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I call it the Tale of Two Terms.
That’s how I describe my experience as NRECA president during the past two years. The first year was an eye-opening experience, during which I was fortunate to speak at numerous electric cooperatives and events. Even with more than 20 years as a co-op CEO, I learned a lot about our network.
In my second year, I relinquished my frequent-flyer credentials for a virtual login. Like you, 2020 was a year of constant adjustment and perseverance. Though I am hoping that this year begins our transition to better days, I am proud of the work we have been able to do during the pandemic. It reflects the resilience of electric cooperatives and our commitment to the members and communities we serve.
In my first column in RE Magazine two years ago, I wrote about the future of America’s electric cooperatives—the challenges our industry was facing, the possibilities of new opportunities, and the need for co-ops to be leaders for the next generation.
I recall that during the first quarter of my presidency, I traveled to three regions of the country within about 10 days to speak at statewide meetings. I witnessed the diversity of our membership. For the first time, I felt the weight of this responsibility as NRECA president.
Then 2020 delivered a sweeping curveball. My travel became less frequent after our 2020 annual meeting. Our board transitioned to virtual meetings, adapting to the new way our 48 states in six times zones could still meet. Yet I believe our network, through our national association, has created pathways to leverage the co-op business model as a means of embracing change for the benefit of our members. Those paths to the future are unique to each co-op, defined by the expectations of their members.
The events of the past year also provided an opportunity to demystify the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I am proud of the strides we have made in this area, the conversations we’ve prompted across the country, and the willingness of co-ops to discuss this subject openly and honestly.
My journey as NRECA president has been humbling. My predecessors on the NRECA board of directors inspired and encouraged me, providing a level of support and energy culminating in the choice to elect me as the association’s first Black president.
I worked alongside a great team on the NRECA board’s executive committee—Vice President Chris Christensen of Montana and Secretary-Treasurer Tony Anderson from Michigan—along with NRECA leaders Jim Matheson and Jeffrey Connor. I am confident that our national trade association is in good hands. I expect to virtually hand the president’s gavel to Chris in the coming weeks. I look forward to supporting him as he brings his experience, entrepreneurial spirit, and lifelong-learning approach to the role.
Presiding over our national association board has been an honor. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wife, Selene, my board and colleagues at Roanoke Electric, my fellow NRECA directors, the executives and staff at NRECA, and my friends across the cooperative network.
Thank you for this opportunity. I look forward to being part of the future of America’s electric cooperatives.