It was a sunny afternoon on Sept. 24 in Crewe, Va., as members gathered at the Hooper Park pavilion for Southside Electric Cooperative’s business-only annual membership meeting. Eighty-three members were in attendance, with an additional 2,608 members participating by proxy.

Dr. Frank Bacon, chair of SEC’s Board of Directors, started the meeting by announcing that the cooperative continues to heal from the record-setting February 2021 ice storm. 

“The total cost to SEC as a result of this ice storm will be $25 million, 10 times more than any storm we’ve ever encountered in the history of SEC. But in a massive effort to keep this storm from impacting the electric rates, the SEC team has successfully received approval from FEMA to receive reimbursement of up to 90% of these costs,” Bacon said.

The results of the board of directors election were also announced. Representing District I members in Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell, Charlotte and Pittsylvania counties will be incumbent William T. White. Representing District II members in Buckingham, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties will be Dr. Earl C. Currin Jr., who was reelected unanimously. Representing District III members in Amelia, Brunswick, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Powhatan, Prince George and Sussex counties will be Charles J. Friedl, who was reelected unanimously.

Each will serve a three-year term on the nine-member board.

Bacon touted SEC’s safety culture and how the cooperative supports the communities it serves, particularly through the Southside Opportunity Fund scholarship program. “Southside Opportunity Fund has awarded 141 scholarships in the amount of 163,000, all of which were awarded to students in Southside Virginia,” Bacon reported.

SEC continues to support connecting Southside Virginia to high-speed internet. “The directors and employees of SEC have grown up in Southside Virginia and understand the strong need for high-speed internet,” Bacon said., adding that the cooperative supports the counties’ efforts in acquiring grant monies, and neighboring cooperative broadband buildouts.

“While SEC may not be stringing the fiber, you can be assured that our commitment to connecting Southside has only been strengthened as we continue to support our county leaders and fellow cooperatives getting Southside Virginia connected,” he reported.

President and CEO Jason Loehr reported that SEC is financially healthy in the face of rising interest rates, rising commodity prices, and labor and material shortages. “We have exceeded 58,000 services and total infrastructure investment of over $395 million that spans over 8,400 miles of line and 15,000 square miles of service territory,” he said.

Loehr also discussed rising wholesale power costs and how they affect members’ electric bills. “We hope as the economical and geopolitical conditions begin to settle down a little bit, we will see some relief in our electric bills,” he said.

“We’re here to do right by you, our member-owners. I will work every single day to make the experience here at SEC better, safer and more reliable. I will stay committed to the cooperative principles we were built on,” he said. “I look forward to serving each and every one of you, and thank the board of directors for their confidence in me to lead this organization.”

—Report by VMD Association