CEO’s Message

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — March 2019

Keeping you in the know

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

People can disagree on just about anything these days, but one thing most people tend to agree on is the fact that more transparency is better. Whether it’s our local government or a company we do business with, understanding why and how decisions are being made helps us make more informed decisions ourselves.

That’s one of the many strengths of the cooperative model. Because cooperatives were born out of communities to serve those communities, we don’t answer to a far-flung group of investors. We answer to our members right here in the Suwannee Valley.

One of the seven core principles that guide all cooperatives is informing members like you so that you can understand what is happening at your cooperative and why. It’s the reason we include this newsletter with your bill each month, so members can learn how their cooperative works and about the people running it.

This month’s newsletter is a little different than usual. It doubles as Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative’s annual report to you, the members.

Inside you’ll find the cooperative’s balance sheets, along with the minutes of last year’s annual meeting. I think these show that SVEC continues to be on a strong financial footing and is making plans that will enable us to continue providing affordable and reliable service well into the future.

The cooperative also continues its dedication to working safely and supporting our local community. You can find a summary of just a few of our employees’ safety accomplishments over the last year, as well as a list of contributions SVEC and its employees have made to community organizations.

We were also proud to continue important initiatives like the Youth Tour and college scholarships that prepare the future leaders of our communities.

All in all, 2018 was another strong year for SVEC, and I know I speak for everyone at the cooperative when I say it has been an honor to serve you. That’s why I would also like to take a moment to encourage each of you to attend our annual meeting on Saturday, April 27. In addition to giving you the opportunity to learn more about what is happening at your cooperative, the annual meeting is also an opportunity to receive a $10 bill credit and a chance to have fun with your neighbors and win prizes.

I hope all of you will make some time to join us in celebrating another wonderful year of our electric cooperative, and I can’t wait to share our plans for the year ahead. I look forward to seeing all of you there!

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – February 2019

Showing members we care

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

There are lots of ways people can show others in their life that they care. They could choose small gestures that constantly remind people they’re thinking of them. Others might provide a reliable sounding board for a loved one’s problems or step up in moments of crisis.

At this time of year, we tend to show people we care by giving cards, flowers and chocolates. While Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative may not have a valentine for each of our members, we think the best way to show we care is by continuing to bring you safe, affordable and reliable electric service every day.

There are others in our community who work hard to not only care for the people around them but also look out for our natural environment and the animals that inhabit it. This month, we’re spotlighting an organization that does just that, while also spreading an important message of preservation.

Mystic Jungle has been part of our community since arriving in Live Oak nearly a decade ago. It gives visitors the chance to see the kinds of exotic creatures most only know from TV. But as important as it is to have an opportunity to learn about big cats and other animals up close, the work Mystic Jungle does to protect them is just as crucial.

I hope you’ll take the time to read more about that work and the importance of preservation in our February newsletter. This month, we’re also kicking off our “Meet Your Trustee” series with a quick conversation with District 1 Trustee Mike Adams.

He has represented the people of west Hamilton County for several years, and we’re happy to give members a chance to get to know him better. If you live in his district, I hope you’ll take an opportunity to get in touch with him about any questions or suggestions you may have regarding the cooperative.

For those of you who don’t live in District 1, we’ll have similar Q&As with the rest of our trustees in the months to come.

SVEC is also excited to be a sponsor of several upcoming events, but none will be more fun than our second annual Suwannee Valley Cornhole Tournament. This competition has become a local favorite, and we expect to see some top-notch tossing this year. All proceeds from the tournament go to United Way of Suwannee Valley. Find more information on the time, location and how to sign up in this newsletter.

We at SVEC enjoy being a part of community events throughout the year and look forward to sharing those experiences with you.

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – January 2019

New horizons

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

The beginning of a new year is always a time when we look ahead and set new goals. As the calendar resets, we have an opportunity to put a cap on our work of the last 12 months and start making plans for the year ahead.

For many people, that means making New Year’s resolutions. Maybe this year you’ve decided to start a new exercise routine to work off those extra holiday goodies, learn a new skill or spend more time traveling.

Here at Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative, one of our resolutions for the new year is to do even more to communicate with our members. One of our core values involves ensuring that each of you knows what your cooperative is doing and why.

That’s why we’re expanding our monthly newsletter to include even more information we hope will help you better understand SVEC and our role in the community.

Our goal with the new eight-page format is to better inform you about services the cooperative offers, how you can make the most of your membership and the steps we are taking to maintain and improve your electric service.

This month, we focus on our safety efforts. As you know, working with electricity can be dangerous without the proper equipment and training. Safety is always the top priority at SVEC, no matter the job.

