They’re at fairs and fundraisers, community meetings and nonprofit events. They connect the cooperative with new subdivisions and businesses. Get to know the people who grew up, live in and love the regions they serve.
By Melissa Segrest l Photos by Sarah Beal
If you've been to a recent festival or fundraiser in the Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative service area, you’ve probably seen Kyle Merten, Jo Anna Gilland, Josh Coy, Sherry Murphy or Tim Schultz.
Maybe you met one of them at a chamber of commerce or city planning meeting. Perhaps you know a student who met them at a career fair or received a Bluebonnet scholarship, a program the representatives help organize.
Bluebonnet’s five community representatives all grew up in the areas where they live and work: Merten in the Brenham area, Gilland in the Lockhart region, Coy in Bastrop County, Murphy in the Giddings region, and Schultz in the Manor and Elgin areas.
There is plenty of sweat that comes with handing out bottled water and setting up cooling fans at hot summer events. But there’s sweat equity and skill required to be liaisons between Bluebonnet, community leaders and those who are bringing new subdivisions, large businesses or industrial facilities to the cooperative’s 3,800-square-mile service area.
“Our representatives actively involve themselves in all aspects of our communities,” said Wesley Brinkmeyer, the cooperative’s manager of community and development services. “The reps’ knowledge of area nonprofits, local governments and businesses in the region gives us a feel for what is important to our members collectively and what is important to the communities where members live and work.”
Being a community representative means being a conduit for information between Bluebonnet and its many types of members.
“A rep could easily find themselves discussing infrastructure and rates with a large economic development project in the morning, answering questions at a chamber of commerce meeting at lunch and working an event that same evening,” Brinkmeyer said.
Brinkmeyer knows: He started at Bluebonnet in 2011 as the Brenham-area representative.
“The role of our community representatives has evolved alongside Bluebonnet’s growing number of members,” Brinkmeyer said. “Their expertise proves invaluable to all members, whether you’ve been part of our cooperative for years or are a newcomer to the area.”
The representatives are there to answer questions about how Bluebonnet would provide power, its rates for electricity and planned upgrades to power lines and equipment. They work with the cooperative’s engineering, planning, construction and member service teams — all key participants in sometimes complex projects — to ensure these new members will have electricity to meet their needs.
After new developments and businesses open, Bluebonnet’s representatives stay in contact to provide ongoing information. They maintain direct communication during major power outages and answer questions regarding electric use.
“Our members often see us at nonprofit events or activities that we sponsor,” Kyle Merten said, “But they may not know we also work with folks at large businesses if they have a power outage. Helping in that moment means I’m directly helping Bluebonnet members.”
The representatives know that whether you live in an expanding community or a quiet rural area, growth benefits all cooperative members. It brings enhanced services, increased job opportunities, stronger local economies and affordable, reliable electricity to everyone.
“Because we live in the areas we represent, our job is nothing short of purposeful and fascinating,” Jo Anna Gilland said. “We have the privilege of being deeply connected to our communities, understanding their needs and working tirelessly to ensure Bluebonnet members receive the electricity and support they deserve.”
These five men and women work directly with many people to improve life in the communities Bluebonnet serves, and they love what they do.
— Sidni Carruthers contributed to these stories
Eastern Travis County & Elgin
TIM SCHULTZ is as local as you can get in Manor and Elgin. A 1981 Manor High School graduate, Schultz has been around long enough to see significant changes, growth and progress in the areas he represents for Bluebonnet.
“I moved to Manor in 1976 from Austin. Back then it was all country. One of my favorite things about it now is that I still live in the country, but we are close enough to a big city to have everything we need,” he said.
After graduating from high school, Schultz went to Concordia University in Austin, then on to pitch in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Pioneer minor league from 1984-85. After leaving baseball, he started a family in Manor and worked for 10 years as operations coordinator at Austin’s Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, then the city’s main airport. He had oversight of construction projects and worked as a liaison between the city and airport.
Staying in his hometown area was a no-brainer for Schultz. He wanted to live in a place that valued community.
In 1993, he helped start Manor-based KST Electric (now Rosendin Electric Inc.), an electrical construction company for both commercial and industrial clients. He worked there for 22 years and was the director of operations and purchasing before becoming a Bluebonnet representative in 2015.
“I’ve loved seeing my children grow up in the same community I did. They played select sports in the area and were high school athletes in Elgin,” Schultz said. His son, Brian, 40, excelled in both football and baseball at Elgin High, while daughter Morgan, 28, played softball and volleyball, and youngest Makenna, 22, played volleyball in high school and college.
What Schultz learned at KST Electric has proved to be helpful to new commercial and industrial members of the cooperative in his region. He understands the challenges they face.
“Something that most folks don’t realize about a community representative is that we do a lot for our commercial members. The initial conversations we have when a business is looking to open or move to the Bluebonnet area are essential to ensuring they know what to expect from the cooperative and the area,” Schultz said.
