to the Hill Country of Texas,’” Parsley said. “Serving our members is our highest privilege and we’re grateful to be a part of their lives.”
As the anniversary celebration advances, PEC is planning a variety of events this fall, including birthday parties with seniors who are also turning 85. To help commemorate the cooperative’s living history and “85 years of powerful memories” PEC is also asking for members with historical items, photos, old electric bills, stories, and other PEC memorabilia to share them with the co-op for its archives. To learn more visit pec.coop and email [email protected].