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Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News December 2019

South Alabama Electric Cooperative

Under the hood How Bullard’s Garage kept SAEC’s engines purring for decades

The joy of the holidays Board of Trustees James Shaver President District 2

Delaney Kervin Vice President District 5

Douglas Green Secretary/Treasurer District 6

Bill Hixon District 1

James May At Large

Glenn Reeder District 7

Raymond Trotter District 3

Ben Fox District 4


David Bailey, General Manager December has always been a time of great joy for my family and me. For one, the Alabama heat has usually broken by now, giving us a rest from summer. Winter days in the South can sometimes feel more like spring in other parts of the country. We only get so many opportunities to appreciate cooler temperatures around here, so we enjoy them while we can. But our biggest source of joy this time of year is Christmas. Children around the world are writing their Christmas lists, and their parents, or grandparent in my case, look at them and pass out. And there’s the fact that my grandson has his birthday in December. When I asked him which of his lists was longer he firmly told me, “Duh, Christmas.” For those of us who are Christians, this is also the time when we celebrate the birth of hope and God’s grace in sending us His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. When it comes to the members of South Alabama Electric Cooperative, December is a time of more earthly joy when we send out capital credit checks for the year. There’s one member of my church who asks me every time I see him when he will get his check. Well, the time has finally come. This year, your board of trustees approved the retirement of $1.6 million in capital credits. SAEC is blessed to be in strong-enough financial condition to be able to return that kind of money to our members, and we do not take the opportunity lightly. Refunding capital credits is just one of the benefits of being a cooperative member. I hope that all of you will be able to put your refund checks to good use. Maybe those funds can even soften the financial impact of the Christmas lists in your life. Another one of the benefits of cooperative membership is knowing that we are as dedicated to this community as you are. As a result, we try to partner with local businesses that share those values. For over 50 years, Bullard’s Garage was one of those partners that understood the cooperative way. The garage closed earlier this year, but you can learn more about its legacy in this month’s magazine.

Glen and Harry Bullard aren’t employees of SAEC. They’re members just like you. But during any major crisis, whether it was a hurricane or a snowstorm, Bullard’s Garage was always right there with our linemen making sure their vehicles were ready for the job at hand. When the cooperative would provide regular, day-to-day service, Bullard’s was there to maintain our fleet and even pull the occasional truck out of the mud. I know the Troy community will feel the absence of Bullard’s Garage now that it has closed its doors. Our fleet will certainly miss the expertise its workers provided, but I am thankful for their decades of dedicated service. Fortunately, we are also blessed with employees who are always ready to step up to help get the job done. This month, I’d like to take a moment to highlight Billy Ray Lester, who took on the challenge of becoming a construction foreman two years ago. You can learn more in this magazine about the wonderful job he has done leading his crew. And if you know him or see him around town, please join me in congratulating him for two years of good work. Of course, we continue to move forward with our new building project. If you drive by the construction site this month you should finally be able to see signs of progress, which is a great Christmas present in itself. I know that once it is finished, the new facility will be a valuable asset for our members. As we approach the end of this year, I would like to encourage everyone to take some time to slow down and appreciate the little things. The holiday season can be a hectic time of year, and it’s easy to miss special moments with family and friends as it all speeds by. Our tradition in the Bailey household is to watch the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” together. I’m sure it will continue this year, as the kids and grandkids will never let me forget it. I hope and pray that you have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your own holiday traditions. n


Employee Spotlight Contact Information Mailing address P.O. Box 449 Troy, AL 36081 Phone 334-566-2060 800-556-2060 Website www.southaec.com

Lester celebrates two years as foreman Like many of SAEC’s foremen, Billy Ray Lester worked his way up the ranks as a lineman before an opportunity to lead his own crew came along. Lester has worked at the cooperative for 28 years, starting out as a groundsman before working on a service truck and then a digger truck, and eventually serving as an A-class lineman for 20 years. “I would do hot work, anything with live electricity that requires you to wear gloves, changing out poles, running the bucket truck,” Lester says. “There are always poles to change out or new lines to be built for our members, and you know they really appreciate it.” When Lester’s foreman retired two years ago, he was given a chance to step up to construction foreman. The new position was a challenge since he was now responsible not only for his own safety but also that of his team. But he was prepared. “I have to think about how we’re going to do the job, plan it out and think about the safest way to do things where nobody gets hurt,” Lester says. “Before, I mainly had to watch out for myself, and the foreman had already thought out the process.”

