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MAY 2019

Suwannee Valley



SVEC member Clark Dechant enjoys a life in aviation


Learn about District 3 Trustee Sam Roberson


SVEC hosts 82nd annual meeting


Suwannee Valley


Michael S. McWaters Executive V.P./CEO

Suwannee Valley Currents is a monthly newsletter published by Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative, © 2019. It is distributed without charge to all consumermembers of the cooperative.

Flying to new heights One of the biggest differences between electric cooperatives and other utilities is the role of our members. You are more than just customers and consumers. Each member of Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative is also an owner with a stake in our system. Nowhere is the important role of our members more apparent than at the cooperative’s annual meeting. Each year, our member-owners have the chance to meet with the leaders of their cooperative, learn about plans for the future and make their own opinions heard. It’s a unique experience in the utility world, and one I look forward to every year. This year’s meeting was no exception, and I would like to thank each of you who came out to be a part of it. If you weren’t able to attend, you can find a brief recap of the meeting in this newsletter. In short, SVEC has made great strides toward improving reliability over the last year, all while maintaining a safety record we can be proud of. You can also find an update on our exciting new program, Operation Round Up. Even though we are just a few months into raising money through Operation Round Up, SVEC and our members have already made a significant difference to children in our area. So far, the cooperative has approved 65 grants for a total of $25,420. That money has gone to schools in every county SVEC serves for supplies like books, science lab equipment and math learning aids. Teachers have been overjoyed at the generosity of our members, and we look forward to taking that program to even greater heights in the years to come. There are probably few people who know more about great heights than the subject of this month’s feature story. SVEC member Clark Dechant has flown across the globe for decades. Be sure to take some time to read about his amazing story and his historic biplane. Our members in District 3 can also learn a little more about their trustee and board secretary, Sam Roberson. Mr. Roberson is a Suwannee Valley native through and through, and he has been a valuable member of the board since 2010. Finally, I would like to remind our members that May is National Electrical Safety Month. I encourage each of you to set aside time to reinforce the importance of electrical safety with your family. If you need an update on the latest safety recommendations, you can find useful resources on our website. By respecting the power of electricity, we can all help prevent accidents. Stay safe, and thank you for reading. 

Sign up for SmartHub today! SmartHub is a web and mobile app that lets you conveniently manage your SVEC account. You can track your payment history, pay your bill, monitor your electricity use and much more. To access, simply scan the QR code to the right with your device. 2 | May 2019

WE BELONG TO THOSE WE SERVE Business Office: 800-447-4509 11340 100th St. Live Oak, FL 32060 Lobby Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday Drive-thru Kiosk Open 24 Hours 24/7 Power Outage Reporting 800-752-0025 @SVEC_COOP_FL SVEC is an equal opportunity provider and employer. On the cover: SVEC member Clark Dechant has enjoyed flying airplanes for more than 60 years. Read about his exciting life in the sky. See story, Page 4.

Suwannee Valley Currents

Outta the woods NEW DEER HUNTING RULES FOR 2019-20 SEASON By Tony Young At its February meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission passed new deer hunting rules that begin with the opening of archery and crossbow seasons in Zone A on Aug. 3.

Annual statewide bag limit — five deer, of which only two may be antlerless

Antlerless deer are categorized as any deer, except a spotted fawn, without antlers or whose antlers are less than 5 inches in length. However, antlerless deer may still only be harvested during seasons when they are legal to take, such as during the archery season and on antlerless deer days. Florida was the only state in the Southeast without a specified annual bag limit for deer.

Harvest reporting system

New rules require all hunters — including youth under 16 years of age, resident hunters 65 years and older, those with a disability license, military personnel and those hunting on their homestead in their county of residence — to report deer they harvest. However, deer taken with a deer depredation permit or from a game farm or licensed hunting preserve do not have to be logged and reported through the harvest report system.

Suwannee Valley Currents

Changes to private lands antlerless deer permit program

All antlerless deer taken on lands enrolled in the antlerless deer permit program must be tagged with an issued antlerless deer tag, even if they are harvested on a day when the take of antlerless deer is otherwise allowed, such as archery season, within the zone in which the enrolled lands are located. In addition, the deer must be recorded on the harvest log of and reported to the FWC’s harvest reporting system by the hunter who harvested the deer.

Change to youth antler point exemption

Youth 15 years old and younger may harvest only one antlered deer — any deer having one or more antlers at least 5 inches in length — annually that does not meet antler point regulations for the DMU being hunted, and it counts toward the youth’s annual bag limit.

More information

A comprehensive listing of frequently asked questions on these new deer rules and other statewide hunting rule changes can be found at Hunting. 


From Jason Smith 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1/2

Dough for double-crust pie pints fresh blackberries cups green grapes tablespoons cornstarch Zest from 1 small lemon egg teaspoon freshly grated ginger teaspoon baking soda cups sugar

Heat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8-inch pie plate and place 1 sheet of dough in it, allowing edges to hang over. In a large mixing bowl, toss the berries and grapes in the cornstarch, lemon zest, ginger and sugar, stirring to coat. Pour into pie shell. Place the other sheet of dough on top, and crimp the edges of the 2 sheets of dough together. Then, using a sharp knife, make 4 slits in middle of top to let steam escape. Brush with egg wash (one egg whisked with a little cold water) and place pie on cookie sheet. Tent pie with a sheet of aluminum foil and bake 30-45 minutes. Remove foil and bake a few more minutes to brown the top.