Our employees never forget about safety, which is why this cooperative has a safety record we can all be proud of. But that success doesn’t happen by itself. I hope you’ll take the time to read more about the hard work each SVEC employee puts into making sure they and their co-workers go home every day in the same state that they left for work.

Each month we will feature a different aspect of our cooperative and interesting stories from the community. We also will provide you with information and tips that can help you. This month we have featured a story on how to use space heaters safely and effectively. Space heaters are an easy way to add some warmth during the winter months, but it is important to use them properly.

Month to month, you will also find items such as recipes, and articles about hunting, fishing and farming. As we kick off 2019, our hope is that the new SVEC newsletter can be a resource for members as we continue to find new ways to serve you better. That’s our resolution, and we intend to keep it.

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – December 2018

The days after

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

I’m sure many of you will agree when I say that this most recent election season felt like it lasted years rather than months. These days, we see so much news coverage about candidates across the country that it can be a relief when campaigns end, whether our preferred candidate won or lost.

With a new Congress settling into Washington, D.C., now is the time for them to start building policies that can make a real difference. That means it’s also the time to make sure our voices are heard on the issues that are most important to us.

At Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative, we are already busy identifying initiatives that could have a major impact on our region, such as infrastructure improvements or a new farm bill. In this newsletter, you can learn more about those efforts, which we believe can garner support from both major political parties.

Some areas of our state, though, continue to face challenges that can’t be solved by the passage of a new bill alone. Our friends in the Panhandle are still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Michael, which is why SVEC sent crews to help rebuild their electric system.

I encourage you to read about the important work our employees did as well as the resilience they saw from the people in areas damaged by the hurricane. We hope our members never have to face a storm like Michael. But if we do, I’m comforted to know our cooperative family will be there to support us.

I also want to take this opportunity to wish all of our members a Merry Christmas and happy New Year from all of our employees and trustees. Our cooperative has had a fantastic year and I am excited about the bright future ahead of us. We look forward to lighting the way in 2019.

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – November 2018

A helping hand

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

November is always a time for taking stock in our lives and giving thanks for our blessings. This year, I think we have a great deal to be thankful for.

When Hurricane Michael began moving in our direction last month, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who feared the worst. But as it turned out, our system was fortunate to be spared the brunt of the storm’s force.

While we can be grateful for our own safety, we have seen that some of our neighbors were not as lucky. Hundreds of thousands of people lost power in Florida, with some areas sustaining such irreparable damage that residents decided not to return.

Recovering from such widespread devastation is a daunting task, but these are also the times when the strength of the cooperative model shines.

In the days after the storm, Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative sent two groups of linemen, right-of-way crewmen, warehousemen and mechanics to help Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative get the lights back on for their members.

At SVEC, we are always ready to lend our fellow cooperatives a helping hand. We relish the opportunity. We know that when our system is the one hit hard, as we were last year by Hurricane Irma, other cooperatives will come to our aid just as quickly.

I’m thankful to be part of a cooperative family that supports each other during challenging times like these. I hope you’re proud to be a part of it, too.

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – October 2018

Community values

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

As you might imagine, electric cooperatives hold a special place in my heart. I’ve given many years of my professional life to serving them because I believe in their mission and their unique capacity to serve rural communities.

Cooperatives stand out from other companies because we aren’t concerned with how to best turn a profit. We were built by our members to serve our members. At the end of the day, we make decisions based on what is best for you, not some distant shareholders.

October is National Cooperative Month, which gives us the chance to celebrate the network of cooperatives across the country and the work they do to serve their communities.

It’s also an opportunity to recognize how Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative works to improve our members’ lives. You can read more about that in this month’s newsletter.

Of course, SVEC isn’t the only organization trying to make the Suwannee Valley a better place to live. This month, we’re also highlighting a local group called Hooked on Heroes, which takes veterans out on the Gulf for a day-long fishing trip, all expenses paid.

Much like a cooperative, Hooked on Heroes is an organization of neighbors helping neighbors. They rely entirely on volunteers and donations to give veterans in our own community and beyond a well-deserved getaway.

We’re proud to serve members who care so much about helping those around them. Those values are, after all, the heart of the cooperative mission and ones we look forward to living out every day.

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – September 2018

Hearing voices

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

Sometimes it seems like the issues dominating the national news are disconnected from the things we’re concerned about in our hometown.

While there are certainly policies discussed in Washington that affect everyone, the challenges we face day to day usually have more to do with ensuring we have reliable access to essentials like work, good roads and, yes, even electricity.

