This year is done, but we’re not
There aren’t many businesses that can promise their customers a chance to come together as a group and see where their money is going. It’s even harder to imagine one that lets all their customers, not just shareholders, vote on the direction the company should take.
Those are just some of the many benefits that set Wiregrass Electric Cooperative (WEC) apart from traditional utilities and businesses. We don’t have customers. We have members. And when we invite our members to celebrate with us, we do it right.
This year’s annual meeting was a fitting way to wrap up a milestone year for WEC. Eight decades after residents of the Wiregrass pulled together to bring electricity to this area, thousands of members gathered at the cooperative’s main office in Hartford to mark our 80th anniversary.
We reflected on those forward-thinking residents who formed the cooperative, while current members made their voices heard on some of the most important issues facing our cooperative and won some great prizes. Members also saw a powerful video of our linemen taking part in a flag-raising. If you weren’t able to see it, I encourage everyone to find it on WEC’s YouTube and social media pages.
In all, it was a wonderful event, and I would like to thank each of our members who made time to take part in our cooperative’s democratic process. If you weren’t able to join us this year, I hope we’ll see you in 2020 for more fun and fellowship.
I would also like to take a moment to thank all of our employees for the hard work they put into this year’s annual meeting. Everyone at WEC goes above and beyond for our members daily, whether it’s a lineman working long hours after a hurricane or a customer service representative helping a member understand why their bill went up and what they can do to save money.
But putting together an event for thousands of members is another task altogether. It takes months of planning each year to organize food, entertainment, prizes and speakers for the annual meeting, and I want each of our employees to know that their hard work paid off and did not go unnoticed.
The support of our board has also been crucial this year, and I know they will continue to provide wise leadership in the coming years as we tackle new challenges. I can say that with confidence, because they have already given our management the backing we needed on several key projects this year.
We launched a new campaign called “The Wiregrass Way — Just Enough Isn’t Enough” to highlight the moments when our employees didn’t stop at just getting the job done but went that extra mile to better serve our members. That includes how our employees’ attention to detail during Hurricane Michael made it possible for WEC to get more than $5 million reimbursed for recovery costs, meaning our members’ rates weren’t affected. In addition, we returned $1.1 million to members this year in the form of capital credits from 1997, bringing our total to more than $12.4 million returned.
Perhaps most importantly, we continued to move ahead on our partnership with Troy Cable to build a fiber optic backbone for WEC’s substations and offices. This will not only improve the reliability and quality of service we can offer, but it will make it possible to bring high-speed broadband internet connections to thousands of people who have inadequate or no internet service.
As we wrap up our 80th year and the celebrations of all that WEC has accomplished in those decades, I’m proud to be able to serve a cooperative that is still looking for new ways to help the people of the Wiregrass. We’re not done yet, and I look forward to the exciting developments that are in store for the coming year. Until then, I hope all of our members have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.
CEO Wiregrass Electric Cooperative