Community representatives’ support goes beyond the initial construction of power lines for businesses. They also continue to support commercial and industrial members through energy audits and providing practical solutions to help businesses reduce their electricity costs.
“Coming from an electrical construction background, I understand how significant the cost of electricity is for members and businesses,” Schultz said. “I start by conducting energy audits. I walk through their facilities and identify ways they can make changes to buildings or their operations to save money. It's rewarding to find practical solutions that help benefit their bottom lines.”
Jo Anna Gilland
Caldwell County, portions of Hays, Guadalupe
and Gonzales counties
JO ANNA GILLAND always knew she wanted to stay in the Luling and Lockhart area and raise a family, even when she was a little girl. Now, she is passing along the things she loved about life in Caldwell County to her 4-year-old daughter, Langley.
Gilland worked as a new accounts representative at First Lockhart National Bank from 2000-2005, then moved to Nebraska to work on a corporate team helping open new Cabela’s stores across the country. She moved back to her hometown area in 2010 to work in marketing for a nursing home and hospice.
Her wealth of commercial and economic knowledge has benefited Bluebonnet since she became a community representative in 2021.
“One of my favorite things is working with developers who want to build homes and apartments in Bluebonnet’s service area. Not only does the new housing provide options to those in the area, but it also helps create jobs and other economic opportunities,” Gilland said. “It’s important that folks know Bluebonnet’s focus is on the communities it serves. That’s my focus as well.”
Gilland serves on four chambers of commerce: Lockhart, Luling, San Marcos and Greater Caldwell County Hispanic. She is a member of Leadership San Marcos, the Lockhart Kiwanis Club and is on the San Marcos CISD Education Foundation board.
You can always find Gilland volunteering at area events, such as the Watermelon Thump in Luling or the Chisholm Trail Roundup in Lockhart. She is also an active supporter of the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center.
“Bluebonnet has felt like family from day one. I knew I would be busy in the community at events and volunteering,” Gilland said. “I love when Langley can be with me while I do those things.”
When she isn’t working in the community, talking to developers and project planners, or hanging out with her daughter, Gilland enjoys golf and exploring the outdoors around Caldwell and Hays counties.
Lockhart and Luling have long been known for their great barbecue. Now they are becoming known as popular places to live. Since Gilland started working at Bluebonnet, the area has added about 1,000 apartments and 700 houses in subdivisions. Now, more commercial and industrial members are moving to the area. At any given time, Gilland is working on about 20 of those projects for Bluebonnet.
“Growth has led to more community events, so there is pretty much always something to do on the weekends with your family or friends,” she said. “Despite the rapid growth, the communities have been able to maintain their small-town feel.”
Lee County, portions of Fayette, Williamson
and Milam counties
SOME GIDDINGS residents are surprised when they see Sherry Murphy wearing anything other than her “cow clothes.” That’s because when she isn’t working for Bluebonnet, she is typically at her farm, driving a tractor, tending livestock or working on projects.
The farm has been in Murphy’s family since 1887. It is in Fayette County but touches the Lee and Bastrop county lines. “The farm is my favorite place to be. It’s a great experience to be in a place that has been in my family for so long. It’s given me strong roots to a community I love,” Murphy said.
A graduate of La Grange High School and a lifelong area resident, Murphy takes great pride in the Lee and Fayette county area communities she serves as Bluebonnet’s representative. Her daughter attended La Grange schools, and her granddaughter is a student there.
“This community is what raised me. I love being able to participate by connecting with Bluebonnet members, working at fundraisers and attending community events for the cooperative. Visiting with so many different people is the most impactful type of connection I am able to make as a community representative,” Murphy said.
Before joining Bluebonnet in 2022, Murphy worked for more than 20 years at the Bastrop-based Family Crisis Center, first as financial director and then executive director. The center serves Bastrop, Colorado, Fayette and Lee counties. It provides a range of services to address and prevent domestic and sexual violence, helping more than 1,100 adults and children every year.
Murphy has known for a long time that community work was her calling.
“The best part about my job today is that I can continue to help people and give back,” Murphy said. “Each day there’s something new. Helping organizations or working on a project that has a direct impact on people who live in this area is wonderful.”
This year, she helped organize the cooperative’s Scholarships of Excellence and Government Youth Tour programs, which provided almost $200,000 in scholarships to area high school students.
“Interacting with schools, attending career fairs, and engaging with young people is more than just part of my job,” Murphy said. “It’s a chance to empower the next generation and help them succeed.”
You can spot Murphy on any given day at area church picnics, VFD fundraisers and nonprofit events. Work and life — visiting with friends, meeting new residents, helping neighbors — blend together.
Washington and Burleson counties, portions of Austin and Colorado counties
KYLE MERTEN was a child of Brenham and the Washington County 4-H club. Starting at age 8, he raised and showed pigs and cattle, traveling to stock shows across Texas.
“The skills and lessons taught in 4-H really shaped who I am,” he said, citing the ability to make decisions and solve problems, set goals and be resilient among them.
