Lasting Benefits

Story & Photos by Dianna Troyer

Ron wears a United Electric Cooperative hat. He served on the co-op’s board of directors for decades.

Although Ron Osterhout retired from the United Electric Co-op board, his advice and decisions have a long-lasting, beneficial impact on members.

A certified public accountant for 35 years, Ron was often asked to analyze financial issues and offer advice before he retired in 2021.

“Accounting has been a rewarding career,” he says. “It’s gratifying to help individuals and businesses understand and improve their financial situation.”

One long-term valuable asset for United is receiving a share of the income generated from selling electricity owned
by the Grant County Public Utility District near Vantage, Washington. The income from Grant County PUD is from the Priest Rapids Dam Development.

In the 1990s, Ron and others realized United was among 6 electric co-ops entitled to part of the power generated there.

“We convinced the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission we were in a radius to qualify,” he says. “But the transmission system prevented it from coming to us. Instead, the power is sold on the market, and United receives a share, providing steady annual income.”

Ron was also asked to do a feasibility study concerning the consolidation of Unity Light and Power Cooperative and Rural Electric Cooperative when general managers of both co-ops were retiring.

Ron, a board member for Unity, advised that one staff instead of two could serve the needs of 5,000 members in
both co-ops.

“It was a good fit for both,” he says.

Ron Osterhout, an avid rock hound, takes family and friends on collecting trips. Back home at his shop, his rock saw reveals hidden beauty in slices of agate.

The 2 co-ops merged and began operating as United Electric Co-op in 1998 in Heyburn. Ron served on
the board of the new co-op from its inception until retirement.

He offered his accounting insights not only to United but to several other co-ops. During his career, he audited electric cooperatives, and provided services and advice dealing with taxation, accounting, along with
estate and financial planning.

Ron has known many co-op members his entire life, having grown up on a family farm near Declo. He farmed with his father until he graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor of Science in accounting.

He and his wife, Judy, married in 1963, then moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he enrolled in post graduate courses in business and advanced accounting classes at Arizona State University.

In 1966, Ron launched his public accounting career with Arthur Andersen and Co.

“We were there about 6 years and always wanted to get back to Idaho,” he says. “We were able to do that in 1972 when I found a local job. We’re glad to have raised our seven children here.”

Throughout his life, Ron says he felt compelled to serve not only the electric co-op community, but also service organizations.

He was a member and past president of the Burley Rotary Club and past president of the Burley Chamber of Commerce.

He has been involved with the Boy Scouts of America all his life, as a Scout—earning Eagle Scout rank—and leader. He also served in various church congregations in several roles since he was young.

With more free time since retirement, Ron spends time among family and shares his passion for collecting rocks with his loved ones. He and Judy have 18 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren with a ninth on the way.
“We take the kids and grandkids rock collecting, then come back to my shop to polish and cut them,” he says. “There are so many beautiful places to go in Idaho. We’ve been blessed to live and serve here.”

Decades of Dedication and the Accolades to Show for It

As a certified public accountant, Ron Osterhout offered financial advice to state and national electric cooperatives and organizations. He specialized in the economics of small co-ops. Ron ...

  • Served on the board of directors for the Idaho Consumer-Owned Utilities Association from its inception until 2018;
  • Was Idaho director on the board of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in Arlington, Virginia, from 2006 to 2014;
  • Represented United on the Snake River Power Association Board of Directors from 1990 to 2023 and received an Award of Appreciation for “33 Years of Outstanding Service” from the association;
  • Is treasurer for the Idaho Cooperative Utilities Association Political Action Committee and the Idaho Action Committee for Rural Electrification PAC.United Electric recently honored Ron for his 38 years of service on the board. He was a member of Unity Light and Power Cooperative’s board. When it merged to form United Electric Co-op, he continued serving.