​​​​​​​​​​​​​​This month's question:

​How is your co-op addressing diversity, equity and inclusion?

Luis Reyes

CEO Kit Carson Electric Cooperative​, Taos, New Mexico

Size: 29,163 meters

​The seven cooperative principles are the bedrock of electric cooperatives’ past and future successes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, those principles have been tested and put into practice. I believe the most important in today’s time is “concern for community,” because it best reflects my desire, my duty to promote and live what makes my community special: diversity, equity and inclusion.

Since the 1500s, my community in northern New Mexico has lived and survived in a tri-culture environment: Native American, Hispanic and Anglo. I grew up respecting the diversity that makes us special, and I have learned to respect the differences and similarities between our cultures that have made us unique.

During the pandemic, I have seen the gaps that exist in our society: in health care, education, infrastructure, broadband, the economy, homelessness, wealth and even social interaction. To bridge these gaps, we created COAD—Communities Active in Addressing Disasters. I saw concern for community in action as we fed, housed and set up Wi-Fi hotspots to deliver broadband to the less fortunate.

I saw a community of diverse culture and backgrounds come together to make sure all our friends and families were taken care of and no one was left out. We came together to weather this storm. A diverse, inclusive and equitable way of life made us a better cooperative and a better community.

Bill Hetherington

CEO Bandera Electric Cooperative, Banderas ​Texas

Size: 36,693 meters

​​We hear a lot about the importance of corporate culture in the success of an organization. At the heart of any corporate culture is the shared vision and values of the organization. It is what drives the interactions between employees and the transactions with members. At BEC, our vision is about reimagining rural America, and that is built on corporate values that include diversity, equity—or as we define it, respect for all—and inclusivity.

We incorporate those values in assessing every potential hire. When you have employees who truly believe the vision and the values of the organization, they become motivated and inspired, which creates a very innovative and trusting culture, because respect and inclusivity breed trust.

Before I came to work at BEC, I had the chance to work for a Portuguese company with a workforce that was global and culturally diverse. And even though we were all from different countries and spoke different languages, there was a culture of innovation and performance because we shared the same values.

To continue to foster these values, we established BEC University with required training and educational opportunities for all employees. By addressing diversity, equity and inclusivity in this manner, we are being complicit in the success of our organization and our communities.

John Hewa

President/CEO Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Size: 165,121 meters

​At Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, we embrace and believe in the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. We strive to integrate DEI into the core of our organization through our workforce and its interactions, our community engagement and the design and access of the programs and services we offer.

In 2020, REC began formalizing initiatives to grow our current DEI knowledge and programs. Recognizing this is a journey, we began by listening and bringing in national expert advisers to help coach and guide us forward.

Some of REC’s steps in this journey include: adopting a resolution encouraging NRECA to embrace DEI; partnering with advisers to develop our DEI strategy; developing a formal DEI plan; holding leadership workshops focused on DEI strengths and opportunities; Martin Luther King Jr. Day recognized as a holiday for all employees; continued emphasis on DEI culture in internal publications by highlighting the contributions and experiences of those who traditionally have been underrepresented and marginalized; hiring a recruiter to expand our reach in identifying diverse candidate pools ensuring REC hires top talent.

We remain committed to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce, which aligns with—and is built upon—our core values of caring, respect, integrity and service.

Vernon “Buddy” Hasten

President/CEO Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., Little Rock, Arkansas

Size: Statewide/G&T​

I spent many years serving our great nation in the United States Navy before embarking on my journey in the electric cooperative movement. During that time, I learned that a diverse workforce results in a successful work team.

At Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. and Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., we often tell our member-owners that “the mix matters” when it comes to generation resources. A diverse portfolio ensures consumers have access to reliable, affordable electricity delivered in a responsible manner.

Similarly, having the right people in the right roles at the right time doing the right things is mission critical. I found this to be true in the Navy, and I have found it to be equally true in the cooperative world.

We seek employee input for solutions to issues that we face today and those we will face in the future. I have learned over the years that diversity of ideas from a diverse group of employees can lead to great, innovative solutions to business challenges. Accordingly, AECC and AECI value, appreciate and encourage the contributions of every member of our workforce.

At AECC, the mix not only matters to ensure reliable and affordable generation resources, but it matters to have a diverse employee base to power the long-term success of our cooperatives.