Retired Life Is All Abuzz for HOTEC Lineman

Bary Roy
broy@hotec.coop
254-321-9266

CRAWFORD, Texas – As the morning dawned in Crawford, it didn’t take long for Ricky Steinkamp to crack a joke, at his own expense, when reflecting on his career at Heart of Texas Electric Cooperative.

“I got married and I needed a job and there was a rumor that they were hiring, so I went over there and got hired,” Steinkamp said with a laugh. “I was only working part time at M&M-Mars, which goes to show how smart my wife is, marrying someone that didn’t have a job.”

Steinkamp worked for the next 34 years as a lineman and did a variety of jobs, from bucket trucks to digging holes, it was a service he’s glad to have provided.

“You just try to help people the best you can,” he said. “There are rules you have to follow but it just comes down to helping people.”

These days, in the basking glow of retirement, Steinkamp stays busy tending to bees around his home in Crawford and on some family property not too far away. He credits his brother, a biology teacher outside Houston, for his initial interest but also recalls when bees decided to take up residency inside a junction box at work.

“We ended up having to call an exterminator to get rid of them and not long after that I got to thinking that I might want to start messing with bees,” Steinkamp said with a slight shrug.

Steinkamp said he mentioned it to his wife who bought him a book, “Beekeeping for Dummies,” and after reading it, his interest took off from there.

“They really are amazing creatures, and God was amazing whenever He created them, just like He was amazing when He created all of us,” Steinkamp said, his eyes lighting up while nodding his head.

World Bee Day is May 20, an international nod to the role bees and other pollinators play in helping humans and the ecosystem, survive. Bees are under threat, according to the United Nations, due to human impacts of intensive farming practices, land-use change, pesticides, and higher temperatures associated with climate change.

“What I’ve learned over the years is if we don’t have bees, we’re going to be dead in short order because they pollinate so much of it,” Steinkamp explained. “Without them, if the bees die, we’re going to see our own demise.”

The World Wildlife Fund, an independent conservation organization, estimates one out of three mouthfuls of our food depends on bees to pollinate our food. While pollinators, like bees, may be small, they bring huge benefits and affect 35 percent of the world's crop production.

While working for 34 years at Heart of Texas Electric was a job, Steinkamp’s bees keep him focused and busy while allowing him to continue to learn every day.

“I was reading the other day one bee might visit 5,000 flowers in one day’s time,” he said. “Now, that’s what I read, I mean, did they go follow that bee around all day? How do they know? But, yeah, one bee could possibly go around to all those flowers in one day.” 

On average, honeybees visit 50-100 flowers each collection trip and make more than 10 trips a day foraging for nectar and pollen. An entire hive of honeybees can gather pollen and nectar from up to 500 million flowers in a year. Steinkamp says he is always learning and the more he does, the more fascinated he becomes.

“I just love doing it,” Steinkamp said. “They’ve got a hierarchy in that hive and the workers all work for the Queen, I mean, it’s just fascinating to me."

While bees are not for everyone, Steinkamp understands the fear some have, especially those allergic. He said he used to get stung every time he opened his hives but believes him and his bees have both gained an understanding as they work together.

“I guess they can tell when you’re nervous, so if you just stay calm, you’ll be okay.” he said. “I’ve gotten stung maybe once or twice in the last three years and that’s counting when I’ve robbed their honey from them.”

Steinkamp, who owns 20 hives, hopes others will want to do some beekeeping themselves and said Central Texas is full of resources for those interested.

“Find yourself a beekeeper, most of them have extra suits, and go see if you like it,” he explained. “Locally, there’s the Central Texas Beekeepers Association, go out there and talk to people. I started going to their monthly meeting when I first got into this, it’s a good place to start.”

Curiosity and thousands of bees later, Steinkamp said he loves to check on his hives and make his own honey. While it’s a different pace than life as a lineman, the retired life is sweet.

“I enjoy the challenge of trying to keep my bees thriving,” he said with a smile. “There’s some satisfaction there for sure.”

HOTEC gets fresh new look, member-focused website

Bary Roy
broy@hotec.coop
254-321-9266

A new and improved website, in the works for the last six months, debuted to members on Wednesday, April 26.

The website has a sleek new design allowing members to easily access their account from the homepage and is 100 percent mobile friendly.

“It’s really is a departure from the old site, is more organized and is filled with information that will help them learn more about us and our history,” said Bary Roy, a Communications Specialist who designed it.

A new Membership Center is now available with links to rate information, billing options and an interactive membership packet. The Outage Center has also been revamped and now allows members to easily access the HOTEC outage map, a new storm readiness center and to get signed up for outage text alerts for their neighborhood.

