BULLHEAD CITY — When Elizabeth Barton competed for a trip to the nation’s capital in October 2016, she had no idea what opportunities would lie ahead for her — especially at the state government level.
That “trip of a lifetime” she took last summer to Washington, D.C., prepared her for a journey that would help her represent more than 34,000 members of the rural electric utility to which her family belongs, Mohave Electric Cooperative.
“Elizabeth was an exemplary representative for MEC and a terrific example of what the Washington Youth Tour does for our students, and how it prepares them for interactions with our elected officials,” said Katy Reno, director of communications and member services for Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association, a mentor for Barton and fellow Washington Youth Tour alum Mylea McBride, who represented Navopache Electric Cooperative.
Barton recently was invited to attend GCSECA’s annual Legislative Conference event in Phoenix. This year, the rally was the culmination of efforts by GCSECA, MEC and other state rural electric cooperatives to protect assigned capital credits from the Arizona Department of Revenue. Two lawmakers from Mohave County have been in support of those efforts 100 percent — State Sen. Sonny Borrelli and District 5 Rep. Regina Cobb.
At the rally, Barton, along with MEC CEO Tyler Carlson, MEC board members and statewide cooperative
representatives, hand delivered more than 6,600 letters addressed to Sen. Borrelli, Rep. Cobb and District 5 State Rep. Paul Mosley. The letters from cooperative members were a direct show of support for electric cooperatives retaining assigned capital credits because of the importance of these funds to co-ops and the communities they serve.
A big part of the event’s itinerary had Barton and McBride meeting with Borrelli, Cobb and Mosley. A Mohave High School senior, Barton had a similar experience last summer on the Washington Youth Tour, meeting Congressman Paul Gosar for over 40 minutes. She said her biggest takeaway from both experiences is the increased confidence she has in herself.
“I think that anyone with confidence in themselves and the passion for their beliefs can be a politician,” Barton said. “I never had that kind of confidence until after my trip to D.C. I decided to run for Student Council at my high school and I became the president of Key Club; that wouldn’t happen without the confidence and knowledge I got from the DC trip. Meeting with people like Regina Cobb and Paul Mosley made me realize how important it is to step up.”
Reno said Barton was a “shining star” for Mohave Electric. Following the meetings with legislators, Barton was walked onto the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives, then sat in the gallery while being introduced on the floor by Cobb.
“Rep. Mosley also gave Elizabeth a ‘shout out’ from the House floor,” Reno added, saying the two seemed to have a lot in common during their meeting. Like Mosley, Barton also has her sights set on attending Brigham Young University next fall, following graduating from high school this spring.
Looking back at her experience, Barton added, “Fighting for people who won’t or can’t defend themselves is essential. There are so many lessons we can learn from just one day of shadowing or interviewing the people who run our government.”