The cooperative’s 82nd Annual Meeting/Member Appreciation Day was held Saturday, April 27. Attendees were greeted by a large American flag displayed between two bucket trucks when they entered the grounds of the Graceville Civic Center. Booths ranging from health screenings to wood turning, quilting, face painting and more were set up for members to visit. The co-op also provided valuable information about services available to members including outage texting, surge protection and the mobile app which allows members to update account information, pay bills and more using their phone or tablet. Musical entertainment was provided by The Cedar Creek Band of Chipley and co-op employees served popcorn and snow cones for the crowd to enjoy while listening to their bluegrass sound.
The meeting started with a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem and the colors were presented by Vernon High School JROTC students. During the course of the business meeting the results of this year’s District 2 election were announced to the members present at the meeting. According to Carr, Riggs & Ingram, the certified public accounting firm who conducted and oversaw WFEC’s mail ballot procedure, Tim Alford received 2,336 votes and Howard Hodge Jr. received 1,400 votes. This means Tim Alford will continue serving as District 2 Trustee. Ty Peel, EVP & CEO of West Florida Electric Cooperative (WFEC) started the meeting by speaking to the co-op’s members about defining moments in our lives.
“A defining moment is a point in our lives that fundamentally changes us and has a transformative effect on our perceptions and behaviors,” said Peel.
He went on to speak about many defining moments in his own life including October 10, 2018 – the day Hurricane Michael hit our communities. He said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the damage the storm caused. He recounted a few things that transpired during the days power restoration was taking place including how three tent sites were utilized to accommodate the over 1,600 additional contractors and co-op employees who came to assist WFEC with power restoration.
“The best thing you can possibly see coming to your facility after a hurricane is men and women with bucket trucks anxious to work and help with power restoration. Nothing is as pretty as that sight. During the storm, everyone worked. When it’s that type of disaster, everyone puts on a different pair of shoes and does something completely different. I am proud of our employees at WFEC for what they accomplished,” said Peel.
“WFEC maintains about 4,800 miles of line. The day after the hurricane, WFEC had about 200 members that still had power. WFEC had over 20,000 members without power. I want to thank each of you for your patience with us. It was a long process. Thank you to those of you who reached out to our employees. Some of you cooked, some of you took food, some of you took water, and some of you even bedded some workers down. Many of you were there helping where you could, and for that, we thank you,” he said.
Peel informed the audience that the cooperative is still in the process of rebuilding the system back to Pre-Hurricane Michael. A sentiment echoed by Board President, Joe Rone, who vowed to continue working to get the cooperative back to the reliable system we had before the storm hit. Peel said early estimates indicated that around 5,000 poles and 1,200 transformers were replaced along with miles and miles of new wire.
The last defining moment Peel described in his speech was October 24, 2018. “October 24 is when I lost one of my best friends, Bo Ussery, one of the top notch employees at this co-op, along with two others, Ryan Barrett and George Cesil from Lee Electrical Contractors,” said Peel. “Tragically, three great men were taken from us that day. It will forever be on my mind. I will miss him greatly. Three months after the storm, the board of trustees passed a resolution naming the engineering and operations building after James “Bo” Ussery. And, today we have a special presentation,” said Peel. With those words, he presented a commemorative bronze plaque which will be hung on the engineering and operations building at West Florida’s Graceville headquarters office.
Congressman Neal Dunn was a special guest at this year’s annual meeting where he presented the Ussery Family a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in Bo’s honor.
“You know this is a business meeting, but we are also here to celebrate some heroes – and there were thousands of heroes spawned by this storm. Every day someone is doing heroic, kind, generous things for their neighbors. And that’s what Bo was doing and we single him out to recognize him because he gave his life in the line of duty serving us. We should remember heroes like that because it is heroes like that who make life worth living. I want you to know your country is grateful, your community is grateful and your neighbors are grateful,” said Dunn to the Ussery Family.
“My promise to you is that we will work as hard as we can to get our system back to the dependable system we had prior to Hurricane Michael. I am so thankful for you; I am thankful for the employees of WFEC – continue to remember us in your prayers,” said Peel in his closing remarks.
Energy Efficiency Tip
Are your ducts in a row? Meaning, have you checked your air ducts for leaks? Seal minor leaks with heat-approved tape. Large job? Call a pro!