The new site also has a few fun nuggets tucked in for members on the Interactive Education page under the Membership Center. It’s filled with facts, figures and interactive games to quiz and educate members on information they’ve learned about.

“It’s really all about the member and their experience with us,” Roy explained. “Supplying them tools for success is important and we think we’ve done that with the new site.”

For more information on the website and if you have questions, send an e-mail to broy@hotec.coop.

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About the Series

Beyond the poles, the line and under the hard-working hum of transformers are the greatest stories still waiting to be told. Stories of those who live, work and play within our communities. These stories are written to share what's happening around us, to make us laugh, to teach us about our neighbors while connecting us through words on a page and bringing us together.

Does someone have an incredible story and making an impact in our community? We would love to hear from you and profile them for a story in an upcoming issue Texas Co-op Power.

Send us an e-mail today!

About the Author

Bary Roy is an Emmy-nominated former journalist and now works in our Communications Department at Heart of Texas Electric. He writes for our website, magazine and handles all social media inquiries.

Bary Roy
broy@hotec.coop
254-321-9266

A new and improved website, in the works for the last six months, debuted to members on Wednesday, April 26.

The website has a sleek new design allowing members to easily access their account from the homepage and is 100 percent mobile friendly.

“It’s really is a departure from the old site, is more organized and is filled with information that will help them learn more about us and our history,” said Bary Roy, a Communications Specialist who designed it.

A new Membership Center is now available with links to rate information, billing options and an interactive membership packet. The Outage Center has also been revamped and now allows members to easily access the HOTEC outage map, a new storm readiness center and to get signed up for outage text alerts for their neighborhood.

The new site also has a few fun nuggets tucked in for members on the Interactive Education page under the Membership Center. It’s filled with facts, figures and interactive games to quiz and educate members on information they’ve learned about.

“It’s really all about the member and their experience with us,” Roy explained. “Supplying them tools for success is important and we think we’ve done that with the new site.”

For more information on the website and if you have questions, send an e-mail to broy@hotec.coop.

By Bary Roy
broy@hotec.coop
254-321-9266

Leading up to the latest dance with Mother Nature across the sprawling landscape of Central Texas, one thing was evidently clear: Winter Storm Mara would do her best to deliver the worst winter storm since February 2021 and in a shorter window than her counterpart, Uri.

“We were prepared for it as much as we could be,” said Ron Poston, Member Services Manager. “Our crews were prepared and ready to go in the thick of it, no matter what.”

The latest ice storm to beset the region snarled roads, damaged trees, and knocked out power to thousands of Central Texans beginning in the early evening hours on January 30, only loosening its grip by early February 2.

“It was tough out there, conditions were very difficult, there was a lot of damage,” said Jake Schmidt, who spent countless hours working in the thick of the storm. “We just set to work because that’s the job.”

The first flood of phone calls reported outages before the sun came up on February 1, its volume increased as mother nature strangled power lines and broke the backs of poles that buckled under the weight of her ice. Many poles were broken under the weight of Mara along with numerous distribution lines knocked to the ground and anchors pulled from the ground that were supporting the power line.

Bryan Chandler, the Operations Manager at HOTEC, said his crews performed admirably and pointed to the planning by many to get the lights back as quickly as possible.

“The planning for such an event takes coordination from all personnel involved. Dispatch must make a detailed list of outages and field employees have to relay actual damage back to operations in order to make informed decisions,” Chandler explained. “Thankfully we have individuals on all fronts that understand and are willing and able to put a plan in action on, literally, a moment’s notice.”

HOTEC General Manager Brandon Young, who spent the better part of the storm restoral efforts at our Rosebud Headquarters, strategized and monitored the aftermath of Mara in some of the hardest hit areas inside our cooperative.

“I’m extremely proud of our team for not only their work, but for the care they have for our members,” Young said as crews worked tirelessly. “I can tell each night as they go home to let their bodies rest after working for more hours than most people can fathom, it hurts them knowing we still have members
without power.”

Chandler echoed those sentiments.

“Our crews worked through several days in adverse conditions to restore power to our members. I am very proud to know that we have individuals of that caliber working for Heart of Texas,” he said. “Without them it would be impossible to operate as efficiently as we do and be able to prioritize our members needs in times such as this.”

HOTEC crews were joined in the field by neighboring electric cooperatives, HILCO and United, and many contractors. Cooperation Among Cooperatives is one of the seven principles that guide us because cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together.

“To have them out there, working alongside us, it really meant so much,” Schmidt said. “Without HILCO and United, we would not have been able to restore power as quickly and efficiently as possible to our members.”

Young agreed with Schmidt and promised his team will look to repay those efforts the only way they know how: together.