Do you have a great recipe? Email a copy of a recipe you’d like to share to

May 2019 | 3



SVEC member still flying after 60 years

Clark Dechant’s first job out of high school was supposed to pay for college, but somehow the money never made it to his tuition fund. He spent that summer in Alaska, driving trucks on construction sites throughout the state back to Anchorage. But it was the flights out to each site in small Piper and Cessna planes that really captured his imagination. “When I got back home to Vancouver, Washington, I spent all the money I’d earned on flying lessons,” Dechant says. “So I had to get another job to pay for college tuition.” While he did go on to attend Portland State, Dechant couldn’t shake the desire to get back in the air. He started out by ferrying planes for Piper Aircraft, taking them from Vero Beach, Florida, and Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, back to Vancouver. After he built up enough flight hours, Dechant earned his instructor certification so he could teach others to fly. He earned certification as an instrument flight instructor, multiengine flight instructor, floatplane flight instructor and glider instructor. “One thing I love about aviation is there’s always one more step to go,” he says. “There’s always something else to study or something else to accomplish.”


When he was trying to break into the aviation industry, Dechant says he often felt he was falling just short. “When I first started, they wanted a college degree, which I didn’t have. Then they wanted pilots with perfect vision, but I wear glasses,” he says. “So I was always just a little bit behind. But I think I made it far in the field because I really did love it when I was flying.” Dechant spent many years flying out of Cordova, Alaska, carrying everything from mail to frozen meat and fish eggs. The job allowed him to throw out the rule book and approach any situation he might run into on his own terms. “I like being able to work things out myself instead of going to a certain page for a certain situation,” he says. “Flying in Alaska, you face each problem as it comes and do the best you can without having a rule book.” Because Cordova didn’t have a Coast Guard helicopter, Dechant was also often called to assist state troopers with search and rescue operations. One night flight to rescue an injured fisherman still sticks out in his mind. 4 | May 2019

Suwannee Valley Currents

In 1999 Clark Dechant restored a 1942 Stearman biplane. His late wife, Mary, designed the paint job and personalized the plane’s registration number with their wedding date. Clark Dechant spent many years in Alaska flying supplies and goods out of Cordova. He even assisted state troopers with search and rescue operations.

“Ordinarily, you don’t fly floatplanes at night because you can’t really see the surface of the water,” he says. “It was pitch black when I made the approach, so I had to make a real shallow descent because I really didn’t know when I was going to touch the water.” Later in his career, Dechant spent 12 years in Saudi Arabia, first as a flight instructor for Saudia Airlines in the city of Jeddah and then as a pilot for the country’s National Commission of Wildlife Conservation and Development. Dechant’s wife, Mary, shared in all of his airborne adventures, even designing the paint job on the 1942 Stearman biplane he restored in 1999. Perhaps her proudest touch was personalizing the plane’s registration number, N1177, in honor of their wedding date: Nov. 11, 1977. Suwannee Valley Currents

Mary Dechant passed away five years ago, but her name still adorns the front seat of the plane. “She flew with me everywhere and gave me a lot of support in my aviation interests,” Dechant says. “Her name is still on our plane, and I won’t take it off. It will be that way until I sell it.”


After a professional aviator career that lasted more than 50 years, Dechant mostly flies for fun these days. He still takes his Stearman to air shows and flyins and provides occasional instruction. But much of his time is spent at the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association in Live Oak. There, Dechant joins fellow aviation enthusiasts as they build their own aircraft and discuss challenging piloting

scenarios sent by the national EAA. But mostly, it’s just an excuse to meet other people with a passion for flight. “It’s social as much as anything. It’s not all building, because after the planes are built there are places to go and things to do,” he says. Even with a decades-long career behind him, Dechant doesn’t see himself tiring of the sky anytime soon. There are always new things to learn, new journeys to enjoy and a freedom that can’t be replicated with his feet on the ground. “When you’re flying you know if you’re doing a bad job or a good job,” he says. “You don’t have to have somebody tell you because you can tell if you’re holding altitude or a heading or making a good approach. The rewards are built right in.”  May 2019 | 5


Q: What line of work are you in?

other, worked together and was involved in the community. I like feeling responsible to the members of the cooperative, because they pay their bill and rely on us to furnish a valuable service.

I’ve been a farmer all my life, but I retired in 2004. My dad died in 1975, so my two brothers and I formed a partnership. We were tobacco growers in the latter years, but in the earlier years it was soybeans and corn. We had some beef cattle and a few hogs way back. We’ve lived on the family farm since 1975.

Q: What do you enjoy most about serving on the board?

