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At first, Meagan (Johnson) Brown didn’t want to apply for the Government-in-Action Youth Tour. Her mom, Mary Johnson, an 18-year Comanche Electric Cooperative employee, kept insisting.
Eventually, Brown saw the value of Youth Tour—a free trip to Washington, D.C., plus an education about American co-ops, government and history—and won Comanche EC’s sponsorship in 2011. The trip broadened her horizons and led to lasting friendships and life-changing opportunities.
“It gave her more pride in what rural electric co-ops do for people,” Johnson says.
Because of Youth Tour, Brown met General Manager Kerry Kelton of Mid-South Synergy, the Navasota-based electric cooperative. “He said, ‘When you come down to go to [Texas A&M University], give us a call. We will probably find a place for you,’ ” Brown recalls.
She interned with Mid-South and learned more about co-ops. “At a lot of large companies, you’re just another employee,” she says. “With a co-op, it’s like a family.”
Her Mid-South family also became her actual family when she married Jacob Brown, who still works in the co-op’s accounting department.
“We laughed when they started seeing each other,” Johnson says. “We were like, ‘Well, you’re keeping it in the family, huh?’ because everybody works at the electric co-op.”
After getting an agricultural communications and journalism degree in 2014, Brown used her co-op experience to land a job with Bryan Texas Utilities, also a member of Texas Electric Cooperatives. Later she became an executive assistant with the City of Bryan.
As her mom says, “She has lived the co-op life.”
Youth Tour also launched Erin (Bischoff) Hughes’ co-op career. In 2006, as a high school senior from Anderson, she won a Mid-South video contest, earning sponsorship to Washington, as well as a scholarship and an internship. The internship turned into the job she kept while getting a degree in sociology from Sam Houston State University. She graduated in 2011.
“I’ve been here ever since,” she says. “It’s a different environment. They really care about their employees and their members.”
Hughes is now Mid-South’s Youth Tour coordinator and executive assistant to the co-op’s general manager. In her job, she ushers students through an experience similar to her own, helping prepare the next generation for real-world work. She says Youth Tour participants make valued co-op interns because they have knowledge of what a co-op is and have proved their willingness to work by competing in the contest to win the trip.
Youth Tour “really opened the door for me at Mid-South, which has been amazing,” Hughes says, explaining that her co-op job offers fulfilling career opportunities and allows her to live where she wants. “I really like the small-town feel. I love to travel, but I like coming home more.”
Like Brown, Scott Meurer heard about Youth Tour from his mother, Rosie Meurer, who’s a career employee of Central Texas EC in Fredericksburg. He went on Youth Tour in 2000.
“After seeing all of the memorials of those who have done service for our country,” says Meurer, a Pedernales EC member, “it helped inspire me to want to work in an environment where we provide service to folks and hopefully improve folks’ quality of life.”
Meurer earned an environmental science degree from McMurry University in Abilene and was working in San Antonio when he heard about an opening at TEC. Because of Youth Tour and his mom’s career, he knew about the statewide trade association’s service to electric co-ops and their members.
“It was really cool … just growing up in that co-op environment and then to go and work with one and be a member,” Meurer says.
Meurer started at TEC in 2007, serving with the inside sales team and then in supply chain sourcing. Now, as a supply chain analyst, Meurer evaluates member cooperatives’ warehouse supplies and processes to ensure that they have the best inventory to serve their members.
“I’m glad it’s worked out this way,” Meurer says, “because there is no place better to work, that’s for sure.”
Suzanne Halko is a TEC communications specialist.