Meeting Members is a Highlight

LEC Board Member Kathy Keable has served the co-op since 2014

By Craig Reed

As a Lane Electric Board Member, Kathy Keable gets to present scholarships such as this one to Tayler Forsman. (Photo made before COVID)

Having enjoyed a professional career working in several jobs, Kathy Keable has always been willing to tackle a new learning opportunity.

When the McKenzie River area position on the Lane Electric Cooperative board came open, Kathy was ready for a new challenge. She was elected to replace Pat Dymock, who retired in 2014, and was reelected in 2017 and 2020 to three-year terms.

“From what I could tell, it’s a nice combination of learning and traveling to meetings,” the 71-year-old says of her initial study of the co-op board. “I thought I’d give it a try. The challenge is fun.”

As a member of a citizen review panel for relicensing of small dams on the McKenzie River in the Leaburg and Walterville areas, Kathy had a background in dam information and fish studies. She also was a member of the McKenzie School District board. But she admits she had little experience with electric cooperatives.

“Policy and budget are all part of the learning curve for the board,” Kathy says. “The electrical part of it and how to manage a co-op was really challenging and still is.”

Steve, Kathy’s husband of 34 years, says his wife has an excellent reputation in the McKenzie community for studying issues and helping in decision making.

“When people ask who you can trust, I think Kathy is one of the names that comes up as one of the trusted citizens of our community,” Steve says. “Kathy is one of the best people I know.”

Kathy says highlights of her time on the Lane Electric board include meeting co-op members from different districts at the annual district meetings; talking to board members and staff of other cooperatives about different ways of managing a co-op; hiring General Manager Debi Wilson; interviewing students as a member of the co-op’s scholarship committee; dealing with a major snow event early in 2019; and most recently recovering from the Holiday Farm Fire.

Kathy and her husband, Steve, enjoy traveling together. They traveled down the Colorado River.

“I believe Lane Electric has done a great job of taking care of its members,” Kathy says. “I think the co-op’s employees have helped ease people through some of the hard times, especially during and after the ice storm and snowstorm and the Holiday Farm Fire and dealing with COVID-19.”

Kathy is an advocate for being prepared in emergency situations, speaking about it at co-op board meetings and in the community.

“Each director on the Lane Electric board seems to have a passion that complements their role as director,” says LEC General Manager Debi, Wilson. “For Kathy, it’s disaster preparedness. She has encouraged our members to be prepared. She does more than talk about it, though. Kathy has gone through Community Emergency Response Team program training and has even passed her ham radio technician test. She leads by example.”

Hard times hit many members in early September when the 173,000-acre Holiday Farm Fire destroyed communities in the McKenzie River Valley. The fire leveled 430 homes.

The first report of the fire was issued to area residents at 8 p.m. Kathy and Steve evacuated their home about four hours later. When they left, their neighbor’s lot and the mountainside across from Highway 126 were on fire. Big embers were falling from the sky.

Kathy says she had been talking about situations such as this at Lane Electric board
meetings, but now she and Steve were experiencing it. She says the wind was blowing through in big gusts. Trees could be heard falling into the nearby McKenzie River.

The couple eventually got a report that their property and that of many of their neighbors had burned. But a few days later, a Lane Electric lineman working in the area took a photo of the Keable home, showing it had survived despite the devastation on all sides.

“We haven’t found a word for it,” Kathy says of still having her home. “It’s amazing that we’re still here. It’s so hard to understand when so many of our neighbors’ homes are gone. We realize how fortunate we are.”

Kathy says having power lines underground would help prevent power outages during fire and snow events. She says putting those lines underground, if financially feasible, continues to be a goal for the Lane Electric board and staff. She hopes funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency could help cover that expense.

Kathy is also hopeful the cooperative can partner with a company to provide broadband service to more co-op members. A feasibility study is underway.

“The board is a good group that makes good decisions,” Kathy says. “Everybody doesn’t always agree, but we have good discussion and I believe we keep the members in mind when making decisions.”

Visiting ruins in South America. Photos Courtesy of Kathy

Kathy came to Oregon after growing up in Southern California and earning a teaching degree from the University of Pacific in Stockton. She earned her master’s degree at Southern Oregon College, now Southern Oregon University, in Ashland and taught a couple years at Riddle before teaching for 13 years at McKenzie Elementary School.

While teaching at McKenzie, Kathy started an outdoor school, which led her to working in fire prevention in the summer. She ended her teaching career to take a job at the McKenzie River Ranger Station as the special-uses manager. She held that job for 13 years before becoming site manager for the Andrews Experimental Forest, working that job for another 13 years before retiring in 2017.

Kathy says she has enjoyed each of the jobs—just as she has the Lane Electric board position.

“It’s been a good experience,” she says. “I’ve always believed in giving back to your community. This is a good way to do that.”

Kathy encourages others to consider running for a board position when one in their area becomes available.

“I think people would find it really rewarding,” she says.