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Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Gemstone Can Be Found In Graceville


"……..Of the People, By the People, and For the People…." , those elegant words which were penned by our founding fathers as they tried to put to print their intentions for our new nation, could just as well have been the words for the mission statement for West Florida Electric Co-op.
Their existing written corporate mission statement declares four values for the company:
and Commitment to Community
That just about says it all. Adherence to those lofty business principles is part of the ingredients that have made this company become so successful and appreciated over the past 71 years. In the depth of the depression, President Roosevelt observed the lack of rural electricity while making his journeys to the health spas at Warm Springs, Georgia. Because of this, he enacted the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935 which enabled friends and neighbors to band together to pool their resources to form electric utility companies. Thus the rural electric cooperative was born.
In 1937, when REA (Rural Electric Coop) now known as West Florida Electric Cooperative was first formed, most of rural Jackson County lived in the dark. It is appropriate for us to note that Bill Henley of Campbellton was among the first trustees of the newly formed electric cooperative, and he served as the first board President. He was also the father of Marthe Henley Efurd, who is the Marketing Director for the Jackson County Times. His work, along with the efforts of other community leaders of that day, "turned on the lights" for rural Jackson homes. They were thus delivered from the dark ages into the age of "en-lightenment". Bill Henley’s grandson, James Efurd, works at the cooperative today as part of the computer systems staff.
A rural cooperative electric company functions much differently than an investor owned utility. In the cooperative, the user-members are the owners of the company. An elected board of directors represents the interest of the membership, while in the investor owned utility the board often consists of a group of highly paid, politically influential individuals who work to protect the interest of the stockholders.
At West Florida Electric the company is managed by President and CEO Bill Rimes and a team consisting of Gary Clark, VP of Member Services, Russell Dunaway, Executive VP and CFO, Ty Peel, VP of Engineering and Operations, Terry Mullen, Manager of Marketing and Communications, and John Thornton, Supervisor of Communications. Thus the company has a lean, involved management group that can make decisions locally and can react quickly to emerging problems. Since Bill Rimes assumed the leadership position for the company and formed the existing management team, the firm has realized steady growth in sales, expansion of services, and improvement in its level of performance.
Since its beginnings in 1937 the cooperative has grown steadily as it expanded the service area to include areas of Calhoun, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties in Northwest Florida. The company has also expanded into being a provider of dial-up internet service, WildBlue high-speed Satellite Internet Service, Surge Suppression sales, GE, Hotpoint, and Frigidaire Appliance sales, Electric Grills and Smokers sales, Long Distance Telephone Service Provider, Portable and Standby Generator sales, DISH and Network Satellite Systems sales, and Outdoor Lighting Systems sales. In total the company has grown into an organization which is providing electricity to approximately 28,000 meters, 20,000 customers, with sales totaling just below $50,000,000 per year.
West Florida Electric has a very proactive philosophy towards assisting in the creation of a growing, healthy economy within the area it serves. They are an ideal example of an industrial leader working with various agencies in economic development efforts. They are always there when needed in some community effort to improve infrastructure, education, and quality of life.
West Florida Electric owns 1/20th of an electric producing company, Power South, which is another cooperative located in Andalusia, Alabama. This company is the provider of electric power to the West Florida Electric network. Their power plants are fueled by a diversified generation system using coal, natural gas, hydro, and compressed air systems.
Bill and his management team are very proud of some of the technological improvements they have implemented in order to improve the level of service performance to their customer-owners. Their latest innovation is a computerized meter feed-back system that enables them to continually, on a real time basis, monitor consumption and status of every meter in their system. They know your lights are off the same instant you realize it. This system speeds the process of locating the source of the problem and helps assure all parts of a damaged network are restored before the repair crews leave the scene.
Bill Rimes and all of the staff and trustees of West Florida Electric are very concerned about rapid escalation in the costs of energy in our nation. They are taking every effort to hold their rates down while assisting customers in becoming more energy efficient. The management of West Florida Electric Cooperative is very aware of the problems facing the general public in this time of soaring costs. They "feel your pain" and are working hard to make things as positive as possible for their customers.
West Florida Electric is a community based, community sensitive, and community involved company. They are undoubtedly among the brightest gems in the treasure chest of companies in the Graceville and Jackson County business communities. And take comfort in the fact that they are just like Motel 6… "They’ll be keeping the light on for you."

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