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Politics & Government

Former Utah Congressman Takes New Job

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Courtesy: National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
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Former Utah Congressman Jim Matheson goes to work for a trade group representing rural electric cooperatives, including five based in his home state.

Former Utah Congressman Jim Matheson has a new job. Starting mid-July, he’ll lead the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The move comes around a year after Matheson retired from Congress after 14 years of serving as the sole Democrat in Utah’s delegation. He’s ending a brief career as a Washington lobbyist to become CEO for the trade association, which represents 950 electric coops nationwide that deliver electricity to over 40 million Americans.

“These are electric cooperatives,” says Matheson, “that were started in the 1930’s when there was an effort to electrify rural America when the private utilities wouldn’t do it because there wasn’t any profit to be made.”

The former lawmaker says the coops are not-for-profit and generally don’t own power plants (although Utah-based Deseret Power is one of the exceptions).

The coops maintain 42 percent of the nation’s transmission lines. Matheson calls them leaders in consumer-oriented policies like community solar power and putting next-generation water heaters in homes to save money and energy.

“These are all member-owned coops,” he says. “There’s no issues where they’re considering shareholder return or profit. It’s just purely what’s right for the member. And I think that’s an important voice to have in the policy arena.”

The new job, says Matheson, is a great fit for his skill set and the association’s mission. When asked if it might also be a good launch pad for getting back into politics, this was his answer:

“Oh, on me running -- I, I, I said I didn’t join this, didn’t join – I didn’t take this job to position myself for some future political opportunity for me. I took the job because it’s what I want to do.”

He called the group “a voice for rural America” that is “beyond bipartisan.”

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