October 21, 2019

Kit Carson Electrical Co-op Says “I Know Jo, Do You?”

kit-carsonBy Jo Mixon

Luis A. Reyes, Jr : Chief Executive Officer

Electricity, one of the services we really take for granted! That is until it’s out and we’re left in the dark. Then it becomes a whole different story. Last month I faced a few outages and was somewhat irritated by the inconvenience. But that is also what led to this story; and now I have to tell you, I have a change of heart. The truth is, my electricity IS on the majority of the time. Never, during those times, do I normally think, “I am happy to have electricity today.” I just expect it. Instead, when there is an outage, my feathers get ruffled.

I met with Luis Reyes, Chief Executive Officer of our local/area electric company, Kit Carson Electric Co-op. He began our interview with a little bit of history that I found very interesting. (This is paraphrased, so bear with me if it isn’t exactly historically correct).

The electric company came into being in 1937 as Eagle Nest Electric. Residents in the Moreno Valley had found that prior to the formation of Eagle Nest Electric, no large electric company would service the area. So a few families applied to the federal government and obtained permission for a start-up electric company. Completely investor owned, they had limited resources but lots of needs. They hired a development corporation and selected, due to the tremendous costs involved, the most cost-effective ways to install the electric lines.

Gaining more support, the company moved to Questa in 1939, then eventually to Taos in 1944 when the Kit Carson Electric Co-op was formed. Infrastructure grew during the ensuing the decades, and expanded significantly throughout the Moreno Valley when the Village of Angel Fire became a municipality in the 1980s. In 1984 the co-op put together a five-, fifteen-, and thirty-year plan to bring Angel Fire’s electric grid up to par and take advantage of technological advances. Luis told me the installation and cable design of today is totally different than what was originally placed in our valley. We are still living with some of those design flaws. And mapping of the lines was done poorly prior to the 80s . They weren’t always where the crews were told. The map might say the lines are on the west side of the road but in digging the crew hits one on the east side of the road. This in itself can cause errors and outages. Plus, in Angel Fire, all the electric lines are underground. Miles and miles and miles of underground lines. Discovering where an outage happens is a little more time consuming than if the lines are hanging above the ground.

Kit Carson continues to work toward providing us with better quality electrical services. A lot of the problems we still face are poor workmanship from the original installation and are also age related. Others are due to the work happening now – adding fiber optic lines, which will bring broadband to the mountains. These fiber optics will enhance communications for every technical aspect of our modern daily lives. It will give us 4G! Cell phone coverage, GPS, high speed internet, ATM’s, the schools, the banks, the medical facilities, many area business systems – even your GPS golf cart will receive indirect benefits from the new lines.

Luis and I talked about the benefits of having a locally-owned electric co-op. Local has value, even if you don’t have 100% satisfaction 100% of the time. Being a member of the co-op gives you a voice. Officials listen, educate, and let you know you are not alone or forgotten. Hopefully this new endeavor will increase revenue for the co-op and help stabilize electric rates for the members. In this area of New Mexico, there exists a unique situation. The communities of Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, and Ute Park have approximately 5,000 electric meters. Of these meters only (approximately) 1,300 are full time residents. Therefore, the full time residents have to support all 5000 meters even though the bulk of them are idle most of the year. But due to the nature of being a co-op, Taos, Peñasco, Red River, even Questa also support the rural “vacation” areas. It’s all about neighbors helping neighbors. I really learned a lot during my visit with Mr. Reyes.

I then asked the question everyone has: Are you local? Luis grew up in Taos. He went to New Mexico Military Institute, then to New Mexico State, graduating with a BS in Electrical Engineering. He came back to Taos and went to work for Kit Carson Electric Co-op. He has been there ever since! Luis has held almost every position at the company including eight and a half years as an engineer and has been manager for 20 years. He has seen growth, weathered the storms during bad times, and is witnessing good progress being made today and looking forward to even more progress in the future. He said he has worked every outage in Angel Fire for over 30 years. He has worked with every Angel Fire administration and every Resort owner. Wow, I’d call him a very local, local! He has been married for 28 years. Together he and his wife have three children and two grandchildren.

Luis wants to know if you have a problem, and invites you to call him at 575-758-4890 or email him at lreyes@kitcarson.com. And maybe let him know what you think is good about Kit Carson while you’re at it. As for me, the next time I have an outage, I will purpose to remain calm, think about all the time my electricity works, and maybe have a glass of wine!

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