CEO’s Message: What Cooperatives Build

October 2022

By Michael S. McWaters, Executive V.P./CEO

Every October, while many of our consumer-members are prepping their Halloween costumes and spooky decorations, everyone here at Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative is preparing to mark a different occasion. That’s because October is also National Cooperative Month, when we have the opportunity to appreciate the important role cooperatives play across the country. When you read this issue of our newsletter, you may even discover that some of your favorite products and services are provided by co-ops.

When SVEC was first incorporated decades ago, the people here faced the prospect of being left behind by a new technology. Electric power was already changing lives in the major cities, but investor-owned power companies didn’t see the profit in bringing it to rural communities with low population densities. They would have to build miles of line to reach a few customers.

That’s when the people of this area decided to build that service themselves. Back then, it wasn’t entirely clear whether the cooperative model would succeed. But with some hard work and energetic recruiting, those earliest consumer-members built something lasting. Today, there are nearly 900 electric cooperatives across the country similar to ours. They are still going strong and powering the lives of more than 42 million people.

The cooperative principles have had a big part to play in that longevity. They guide everything we do, from being an active member of our community to the democratic member control that distinguishes cooperatives from so many other businesses. You can take a closer look at those principles in this newsletter. You can even learn a little bit about non-electric cooperatives.

However, those cooperative principles wouldn’t count for much if we weren’t also dedicated to our mission of bringing you safe and reliable electric service at affordable rates. Doing that requires employees at every level of the cooperative to continue training and keep up with changing best practices. That’s why, back in 2014, we teamed up with Northwest Lineman College to build an apprentice lineman program tailored for SVEC’s crews.

Over the last 8 years that program has continued to grow. Just last year we started offering scholarships to aspiring SVEC lineworkers, giving them the chance to fast-track their development and opening the door to a great career. You can read more about these efforts in this newsletter.

It’s just one more way this cooperative creates opportunity for those in our community while ensuring that our members enjoy the high standard of electric service they deserve. I know I’m proud of the hard work our employees put in daily to be the best at what they do.