“I’m sure once our team has had time to rest, if those outages persist, they will ask if they can help others, and I will, of course, say yes,” he remarked. “Special thanks to HILCO and United cooperatives. You know we will be here for you if you ever need us.”

By Bary Roy
broy@hotec.coop
254-321-9266

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply put pen to paper and your best foot forward to win something so far off your radar it wasn’t even a thought to begin with.

“My Mom happened to see it in the magazine and thought I should apply,” Cayden Cox, the 2022 Youth Tour winner admitted. “I was skeptical at first, but I am glad she convinced me to apply.”

Started by then-U.S. Sen. Lyndon Johnson in 1957, the “Government in Action Youth Tour” happens every year and is  touted as a once-in-a-lifetime trip that gives students who are chosen a chance to see their country at work. According  to the tour’s history page, Johnson understood the rural life and as a champion of electric cooperatives wanted rural  children across the country to “actually see what the flag stands for and represents.” 

Cox, a junior at China Spring High School, wrote an essay on the ‘History of Electric Cooperatives’ and submitted to the Heart of Texas Electric Co-op, finding out shortly after that he was selected for the all-expense paid trip to see our nation’s Capital.

“It really was a life-changing trip because of being able to see everything and to kind of enjoy the moment, that was pretty special for me,” Cox explained. “Not everybody has the chance to go to D.C. and do the things we got to do on the Youth Tour.”

“It stands for and represents the freedoms we have and all of those that gave their lives so we can have that benefit,” he said, in summer’s fading glow in Texas.

While Cox is forever grateful to his mom for encouraging him to apply, he’s also thankful for the HOTEC membership who afforded it to happen through their financial  commitments each year. He says without their willingness to help, he would not have the newfound appreciation he has now for those who, both, work for us in D.C. and enlist in the military and vow keep us safe.

"I cannot thank you all enough for sending me to go experience this once-in-a-lifetime trip, and to Heart of Texas Electric Cooperative, as well,” he said.

Cox said he hopes others will do themselves a favor and enter to win the trip to the Capitol because, as someone who once was skeptical, he’d love to experience it again if he could.

“I do wish I could do it again and if I was offered another chance to go, I would,” Cox said without hesitation. “If you get the chance to go, take it, apply, you won’t regret it.”

For more information on the Youth Tour, call your students counselors and e-mail Bary Roy to learn more at broy@hotec.coop.

By Bary Roy
broy@hotec.coop
254-321-9266

On the first fall-like day in Central Texas, as the wind blew and a cold front swept through, the Heart of Texas Electric Cooperative welcomed in hundreds of its members for the 2022 Annual Membership Meeting.

“I’ve been a part of this co-op for 56-years now,” Hester Murrow said, one of the first to arrive ahead of the meeting. “This gives me a chance to meet different people and that’s always a good thing.”

Hundreds of chairs dotted the worn concrete floor of the Frank Mayborn Civic & Convention Center on the north side of Temple. Among the buzz of anticipation of those that gathered, a yellow hue from the 81 fluorescent lights danced across the room, which helped to create an atmosphere of hope and excitement with an eye towards the future. 

“This is always an exciting time and one that allows us to come together and talk about the future while also celebrating the successes over the last year,” said Ron Poston, Member Services Manager. “It’s no different this year for us as well.”

One of those successes is how the Co-op continues to grow year over year, especially in the waning shadow of a pandemic that was hard on everyone. Franklin Glaser, days shy of 90th birthday and a Korean War veteran, said being a part of a cooperative is like being a part of anything else.

“You just don’t know how important something like this is until you’re without it,” he explained. “While I’m not sure what I want to learn, I do want to know how we’re keeping up, are we making money, losing money or what?”

Statistically, the cooperative has added 46 miles of line and turned on 606 new meters since the end of 2021. In two years, almost 12-hundred meters have been added.

“Being a part of a cooperative is special,” Poston said, adding that the system growth speaks volumes to the hard work put in by everyone. “We have nearly 60 employees that work hard every single day,” he said. “From the MSR’s to the linemen, it’s a team effort and everyone exceeds their potential and that helps us pass their success to our membership base.”

 

Arthur Greger, a cooperative member since when he was a child living with his parents, echoed Poston’s sentiments, agreeing that being a part of something so crucial to America’s growth, means something.

“It’s always more personal being a part of a co-op like this, more home-type of people,” he said. “Coming to a meeting like this is important because you can get updates and information. It’s a chance to see how the line is progressing and how many more people are moving in.”