I like to be involved. We have a good board that works well together. I love the employees of the cooperative, and I come up here to see them all the time. It’s a challenge to be on the board, and I have the time to do it.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

I go to church, golf and fish. I work in my garden and give the results away to people. I enjoy doing things for others.

Q: What is the most important impact SVEC has on its community?

Q: What made you want to serve on the board?


When Reginald Scott retired, I was asked if I’d be interested in becoming a trustee. I sat in on a meeting and got elected in 2010. I’ve been on the board ever since.

Q: What are you passionate about as a trustee?

I like being part of the cooperative family. When I came on board, I liked that everyone got along with each

GEORGIA Jennings

H A M I LT O N C O U N T Y Jasper





White Springs




129 Mayo





Dowling Park


Live Oak






Sam Roberson represents District 3, which is comprised of Suwannee County north of County Road 136 and west of U.S. Highway 129. He lives north of Live Oak and has served on the board since 2010.

What the cooperative does with the Operation Round Up program is great. It pushes teachers to challenge each other and to work even harder to earn that grant money. It’s the same with the student scholarships. They have to work hard and apply themselves to earn them. Operation Round Up may add a few cents to your light bill, but you’re helping children.


Lake City






6 | May 2019

Suwannee Valley Currents

Use SmartHub to monitor your energy usage

No one likes having a high energy bill and SmartHub can help you manage your energy usage. SmartHub is a web and mobile app that lets you conveniently manage your SVEC account. Anytime. Anywhere. • To access, open the SmartHub app on your mobile device or visit SVEC’s website. • View and compare your daily usage with previous time periods. You will be more aware than ever of how your daily activities affect your electricity consumption. • SmartHub users have lowered their bills by discovering practices that lead to high bills. Get started with SmartHub today by going to

Register with county emergency management The Florida Division of Emergency Management allows citizens with special needs to register with their county emergency management agency. Information submitted to the registry will only be used for planning and, if necessary, to provide emergency or disaster services. Residents of all Florida counties can register using the online Florida Special Needs Registry: Residents of Columbia, Hamilton, Lafayette and Suwannee counties can also request a special needs registration form by visiting or calling their county’s emergency management office. Columbia County: 263 NW Lake City Ave. Lake City, FL 32055 386-758-1383

Lafayette County: 194 SW Virginia Circle Mayo, FL 32066 386-294-1950

Hamilton County: 1133 US Highway 41 NW Suite 1 Jasper, FL 32052 386-792-6647

Suwannee County: 617 Ontario Ave. SW Live Oak, FL 32064 386-364-3405

Suwannee Valley Currents

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY In honor of Memorial Day, SVEC’s office will be closed on Monday, May 27. Our 24-hour outage reporting system is always available as is our drive-thru payment kiosk. We’ll have standby crews available to restore power if needed.

May 2019 | 7

SVEC in the

COMMUNITY SVEC HOSTS 82ND ANNUAL MEETING SVEC members gathered for the cooperative’s 82nd annual meeting on Saturday, April 27, at the Suwannee County Coliseum. The meeting provided an opportunity to enjoy complimentary coffee and doughnuts with neighbors, friends and family. The cooperative was excited to welcome 633 registered members and more than 800 total attendees. Visitors played bingo and were entered for door prizes, with SVEC giving away more than 250 gifts. CEO Mike McWaters reminded the attendees of SVEC’s five core values: safety, member experience, outreach to community, reliability and economic viability. Those values were reflected in Board Vice President Tyler Putnal’s own review of the cooperative’s accomplishments over the last year. Grace Jackson, a 2018 Youth Tour delegate, addresses the crowd at SVEC’s annual meeting about her trip to Washington D.C.

Those include continuing to award college scholarships to high school seniors, launching Operation Round Up to support local students, upgrading the electric system to improve the reliability and affordability of service, and going more than four years with only one lost-time injury — a twisted ankle. Members also heard from Christian Rodriguez and Grace Jackson about the unforgettable memories they made on both the Tallahassee and Washington Youth Tours. Both students thanked cooperative members for the opportunity and encouraged future high school juniors to participate if given the chance. This year’s meeting was another chance for SVEC members to be active participants in their electric co-op and to be part of the cooperative family. Thank you to everyone who joined us and made the event a success.

SVEC’s Operation Round Up foundation recently presented its first check to the Hamilton County School District.

ORU donations go to help teachers like Gwen Vann buy supplies for their classrooms.

OPERATION ROUND UP CONTRIBUTES $25K TO SCHOOLS SVEC’s Operation Round Up gives members the opportunity to make a difference in their community with just some pocket change each month. Four months in, the benefits of those contributions are already being felt in schools across Columbia, Hamilton, Lafayette and Suwannee counties. So far, the Operation Round Up board has approved 65 grants going to teachers in nine schools for a total of $25,420. Those funds have been put toward much-needed school supplies, including text books, science lab equipment and math learning aids. Teachers have been overjoyed at the generosity shown by cooperative members in supporting their efforts to prepare their students for the future. As Operation Round Up continues to grow, we look forward to funding many more worthy projects in the years to come.

Profile for SVEC

Currents-May 2019  

Currents-May 2019