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Since then, Lester has settled into his new role and is now celebrating two years as a foreman. “Billy Ray is a real professional,” General Manager David Bailey says. “He has decades of experience as an SAEC lineman, so I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that he has thrived as a foreman these last couple of years.” When Lester isn’t at work, he tends to the cow farm he and his wife inherited from his father-in-law. And while he used to take part in fishing tournaments, these days he mostly fishes for fun when he has time to take his boat out on the Alabama River. In fact, being able to take that love of the outdoors with him on the job is one of Lester’s favorite parts of being a foreman. “I like being able to go different places around our service area and meeting new folks,” he says. “I like working outside better than working up in an office myself. We’re always out with the crew and having a good time together.”

SAEC App Available from the App Store and Google Play BY MAIL P.O. Box 449 Troy, AL 36081 WEBSITE www.southaec.com PHONE PAYMENTS 877-566-0611, credit cards accepted NIGHT DEPOSITORY Available at our Highway 231 office, day or night PAYMENT POINTS Regions Bank - Troy branch Troy Bank and Trust - all branch locations 1st National Bank of Brundidge and Troy First Citizens - Luverne branch Banks Buy Rite - Banks Country 1 Stop - Honoraville IN PERSON 13192 U.S. 231, Troy, AL 36081 Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Questions? For questions concerning Capital Credits, contact: capital.credits@southaec.com For questions concerning Billing, contact: billing@southaec.com When Billy Ray Lester isn’t working at SAEC, he tends to the cow farm he and his wife inherited.

Alabama Living

For questions concerning Construction, contact: construction@southaec.com DECEMBER 2019 5


ROLLING Bullard’s Garage kept SAEC vehicles on the road for half a century

The humming of 37 engines radiates across the pole yard each morning as South Alabama Electric Cooperative linemen prepare for another day of service. The fleet of vehicles includes bucket trucks, digger trucks, pickups and SUVs. “Those trucks make our linemen’s job much easier,” SAEC General Manager David Bailey says. “They allow us to work efficiently and to keep our employees safe.” For 50 years, SAEC relied on two brothers — Glen and Harry Bullard — and Bullard’s Garage in Troy to keep the fleet running. If a truck was stuck or broken down on the side of the road, their response was swift. If a vehicle needed repairs after a shift, linemen would drop it off at Bullard’s Garage. By the next morning, repairs would be complete. The brothers even worked during severe weather and widespread electrical outages to keep trucks on the road. 6 DECEMBER 2019


“They were as important to South Alabama Electric as any employee,” says Wayne Mitchell, SAEC’s manager of stores and purchases. “If you called them, they would drop whatever they were doing and come fix it. They would always come, because they knew we needed it, and it didn’t matter if it was after hours or on Saturday or Sunday. They came running.” “For years, they never took a truck to anybody but us,” Glen Bullard says. “I always felt like I owed it to them to always be there. South Alabama Electric was a loyal customer to us, so we were a loyal customer to them.”

A blessing in disguise

In 2019, Bullard’s Garage closed after serving the area since 1965. During its 54 years of operation, the garage specialized in working with large heavy-duty trucks, including pulpwood trucks and farm trucks for customers such as Wayne Farms. “I like the satisfaction of getting the car back to running like it was,” Bullard says. Bullard learned the trade from watching his father and uncle work on cars. When he was a teenager, he joined the National Guard so he could have some extra income to buy cars. He bought a 1940 Plymouth, a ’41 Chevrolet and a ’51 Pontiac. In the early 1960s, he gave drag racing a try and finished with 27 victories in six years. After leaving the National Guard at age 22, he worked at several places before landing at the Chevrolet store in Troy. One day he offered to help fix a customer’s car after hours with a part the Chevrolet store didn’t have in stock. “I told the fellow to meet me at the service station and I would put a ball joint on his car,” Bullard says. “They found out about that, and I got fired on Monday morning.” From that, he decided he wanted to start his own shop, and a friend offered to rent him a building for $50 a month. The new business did well. Bullard was one of the few people in the area who could work on larger trucks. Meanwhile, Harry Bullard was working at a welding shop. But he wanted to go into business with his brother, so he joined him to run the welding part of the business while Glen Bullard ran the mechanic shop. Harry Bullard, one of the best welders in the area, earned the reputation of being able to build pretty much anything. He once built a lift for SAEC to help load Alabama Living