Here at Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative, we work hard to manage our system and make sure our neighbors’ needs are met. But sometimes there are issues, such as national energy policy, that are too big for us to tackle on our own.

That’s where the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association comes in. They help SVEC work with other cooperatives to bridge the gap between small-town America and our nation’s capital.

In our September newsletter, you can learn more about our partnership with the NRECA and how they give us a voice in Washington. You can also read about two of our local students who visited the Capitol as part of the Youth Tour.

The tour gave these young people the chance to see firsthand how lawmakers fight for the issues that are important to their communities at the highest levels of our government. We’re proud to be able to give students those opportunities so they can prepare to, one day, be leaders themselves.

The connections between our small towns and our national lawmakers have never been more important. When we keep those lines of communication open, we can work together to make sure all of our voices are heard.

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – August 2018

You come first

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

Every year, when our students go back to school, I’m reminded of what it really means to be part of a community.

I’m inspired when I see teachers welcoming their students back to class, coaches staying after school to teach life lessons outside the classroom, or even parents coming home from work to help their kids with their studies.

Teaching the next generation always requires putting others first, something everyone at Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative strives to do when we come to work.

As a cooperative, our consumer-members always come first. We don’t answer to shareholders or a faraway corporate office because the people who matter are right here in our own community.

As a result, you won’t find SVEC cutting corners to pad the bottom line. If there’s a way to bring more reliable and affordable electric service to our area, you can be sure we’ll do everything in our power to make it a reality.

The folks in our metering department are some of the best demonstrators of this commitment. Whenever a member has a concern that their bill is too high, our AMI technicians can investigate. Even if they find that the cooperative’s equipment is operating properly, they’ll work with members to find the problem.

That’s just one of the ways our technicians put members first. You can read more about the many ways they help our members in this month’s newsletter.

Finally, I would like to wish the students and teachers in our community well as they begin a new school year.

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – July 2018

Ready for the Storm

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

In Florida, we’re no strangers to stormy weather. Most of the time, we enjoy the sunshine our state is

known for — but each year, we must pause and make sure we are ready for hurricane season.

As any Floridian knows, smart preparation is the key to staying safe during severe weather. That’s why I want to take a moment to let our members know what SVEC has been doing to both prevent outages and shorten the ones we do experience.

Over the last year, Suwannee Valley Electric has inspected hundreds of poles to ensure their structural integrity, and has trimmed trees along over 1,000 miles of electric lines to prevent outages caused by falling limbs.

We have also begun to install and activate an Advanced Distribution Management System, which allows us to respond to some larger outages without needing to send a crew, and have maintained our Advanced Meter Infrastructure which helps us determine where the cause of an outage is located.

When repair crews are required, an automated vehicle location system helps us coordinate their activities, and we have constructed an on-site fuel station that will ensure crews can respond to issues throughout the cooperative’s 2,000-square-mile service area without relying on the availability of fuel at our area’s gas stations.

All of this effort makes our system more storm-resistant than it has ever been, but it can never be storm-proof. Persistent winds and rain are bound to cause outages, which is why we regularly review and update our Emergency Response Plan so everyone knows their role in getting the lights back on.

As always, we appreciate our members’ patience as SVEC crews make repairs. When storms hit, we send line crews and other critical staff into the field as soon as they can safely begin to assess and repair the damage. Our first priority will always be restoring power to as many members as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – June 2018

A new way to serve

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

At Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative, service is in our DNA. Our employees wake up each morning ready to help neighbors, whether they’re answering questions about a member’s bill or climbing a pole to restore power.

But the commitment goes further. As a cooperative, SVEC is dedicated not only to providing quality electric service but also to making our community a better place to live.

Starting next year, we’re introducing a program called Operation Round Up®. Members will have the opportunity to have their monthly bill rounded up to the nearest dollar, contributing those few cents to local schools. The pennies will add up.

While this program is new for SVEC, similar efforts have been popular for years at other cooperatives. In fact, many cooperatives in Florida, and nearly 350 cooperatives throughout the country, already participate in Operation Round Up® or a similar program.

So why are we telling you about this now? We believe Operation Round Up® provides an easy way for our members to help schools in our community, but we don’t want anyone to feel like they are required to participate.

SVEC will begin rounding up members’ bills in January 2019. Any member who doesn’t wish to participate in the program can call our office before the end of the year to let us know they would like to opt out.

I hope you’re all as excited as I am about this opportunity to help our schools. It only takes a small contribution from each of us, but together our small change can make a big difference. That’s the power of cooperation.

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