Vote by Mail
Ballots will be mailed beginning April 4, 2023, and should be expected at your home the week of April 4.
Members will need to have their ballot be returned by April 21, 2023, to ensure they are counted. It is easy to vote by mail. Simply complete the ballot using the instructions enclosed in the envelope and return as directed in the postage-paid envelope provided.
Please return the ballot using the postage-paid envelope. Do not bring ballots to the office.
Who do I vote for?
Trustees are considered At-Large, so all members vote for all positions.
West District will vote for two candidates. The candidates receiving the most votes will be elected to a three-year term.
East District will vote for one candidate. The candidate receiving the most votes will be elected to a three-year term.
Voting can be done via mail or at the annual meeting on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. The meeting will be held at the McLouth FreeState office at 507 N Union. A meal will be served at 5:30. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. A $10 bill credit will be given to members who attend (register at) the meeting. Meals served while supplies last.
A live broadcast will be available for members not wishing to participate in an in-person event.
Below are the profiles of the candidates slated by the FreeState nominating committee. Their biographical information can be found by clicking on the images below.
East District Nominee
Jeanine Murphy, Incumbent
Murphy, Leavenworth, has been a lifetime cooperative member. She has served on the board for the past 16 years, serving as the FreeState board president for the past five years.
She currently serves as the Director of Curriculum & Instruction for USD No. 449 Easton school district.
Murphy believes that active listening and a commitment to learning are critical to serving in the role of trustee and being transparent and accessible to members.
“The electric industry is ever-evolving, and trustees must continue to educate themselves on current research and initiatives,” Murphy said. “I take every opportunity to attend classes to keep current as a FreeState trustee.”
She has completed the course to become Director Gold Certified by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the education requirements for Credentialed Cooperative Director, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Board Leadership Certification.
Murphy lives in rural Leavenworth, where she is active within her church and lends a helping hand to her grandchildren's school & 4-H activities. Murphy says she is very proud of the Youth Program that FreeState offers because she feels like it will pay dividends in the future to help educate our youngest members.
“As a trustee, I represent my family, neighbors, and community to ensure affordable, safe, and reliable electricity is available. Equally important to me is FreeState’s concern for communities. As a trustee, I am very proud of what we have done to promote rural Kansas and the organizations that serve the area. I want to continue to support FreeState’s efforts in these areas as a trustee.”
East District Nominee
Jeral Cooper, Challenger
Cooper, Tonganoxie, has been a cooperative member for 49 years. He is a self-employed electrician and farmer and served four years in the U.S. Air Force.
Cooper has also been a federal government employee serving in various roles as a bank examiner with the F.D.I.C., an IRS Revenue agent, and a supervisory auditor with the Department of Energy. Cooper is a certified appraiser, auctioneer, and commercial and real property inspector. Cooper also has real estate management, development, and building experience and a professional real estate investor and agent.
Cooper has been involved with the Board of Directors of the Basehor Historical Society, Treasurer of Basehor PRIDE, Treasurer of Community Education, Adjutant and Quartermaster of Basehor V.F.W., and an Elder of Edwardsville Christian Church.
Cooper is the owner-operator of Four J Enterprises serving as President and CEO of Four J Enterprises, Inc.
“I believe I'd be a definite asset to the Coop as a cooperative board member,” Cooper said. “I’ll serve members by truthfully answering their questions one-on-one. I've got the time and savvy to work out problems or find the correct solutions to make everyone as happy as possible.”
East District Nominee
Jacob Thomas, Challenger
Thomas, Tonganoxie, has been a cooperative member for nine years.
Thomas and his wife own and operate JET Produce and Meats, a direct-to-consumer farm located outside Leavenworth.
For the past six years, Thomas has served as President of the USDA County Committee for Jefferson-Leavenworth-Wyandotte counties and Vice President of the Kansas Specialty Crop Growers Association. Currently, Thomas is the Treasurer for the Leavenworth Farmers Market. He serves as a board member on the State of Kansas Noxious Weed Advisory Committee and the Kansas City Food Hub Cooperative. Thomas previously served on the Leavenworth Extension Council Board as Treasurer.