Now he gives back to the area that instilled those values in him. “I love working for the co-op, because every day I have the opportunity to serve the communities around Brenham and in Washington, Burleson, Austin and Colorado counties,” he said.
Merten and his wife, Mindy, who also grew up in Brenham, both went to Texas A&M University in College Station. They lived there about 10 years, while Merten worked for the university system, then moved back to their hometown. They missed the community and wanted their children to grow up with those roots and values.
Merten started at Bluebonnet in 2018, after a job in event planning and development at Blinn College. Now, he ensures that communities in the counties he represents know they can rely on him to assist and serve. He participates in county fairs, livestock shows for special-needs participants and Camp for All, a facility near Burton where those with challenging illnesses or special needs can enjoy nature and have fun. He is also vice president of the Brenham ISD educational foundation.
In addition to his community involvement and commitment to Bluebonnet members, Merten works with developers to foster growth and make strategic site selections for their next project. He acts as a liaison between businesses in the region, both for Bluebonnet and as a member of the Washington County Economic Development Foundation. “The commercial and economic partners Bluebonnet works with have to feel confident we’re there to help them,” he said.
He wants to create opportunities that not only benefit businesses but also enhance the well-being of communities in Washington, Burleson, Austin and Colorado counties.
“I like helping our communities grow, while also keeping that ‘small-town charm’ alive,” Merten said.
His passion for 4-H never waned, either. After college, he was event coordinator for 4-H statewide, and today he still helps with community 4-H events. His children, Barrett, 12, and Gretchen, 10, show cattle and pigs. “I want my children to have the same experiences I did,” Merten said.
JOSH COY remembers when he taught math at Bastrop Middle School, and one of his students was Chris White. Now, when Coy is doing his job as a Bluebonnet community representative, he often runs into 24-year-old White. His former student is a communications specialist for the Bastrop Independent School District, and they are both committed to the community that raised them.
Coy is a Bastrop High graduate. He went to Texas Christian University, then St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, playing baseball at both schools. Then he spent a year crisscrossing the country, playing minor-league baseball for several teams. Coy returned to San Antonio for his master’s degree and to teach. He met his wife, Angela. When daughter Lanie was born, the couple decided to move closer to family and they have been in Bastrop ever since. Lanie is now 15, and her brother, Joey, is 11.
“One of the most interesting things about my job is that Roderick Emanuel, Bluebonnet Board member, was my middle school principal. He has seen me grow up. Now, it is a pleasure to be able to work for the company he helps lead,” Coy said.
Among his many job responsibilities, Coy facilitates collaborative meetings with developers or businesses who want to be in the Bluebonnet region and area economic development partners. “The growth in Bastrop County is exciting,” Coy said. “In these meetings we discuss what it would take to provide them with electricity, as well as the opportunities the development or business would bring to Bluebonnet’s members.”
In addition to the economic development work, Coy volunteers at nonprofit events, attends chambers of commerce meetings and works at local festivals. “I love being in Bastrop, because I get to see the community through a different lens,” he said.
The commitment to community is what attracted Coy to Bluebonnet in 2020. He represents Bluebonnet on the board of the Community Development Partnership Program, through which the co-op, with the Lower Colorado River Authority, provides grants to community organizations and nonprofits. The funds help improve playgrounds, parks and community buildings, and provide support for volunteer fire departments and emergency services in rural areas across the region.
“Bluebonnet allows me to do what I am passionate about: Work to help improve and further the things our members have access to,” Coy said. “Bluebonnet shows me, time and time again, the importance of our members and the communities we serve.”
ON THE REPS’ TO-DO LISTS
- Meet with community leaders, elected officials and local government representatives to discuss growth, economic development and providing power across the region
- Answer questions from members, particularly new commercial and industrial members
- Volunteer at school activities, area fairs and festivals and community initiatives; set up cooling fans and hand out bottles of water at events
- Attend community events and fundraisers
- Help support community and area nonprofits’ events
- Present information at schools on electric safety, how electricity is provided and about the cooperative
- Attend career fairs across the region and discuss jobs at Bluebonnet
- Help organize the cooperative’s scholarship programs
- Maintain direct communication with businesses and community officials during power outages and storms, providing updates on power restoration, estimated restoration times and important safety information
- Partner with the Lower Colorado River Authority to provide grants to nonprofit community groups and first responders
- Collaborate with Bluebonnet’s engineering and power line construction teams on service enhancements such as upgrading electric lines to increase voltage and providing redundant, or secondary, sources of power
THE REPRESENTATIVES: BY THE NUMBERS
57,600 bottles of water handed out last year
$644,129 in Community Development Partnership Program grants, partnering with the Lower Colorado River Authority, to area nonprofits in the past 5 years
200 chambers of commerce meetings attended in the past 12 months
$750,000 raised for scholarships in the past 5 years
3,335 meters added in 44 subdivisions last year
1,040 meters added at apartment complexes in Bluebonnet’s region last year
40 commercial or industrial members added in 2022
Meet Bluebonnet's Community Representatives