Amid the spirit of the night, HOTEC General Manager Brandon Young spoke on a variety of topics including the impact rising natural gas prices have had on power, the  geopolitical concerns that have brought volatility to energy markets around the world, the global generating resources by fuel type for generating capacity, the energy crisis that is worsening in much of Europe, the financial devastation to all Texas citizens energy cost due to winter storm Uri, and the latest on the Brazos Electric Cooperative’s bankruptcy and the impact it may have on their cooperative’s business model.

Also at this year’s annual meeting, there was time to celebrate and recognize the employees who have been long-tenured members who have helped continue a tradition  of service excellence throughout the cooperative.

“It’s a family here and really is a place to come and be for a long time,” said Barry Brown, who has been with the cooperative for five years. “It’s been a blessing to find a place to be valued day to day and to serve our rich communities.”

The celebration wasn’t limited to just employees, members were celebrated with door prizes that consisted of televisions, tool sets and a Yeti cooler, to name a few.

“There’s joy in doing this,” said Poston, who received his 35-year service award at the meeting. “It never gets old and has been one of the many joys this profession has brought me.”

Mark your calendars because the 2023 Annual Meeting will be Tuesday, October 17, 2023 at the Frank Mayborn Center in Temple. Details to come.

By Bary Roy
broy@hotec.coop
254-321-9266

Sometimes, the greatest adventure you'll ever take is one you may not even realize is there for the taking. The Bosque Museum in Clifton, Texas is one of those places with a rich and educational history that most pass by on their way to almost anywhere else.

The City of Clifton was founded in the winter of 1852 to 1853 and was originally named Cliff Town, a nod to the surrounding limestone cliffs that dotted the unsettled Central Texas grounds. The first post office was established in 1859 and the first Presbyterian Church was organized in 1861. After the Civil War, the first flour mill was  built and powered by the Bosque River before it was replaced by a limestone mill. That mill was later converted to an electric power plant, supplying the first electricity for Clifton homes and businesses.

It's that history of where Bosque County began that helps one appreciate how far it’s come because of the people who laid down roots and helped them to grow. 

Erin Shields, the Executive Director of The Bosque Museum and a science educator, said she has become immersed in the history of Bosque County and who settled here first.

“Think about the amazing history that happened here and how that relates to other cultures,” Shields explained. “For example, the story of Norwegian immigration and how it relates to my parents, and my family’s story of immigration to the concept of packing all your stuff up and coming across the ocean.”

It’s those stories you’ll find housed behind the walls of The Bosque Museum, which began from the collection of an early immigrant, Jacob Olson, who directed his collection to Clifton College upon his death in 1927.

“I think Bosque County and the City of Clifton really values history and art and if we weren’t here, would that happen? Is there a place for people to appreciate the culture and the art?” Shields responded when asked how different Bosque County would be without Olson’s collection.

The Bosque Museum is a unique place-based museum, one started in the area and that’s stayed here and grown through the years. A living, breathing tip of the cap to both history and to the county’s future, one of the many things that makes it so special.

“It's so important that museums are tied to the community and place-based because you shouldn’t be able to pick up a museum and plop it somewhere else and walk out the doors and feel like, yeah, it makes sense,” Shields explained.

One of the newest and unique exhibits is one with historical ramifications that sheds light on the Paleoamerican period in North America. Found in Bosque County in 1970, the Horn Shelter exhibit allows guests to explore the burial site of an adult man and young girl that dates back almost 12,000 years ago.

Shields said the exhibit is an interactive journey that tells the story of how Al Redder’s love, and curiosity of archaeology led to the unearthing of some of Bosque County’s earliest settlers. To date, the Horn Shelter site is the only double burial recorded from the Paleoamerican period in North American history.

“I really feel this museum puts history in a tangible method that allows people, myself included, to learn about the history of the area in a way that makes sense,” she explained, pointing out that how you learn isn’t lecture-based, it’s a stimulating journey that challenges almost all your senses along the way.

Shields, who has garnered a new appreciation for history since she started with the museum almost two years ago, said she hopes those that visit The Bosque Museum take advantage of learning about history through up close and personal interactions with the artifacts housed here.

“If you see that object, you realize that it makes sense because it’s right there for you to take in,” she said. “You get it because you can see it, hold it and touch it right there.”

While The Bosque Museum is home to multiple permanent collections, including the Bosque Seven Collection, Native American Collection, and a Norwegian Collection, to name a few, it’s also home to multiple temporary exhibits that appear on a rotating basis throughout the calendar year.

“This place is very special,” Shields said. “We have such a hybrid of cultures happening here from the Cowboy Collection to the Norwegian immigration many years ago. It's a special part of Texas, and we're happy to tell those stories that are happening here.”

The Bosque Museum is located at 301 S. Ave. Q in Clifton and is open to the public Thursday through Saturday 10am to 5pm and on Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.