On May 5th, 1961, the steering committee was ready to present their recommendations. They suggested that the local exchanges merge into one larger cooperative. By merging the smaller exchanges would be protected from being swallowed up by a larger company and they would be able to combine resources and provide better service to their rural subscribers. The committee realized that merging companies would require buy-in from the subscribers of each exchange. During the next several months, the members of the committee held many community meetings explaining why they felt merging was the smart decision and how it would benefit local subscribers.
TCT’s first official meeting took place on June 9, 1961, in Council Grove. There were 11 people present at the meeting. During the meeting the members discussed applications for members and filling vacancies on the Board. Elected to serve on the Board were Howard F. Gant, as President, and Chairman of the Board; G.D. Miller, as Vice-President; W.D. Hallmark, as Secretary-Treasurer, with J.W. Richards, Darrel Jones and W.A. Pritchard named as directors. Those who were elected to serve on the Board of Directors, were all also on one of the telephone boards in the smaller communities.
Soon many of the area’s smaller telephone exchanges were strongly leaning towards merging with TCT. But there was more work to be done, such as how the property of the various exchanges should be acquired, and whether calls from one exchange to another would have added tolls or be toll free. It took until July 26, 1962, to arrange the purchase of some of the smaller telephone companies. Former TCT Board President G. Dean Miller, is the son of G.D. Miller, one of TCT’s original board members. According to Mr. Miller, it was easier to convince some of the smaller companies to switch to TCT than others.
The Board moved forward and filed Articles of Incorporation in September of 1962, and Council Grove was made the temporary business headquarters in mid-October. At this time the company had not hired any employees and Board members were taking care of all the organization activities themselves. The formal existence of Tri-County Telephone took place in 1963. The first Annual Meeting was held on February 3rd, 1964. The main item on the agenda was to elect officers. All the officers were re-elected to their former positions, and they set to work hiring staff.
Mary K. Campbell was hired as the Office Manager and Secretary and started on March 1st, 1964. On March 9th, 1964, the Board hired Carroll Schrader as General Manager. The Board received 98 applications for the position and interviewed five people, before hiring Schraeder, who was in his late 20’s at the time. Schraeder came to TCT with eight years of experience as an engineer for McGrath Engineering, in Dothan, Alabama. Over the next several years, the young cooperative, with its young General Manager worked hard to build a technically advanced network, with a mission to provide rural members with quality phone service!
(Check-out the January 2022 issue of the Teletalk to follow what happened next in TCT’s story!)