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STE Board of Directors
Today, STE’s Board of Directors include:
- Shirley Hendrix, President
- Robert S. (Steve) Yocom, Vice-President
- Patricia (Pat) Snodgrass, Secretary
- Terry Beckham, Treasurer
- Virginia Halbert, Assistant Secretary
- Bruce Donal, Director
- Rosella Roberts, Director
- Tom Beezley, Director
- Phyllis Conaway, Director
Steelville Telephone Exchange, Inc. was formed in 1952 when community leaders recognized the need for telephone service. Many community members brought dial telephone service to the Steelville area. The first Board meeting was held on May 15, 1952, and Articles of Incorporation were filed with the State of Missouri. The Certificate of Authority to Commerce Business was granted on May 19, 1952.
Ten men formed the first stockholders and Board of Directors:
- S. H. Hicks, President
- L. J. Perkins, Vice President
- Presley Ross, Secretary *
- E.W. Gravatt, Treasurer
- M. McMorrow, Director
- Harry Kehner, Director **
- L.E. Klemme, Director
- Dan Worley, Director
- Arch Dunlap, Director
- G. C. Beckham, Director
* Henry Yeary was elected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Presley Ross.
** A. E. Thurman was elected to the Board after the death of H. C. Kehner.
The Bylaws of The Corporation included this statement: “It shall be the aim of Steelville Telephone Exchange, Inc., to provide dependable area-wide telephone service at the lowest cost consistent with sound economy and good management.” The Board’s goal was to put the dial telephone system into operation. Drazen & Associates were employed as engineers for the project. They prepared and submitted a loan request to the REA for $425,000. A suggested rate schedule was submitted and adopted, and the properties of the Steelville Telephone Company were purchased in August 1952.
The Telephone Company owned and maintained the lines within the city limits. Subscribers paid $1.00 per month, and 16 country lines were constructed and maintained by the subscribers; they paid a fee of 25 cents per month. There was a jointly owned line from Steelville to Cuba and, initially, one long-distance line to St. Louis. Later, a second line was added. A 3-minute call to Cuba would cost you 10 cents, and 3 minutes to St. Louis would cost 50 cents.
Around the turn of the century, the telephone office was in a white frame house up on the hill behind the Jonas Funeral Home house. The office was moved to the comer across from the old railroad depot where the Steelville Central Office now stands. In those days, being an Operator could be more than just a job. Since calls might be made at any hour, the building included living quarters where a couple would reside as part of the job. The quarters were well arranged, with the bedroom nearest the switchboard and an alarm to awaken the Operator if needed. It was considered a common courtesy that only emergency calls be made late at night. Mr. and Mrs. Jack Jones was the first couple to live at the office.
The first REA loan contract was entered into in September 1952, and Mr. L. J. Perkins was appointed company manager. Bids were opened at the Steelville High School in June for central office equipment, and Stromberg-Carlson was awarded the contract. In early 1953, the corporation was granted a franchise to operate in the City of Steelville.
In July, Mr. James D. Worley was hired as the corporation’s manager. Mr. J.C. Yocum was elected to fill Mr. Worley’s place on the Board of Directors.
Many pieces had to be assembled before the dial system was ready to begin operation: long-distance service agreements, joint use of poles with various electric coops, rental of office space, outside plant construction contracts, central office buildings, and potential subscribers, to list a few.
Mr. G. C. Beckham, attorney for the corporation, had the task of finding a corporate 1egal structure that would please the State of Missouri and REA. As this was the first such undertaking in the state, there were no laws specifically for this operation. Throughout the project, those involved counted on the advice and assistance of REA personnel.
Approximately 2 ½ years after the first Directors Meeting, modem dial telephone service began in the Steelville area.
On Wednesday, November 17, 1954, Steelville Telephone officially laid to rest the Old Cranking Phone with a festivity throughout the town. Everyone in town participated in a parade down the main street, the Steelville High School Band making an appearance, and many floats. The parade halted at the Court House Lawn, where Reverend Harold Renfrow gave the eulogy for the old Cranking Phone. After the cranking phone was officially buried, the parade continued to the VFW Hall, where a free barbecued beef dinner was served to approximately 2,750 people.
At 2:00, Mr. J.C. Lark placed the first call over the new telephone system to Governor Phil M. Donnelly, whose response of praise and congratulations was heard by the assembly via a loudspeaker attached to the telephone. At that time, a Certificate of Quality Service was presented to the members of the Board of the new telephone system. After the program, the crowd gathered outside to witness the dynamiting of the old switchboard. It was a grand explosion. There was a suspenseful second between the big blowup and the big noise as the Board flew in all directions, and then everything went quiet. The Old Phone System was forever replaced by the new and modem Dial Telephone System, which Steelville had wanted for so long.
Steelville Telephone Exchange, Inc. has undergone several significant improvements since that time. One of the biggest and most courageous projects was in 1973 and 1975 when a new buried plant was installed, and party-lines were eliminated. At the same time, 1 + dialing was installed for all STE subscribers. As a result of this project, monthly rates for residential service doubled. This increase was well received as customers considered the added value; that commitment to value has become an integral component of the foundation that STE builds upon today.
In the early 1980s, the company updated all of its long-distance facilities and developed computerized billing and accounting systems. It began analyzing the possibility of converting to digital switches in its 4 central offices. By 1988, all 4 electromechanical switching offices had been successfully replaced by new digital switches.
The 1990s brought new opportunities for the company. Continued subscriber growth produced the need for cable upgrades, and fiber optics were introduced. Soon after, the internet arrived, and consumer demands for more and better communication services continued to increase.
As STEs entered a new millennium, it was clear they had become an industry leader. With fiber optic cable as the company’s new standard and the rise of the internet, STE sought new communities for expansion. STE continues to showcase its command of digital communication with fiber-to-the-home voice and data solutions in Washington, Crawford, Dent, Iron, and Wright counties. Today, STE continues to seek new opportunities that ensure continued growth throughout the region and reflects the goals of the founding members to provide dependable area-wide telecommunication service at the lowest cost, consistent with sound economy and good management.
STE is the parent company of two subsidiary companies, STE Rural Development Services (RDS) and Complete Splicing. RDS provides construction and landscaping services to surrounding communities. Complete Splicing is much more expansive and provides highly technical fiber optic cable splicing and management throughout the Midwest. These companies showcase the Board’s commitment to constant growth and continuous improvement. Under the leadership of General Manager Kevin Ancell and Assistant General Manager Remi Sun, STE has a bright future that is focused on customer service as “job one.”