Parkland Light & Water Co. turned 100 with style on March 25. Parkland members and staff went to extraordinary lengths to honor the history and current enviable status of the Washington state mutual company. They toasted their company with glasses of sparkling cider. They shouted “hip, hip, hurray” three times on cue. And Manager Mark Johnson did more than submit the usual president’s report. He sang.
Besides being the oldest mutual utility in the nation, Parkland has other reasons to celebrate its unique brand of service. It is one of few co-ops to operate an entirely underground electric system. But the reason for its founding in 1914 would be familiar to all who know the amazing history of public power. Decades before most electric co-ops were founded as a result of the Rural Electrification Administration, rural Parkland residents formed their own utility for the same reason: the large urban utility next door would not extend its service to the “sticks.”
A harpists’ soft music greeted the hundreds of people who filled the high school cafeteria. The event continued with singing, food, reports and a short video. Camaraderie flowed through the room. People may still talk about this event in 2114, after Parkland’s next 100 years.
—Jeff Durham, Ruralite Services