The Bullards were always ready to lend SAEC a hand, whether at night, on the weekend or in the middle of a storm.

heavy transformers and electric wire onto the trucks. He also built bodies for the trucks, toolboxes and a pole trailer. Anything they needed, he built it. “We never had any problems in all the years we worked together,” Glen Bullard says. “We never had one argument or fight.”

A perfect partnership

A few years after the shop opened, Glen Bullard received a call from SAEC. “They had a truck out near the county line between Troy and Luverne, and they wanted to know if I could go get it,” he says. “I went and got it, and I put a gasket on it from an old flathead Dodge and it cured that problem. The next day, the general manager wanted to know if I was interested in doing work on the trucks. That’s the way we got started.” SAEC knew of Bullard’s reputation. “It was like they were our own personal

mechanic,” Mitchell says. “They have done anything for our trucks. A lot of times the crews would call at the end of the day and say there was a problem with a truck. They would drop it off at Bullard’s Garage, and by the next morning it would be back here and fixed.” Bullard says they had engines sitting in their shop ready to go in case SAEC needed one changed out, which happened every few months. If one needed changing, they would stay and work late into the night to get it done. “I needed the business, and they needed their truck back working,” Bullard says. “Back in the day, they didn’t have as many trucks as they do now. If one wasn’t running, that was a big loss for them. I felt an obligation to get the truck back to them as quickly as possible.” The service Bullard’s Garage provided wasn’t limited to working on the trucks. During widespread outages, they would DECEMBER 2019 7

have their wrecker trucks out working alongside the linemen. “Elba flooded in the early ’90s, and it rained so much that we had a lot of outages,” Mitchell says. “We didn’t have wenches on the trucks, so they would come and pull them out with their wrecker if they got stuck. They ended up working all night and had three wreckers out there. Even when Hurricane Opal came through, we had a generator problem at the office, and they were out there in the rain trying to fix it. They stayed out there all night. You can’t put a price tag on work like that. You could depend on them.” As the years went by, it became harder for Bullard’s Garage to work on their clients’ newer heavy-duty trucks, which were more reliant on computerized systems that required repairs from vehicle dealers. Bullard says it was a difficult decision to close the shop doors for good, but he also felt like the time had come. He says that what he has missed the most is the relationships he had with customers like SAEC. “I was proud of the relationships with our customers,” Bullard says. “That’s why I stayed in business as long as I did, because of those relationships. Wayne would come by the shop and talk with me every now and then, and that’s what I loved. It’s hard to stop when you have relationships like that.” SAEC was grateful for the many dedicated years of service Bullard’s Garage gave to the cooperative. “A lot of people don’t realize how much it takes to keep the fleet running,” Bailey says. “There are always issues with them because of where those trucks have to go and the work they have to do. Bullard’s Garage kept our fleet running for years, and they did it well. Our cooperative is so grateful for everything they did.” n 8 DECEMBER 2019

The personal relationships with customers, like SAEC’s manager of stores and purchases Wayne Mitchell, are what Glen Bullard will miss most now that the garage has closed its doors.


SAEC returns $1.6 MILLION to members As a not-for-profit utility, South Alabama Electric Cooperative puts our members first in everything we do. One way we do that is by returning unused funds to members through the capital credits program. This year, SAEC is returning nearly $1.6 million to our members. At the end of each year, SAEC subtracts expenses from total revenue and sets aside the remaining money to go back to members in the form of capital credits. Members receive a portion of those credits based on their purchases from the cooperative in the past year. These credits serve as a reflection of each member’s ownership of the cooperative. However, not all credits returned to members are from the previous year. Because SAEC still needs funds to continue operating, expanding and making improvements to our electric system, we use a hybrid method to return capital credits. The 2019 retirement will include funds from 1987, 1988 and a portion of 2018. Counting this year’s repayments, SAEC has retired more than $13.8 million in capital credits to our members. This program is just another way we put our members first in everything we do.

Alabama Living

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