NASHVILLE, Tenn.—NRECA honored co-op leaders with four prestigious awards at PowerXchange this week. Here’s a look at their accomplishments:
Electric Cooperative Purpose Award
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Mohave Electric Cooperative of Bullhead City, Arizona, won this top honor, which recognizes cooperatives for meaningful contributions to the community and for exemplifying the co-op purpose.
Mohave EC is the first co-op in Arizona to build a fiber-optic network as it strives to provide reliable broadband service to about 42,000 members.
“Mohave Electric Cooperative has a long history of dedication to the seventh cooperative principle—concern for community,” said NRECA President Chris Christensen. “Under the leadership of CEO Tyler Carlson, MEC is moving rapidly to provide high-speed internet service to its members, a first-of-its-kind endeavor for an electric co-op in Arizona. Tyler understands that the lack of quality broadband is much more than an inconvenience; it is a crisis.”
The co-op partnered with TWN Communications last year to create the fiber-optic network and celebrated their first residential and business broadband connections.
“We at Mohave Electric are bringing the cooperative model full circle by once again providing a service that the investor-owned market failed to supply,” Carlson said. “As the CEO and on behalf of the board members and staff at Mohave Electric, we thank NRECA for recognizing our ‘first of its kind’ fiber project for an Arizona electric co-op.”
Clyde T. Ellis Award
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This award, named in honor of NRECA’s first CEO, honors those who have made exemplary contributions that promote the principles and progress of rural electrification and the development and use of natural resources.
Sheldon Petersen, the recently retired CEO of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp., and Curtis Wynn, former NRECA president and the CEO of SECO Energy, were honored with this year’s award.
“As the head of CFC, Sheldon has been one of the electric cooperative community’s most recognizable figures,” Christensen said. “He grew the CFC loan portfolio from about $7 billion to nearly $27 billion, allowing co-ops to make substantial investments in the communities they serve. By expanding CFC’s offerings, he also helped co-ops adapt to a rapidly changing electric power sector.”
Petersen said he was “stunned, and obviously delighted” to receive the award.
“I was in the industry for 45 years,” he said. “To receive something like this from NRECA, I take it to heart. It is very special.”
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Christensen said Wynn’s “leadership extends well beyond his cooperative and has influenced the entire electric cooperative family and their member-consumers.”
“He recognized early that co-ops can be engines of economic growth, job creators and essential service providers,” Christensen said. “A highly influential leader, Curtis embodies the cooperative purpose through his commitment to engaging with members and improving their quality of life.”
Wynn, who served as president and CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative in North Carolina for 24 years before joining SECO Energy last year, said the award “ranks among the highest honors that I’ve had in my years in the business.”
“To be recognized by peers to be deserving of this award is a highlight of my tenure in the cooperative program,” he said. “To have it done in front of so many cooperators just puts icing on the cake.”
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The President’s Award recognizes individuals and co-ops that have made outstanding leadership contributions to rural electrification and to the nation, their states or communities. This year’s recipients are Bill Andrew, the retired president and CEO of Delaware Electric Cooperative, and the Gila River Indian Community Utility Authority in Arizona.
Andrew pioneered the “beat the peak” load management alert system that has been adopted by co-ops throughout the country. It asks members to voluntarily lower their electric use during periods of peak demand.
“Bill set Delaware Electric’s vision during his 16-year tenure as CEO, dramatically transforming the co-op and spurring innovation that has benefited co-ops across the nation,” Christensen said. “He has been a tireless advocate for the electric cooperative movement, sparing no effort to help members understand what it means to be part of a co-op.”
Andrew said it’s “a great honor to be recognized by your peers and colleagues regarding your life’s work.”
“I would like to offer a special thanks to the employees of Delaware Electric Cooperative for believing that we would make a difference, the board of directors for allowing us to be innovative, and the cooperative family for adopting our ideas,” he said.
Christensen said the Chandler, Arizona-based Gila River Indian Community Utility Authority, which serves about 3,400 members over a 400-square-mile service territory, has inspired young people in its community. GRICUA’s programs include the Washington Youth Tour, high school and college internships, a youth board internship and an academic program that builds competencies in science, technology, engineering, architecture, agriculture, art and math.
“GRICUA has made an enormous investment in its community’s youth, improving their quality of life and providing tremendous opportunity for growth through its Washington Youth Tour, summer internships and educational programs,” Christensen said. “GRICUA’s work has inspired and altered the career path for many youth.”
Ken Stock, GRICUA’s general manager, said the Gila River Indian Community “has focused a great deal of resources into establishing a tribal utility dedicated to serving the community with exceptional service and reliability.”
“GRICUA recognizes the value in investing in the community’s leadership of tomorrow,” he said.
George W. Haggard Memorial Journalism Award
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Rural Missouri, the statewide magazine of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, was recognized for its forthright, concise and balanced presentation of ideas advancing electric co-ops and their consumer-members.
This is the fourth time that the magazine has won the award under the leadership of editor Jim McCarty, who joined the publication in 1985. It is the sixth time that the Missouri statewide association has won the honor, dating back to 1972.
“Statewide co-op publications have gone through a surge in quality over the past five or six years,” said Scot Hoffman, editor of NRECA’s RE Magazine. “Right now, it’s Rural Missouri that’s setting the standard. They’re consistently good across the board, and that’s a function of Jim’s philosophy and leadership and the great editorial team he’s assembled.”
McCarty said he’s “extremely proud of the work our staff has been doing.”
“In 2020, we switched to the magazine format (from a tabloid), and that has opened up new design opportunities for us,” he said. “It lets us showcase the photos that have always been Rural Missouri’s signature. The new look has given our staff a shot of adrenaline that shows up in the final product.”
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