As a small business with high energy demands, Thomas has seen firsthand how increasing rates affect a family budget. Thomas wants to serve as a trustee to ensure that pricing is fair and accurately charged and see FreeState succeed as a dependable electricity provider. Thomas also understands meeting members where they are in the local community and having conversations about the challenges many are facing.
“Being self-employed gives me the flexibility to meet with my neighbors and fellow members at times convenient to them,” said Thomas. “I am always happy to share details about new programs or incentives available to folks in our area.”
Thomas is a member of Farm Bureau and, in 2021, was recognized by the Governor and State Secretary of Agriculture as a “Kansas AG Hero” for service and dedication to the community during the initial months of the COVID pandemic.
West District Nominee
Larry Butel, Incumbent
Larry Butel, Overbrook, has been a cooperative member since 1989. He has served on the cooperative board since 2004, serving as treasurer of the FreeState board for the past five years.
Butel is a farmer and rancher, raising cattle, row crops, wheat, and hay under Butel Farm, Inc.
He believes that representing friends and neighbors in making decisions that guide the direction of the Cooperative is important. Specifically, to continue to provide reliable electric power, while maintaining safety standards and watching for ways to keep the costs as low as possible and being a good employer and business community member.
“I value the cooperative business model and want to continue to serve our members, helping to manage the co-op for their best interest.”
Advocating and educating on behalf of the cooperative, being visible and active in his community, and being available and willing to talk about cooperative topics as they come up is vital to representing members in the board room.
“We must continue to highlight the cooperative business model as new or previously inactive members engage with the co-op. The fact that any excess revenue is allocated back to the members is foreign, especially if they work at or are more familiar with for-profit businesses,” Butel said.
Butel is involved in his community as a member of the Overbrook Rotary Club; Cornerstone Family Schools Track and Field Coordinator; Gideons International Osage Co Camp member; Graduate of Osage County Leadership; Past--Sponsor of High School Youth Group; Sunday School teacher for Overbrook and Worden United Methodist Church.
He has served in leadership roles for Kansas State Bank of Overbrook Board of Directors; Cornerstone Family Schools; Wakarusa Watershed Joint #35; Gideons Int’l Osage Co.; Farmer’s Cooperative Association; Osage County Farm Service Agency; Osage County Extension Council; Overbrook United Methodist Church; Overbrook Rotary Club; Osage County Livestock Association; Wilshire Investment Club; Kansas Livestock Association, County Director.
West District Nominee
Don Montgomery, Incumbent
Don Montgomery, Burlingame, has been a cooperative member for 33 years. He has served on the board since 2015, serving as secretary of the FreeState board for the past five years.
Montgomery is a retired vocational agriculture teacher, farmer, and rancher north of Burlingame.
Montgomery has seen many changes in the cooperative and believes we are better and stronger now than ever. His goal is to represent all cooperative members and will continue making himself available to members when any questions or concerns arise.
“To educate members, first, you must have the information to answer the questions. Attending board meetings, strategic planning sessions, and director education classes or industry meetings has allowed me to acquire the knowledge to be a source of information. My priority is the cooperative members and getting them the information they need to answer their questions.”
Montgomery is involved in his community serving on the Southeast Kansas State Farm Management Association Board and is a member of the Burlingame Cemetery Board. In the past, he has served the Kansas State Extension State Advisory Board and was President of the Osage County Extension Board and served the Resource Center for Independent Living Board in Osage City. Montgomery has served on the Burlingame volunteer fire department and rescue squad for 12 years, and while in education was a member of the Kansas National Education Association.
Montgomery’s proudest association is with the Burlingame FFA Chapter that he sponsored for 28 years giving him the opportunity to work with young people and supervise a catering business, and the FFA Greenhouse.
He is currently a Credentialed Cooperative Director, holding Director Gold Certification and Board Leadership Credentials.