CEO’s Message

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.

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – May 2018

Serving you safely

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

Real transparency can be a difficult thing to find, whether in a business or in a person. We’re often so concerned with projecting the right image that what is true takes a back seat.

That’s one of the many things that sets cooperatives apart from other business models. We are owned by the people we serve, which means transparency isn’t just an abstract goal. It’s built into who we are.

There is no better example of that openness than our annual meeting. This year’s get-together was another wonderful opportunity to visit with family and friends, all while making your voices heard in how our cooperative operates.

Unfortunately, we know not everyone is able to join us each year. So for those who missed out, you can catch up on some of our 2017 accomplishments and speaker highlights in this newsletter.

Our culture of openness extends to every aspect of the cooperative, including our day-to-day operations. Even for employees with years of experience, working with electricity can pose severe danger without a culture of safety.

At SVEC, we take safety seriously. Safety is always our top priority, which is why we encourage employees to report every potential safety issue they see. That attention to detail can be the difference between life and death. In this newsletter, you can read more about how SVEC has built a culture responsible for three and a half years without a lost-time injury.

Finally, as we recognize May as National Electrical Safety Month, I would also like to encourage you to set aside some time to reinforce safe electrical habits with your family. By respecting the power of electricity, we can all prevent unnecessary electrical accidents.

Manager's Message

Message from our CEO – April 2018

Here to serve you

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

Spring is often thought of as a season for beginnings. Longer days gradually lead to summer while plants and animals that retreated during the winter start to reappear.

For students in our area, this can also be a time for endings. The school year is coming to a close, and high school seniors may be getting ready to say their goodbyes as they prepare to head off to college or to enter the workforce.

As a community-owned cooperative, SVEC is dedicated to preparing the next generation of leaders to take that critical step in life. One way we help is by sponsoring students in our area for the annual Florida Electric Cooperative Association Youth Tour in Tallahassee.

The Youth Tour is an exceptional opportunity for young people. They learn about cooperatives and state government. The students also learn ways they can make a difference in our society.

Of course, SVEC is committed to providing exceptional service for every member throughout the year. In fact, we have an entire department dedicated to answering questions and solving problems for you.

In our April newsletter, we take a closer look at the hard work these cooperative employees put in every day to make sure our members are well-served. I hope you’ll take some time to read about what it takes to do that job. And if you know one of these people, please join me in thanking them for their dedication.