Newly Elected Officials Inspired by Youth Tour Ties

Nebraska Congressman and Oklahoma State Senator Have a History With Co-ops and Farmers

By Meghan Gourley

Two politicians with ties to NRECA’s Youth Tour program are now reveling in the sweet taste of victory.

Republican Adrian Smith ran a successful bid for Congress in his home state of Nebraska. Another winner was Tom Ivester, a Democrat from Sayre, Okla., who won the same state senate seat his grandfather held more than 70 years ago.

Smith’s connection to Youth Tour began in 2001, while serving as a state senator. Since then, Smith has given a yearly presentation on the responsibility of citizenship and why it is important to be involved in government to students attending the Nebraska Rural Electric Association’s Youth Energy Camp in Halsey, Neb.

Smith also served as a chaperone during Youth Tour visits to Washington, D.C., in 2002 and 2003.

“I got involved with the Youth Tour because I wanted to do what I could to help young people understand that government is a great place for them to be involved,” Smith said during a break from his orientation on Capitol Hill.

Smith said an issue of particular importance to him is keeping agriculture in the forefront of the legislative agenda.

Ivester first came to Washington as a 16-year-old Youth Tour member. “That trip to D.C. really opened my eyes and there were some distinct things I remember, like meeting with the Oklahoma delegation,” he said.

He noted one lawmaker from Oklahoma was NRECA CEO Glenn English, for whom Ivester later interned while in college. Ivester also worked on English’s reelection campaign.

Ivester’s connection to co-ops runs deep in Oklahoma. His grandfather was Western Farmers Electric Co-op’s, Anadarko, Okla., first attorney, and he secured many of the easements for electrical lines in the 1930s and 1940s, Ivester said.

“He used to tell the story of how none of the farmers wanted to give up the land, but all you had to do was get electricity into one farmer’s house and then they all wanted it,” he said. “Then it was on to the next community.” Farms, particularly small ones, are one of Ivester’s biggest concerns as he heads into office.

English said, “Building the next generation of leaders is what the Youth Tour program is all about. It’s great to see that Tom has come full-circle, from Youth Tour delegate, to congressional aide, to legislator. I want to congratulate both Tom and Adrian on their success.”