Celebrating 80 Years

Posted: December 1, 2019, 12:00 am

Hundreds attend WEC annual meeting

From right, WEC board President Donna Parrish, CEO Les Moreland and Manager of Information Services Danny Exum speak with a member before the start of the annual meeting.

Eighty years ago, residents of the Wiregrass banded together to do something others weren’t willing to do — provide electricity. That group of founding members created what is today the Wiregrass Electric Cooperative (WEC). They changed people’s lives. They helped communities grow.

Hundreds of members visited WEC’s main office in Hartford on Oct. 18 to celebrate WEC’s eight decades of service. They voted, enjoyed food, won prizes, and spent time with their fellow WEC members. They also remembered the people who helped form the cooperative.

WEC board president Donna Parrish has been a WEC member her entire life, and her parents and grandparents were some of the first to join the cooperative.

Sonya Davis shows off her prize after being the first bingo winner at the 2019 annual meeting.

“To me, this shows the foresight our founding members had and what that group’s foresight did for rural southeast Alabama,” she says. “We have been very blessed as a cooperative to be strong and viable. This cooperative is still very important to this area, and my goal is for this cooperative to be in better shape when I leave than when I came.”

WEC Chief Operating Officer Brad Kimbro says the annual meeting “shows why being a part of a member-owned cooperative is so special.”

“We have people here who remember some of the early days of the cooperative,” he says. “Today, they are here with their grandkids. The whole community is here to celebrate all the wonderful things our cooperative has accomplished in 80 years.”

A Special Place

WEC board President Donna Parrish welcomed members to the 80th annual meeting in Hartford.

Operation Round Up board president David Hall, a WEC member his entire life, still remembers attending annual meetings with his father as a young boy. He says it’s important to have community events like the WEC annual meeting.

“It allows us to get together and see where our money is going as far as the financial report and see who we are electing as our trustees,” Hall says. “Plus, it just allows people to get together. We don’t do this as much anymore. We don’t have days when people get together and spend time with everyone in the community.”

Hall has served as president of the Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation for three years. During that time, he has seen the foundation help change people’s lives and help local organizations through the funds it provides. The donations are made possible by WEC members agreeing to have their monthly energy bill rounded up to the next whole dollar.

“Operation Round Up is one of the best things that I have ever been a part of,” he says. “We help so many people with the money we donate, and I am so grateful that all of our members allow us to do this. I truly enjoy it.”

Members First

In its 80 years, WEC has been totally member-focused, as was reflected in this year’s annual meeting theme: The Wiregrass Way — Just enough, isn’t enough.

Using the Education Power Station, Britt Caldwell explains how WEC linemen work safely.

This focus means WEC employees always go above and beyond to help members, such as working more than 12 hours a day to restore power following a hurricane and documenting all the work so the cooperative could receive federal funds to help pay for restoration and to prevent increases to members’ rates. It means helping members who may see an increase on their monthly bill during the months that have extremely hot or cold temperatures. It means having a charitable foundation committed to helping the area thrive and improve the quality of life.

“Part of the cooperative business model and principles is to make the quality of life in rural America better,” Parrish says. “That’s very important to me and all of our board and employees because we live in rural America, and we have always lived in rural America. It’s vital that we continue to serve rural America. This cooperative has been doing that for 80 years, and it will do it for 80 more.”

WEC is in a Strong Position as it Looks to the Future

Sara Meuli sang the national anthem at WEC’s annual meeting in Hartford.
Tate Morgan enjoys an 80th-anniversary cookie at the 2019 WEC annual meeting.

Wiregrass Electric Cooperative members arrived hours early to register, vote, play bingo and enjoy hamburgers and ice cream at the annual meeting on Oct 18. After the fellowship, WEC conducted the business portion of the meeting.

WEC Chief Operating Officer Brad Kimbro welcomed the attendees and spoke about the difference a year has made for the cooperative. In 2018, WEC conducted an abbreviated version of the annual meeting after 18,000 members lost power as a result of Hurricane Michael. WEC’s employees and cooperatives from around the state rallied together to restore those outages in nine days.

To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the storm, WEC showed a video that highlighted the great work done during the restoration effort.

Operation Round Up board president David Hall delivered the invocation and then led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

WEC board President Donna Parrish called the meeting to order and determined that a quorum was met and the cooperative could conduct the business meeting.

WEC employees Sandra Brannon, Rhonda Webb, Mendy Crenshaw, Blayre Howard, and intern Baylee Anderson enjoy the 2019 annual meeting.

A reading of the auditor’s report detailed WEC’s strong financial position.

In the elections, trustees Debra Baxley of District 1, Danny McNeil of District 4, and Donald Ray Wilks of District 7 were all reelected.

CEO Les Moreland delivered his “state of the cooperative” speech. He spoke about WEC’s competitive rates and the hard work required from employees to keep members’ rates as low as possible. He also touched on capital credits and WEC’s Broadband for the Wiregrass partnership with Troy Cable.

You can view Moreland’s “state of the cooperative” address on the WEC YouTube and social media channels.