INSIDE: THE FRONT LINE
Service team is there for members
MEET YOUR TRUSTEE
Learn about District 7 Trustee Hugh Hunter
AROUND THE COMMUNITY
SVEC helps power the economy
CURRENTS October 2019
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.
By our community, for our community Many of our members probably think about October as the time when college football is in full swing. For others, it might be time to start planning elaborate costumes for Halloween. But around Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative, October means one thing: National Co-op Month. Regular readers of this column could be forgiven for thinking every month is Co-op Month. After all, I do like to celebrate the cooperative difference every chance I get. But October gives us a special opportunity to recognize the impact that the more than 40,000 cooperatives, including 900 electric cooperatives, make across our country. The theme of this year’s Co-op Month is “By the community, for the community.” It’s an appropriate theme because, just like SVEC, our fellow cooperatives were born out of their local areas and founded by members who decided to serve a need in their community. But cooperatives do more than simply provide necessary services to their neighbors. Cooperatives across the nation create nearly 2 million jobs, providing more than $74 billion in annual wages. Electric cooperatives alone account for more than one-third of the nation’s electric utility industry, powering over 19 million homes, schools, farms and businesses. If you’re curious about the impact SVEC has in our local community, you can learn more in this newsletter. You’ll find a report that includes detailed information about how our cooperative contributes to the local economy in terms of labor income, taxes and more. At the end of the day, though, our primary mission is to bring safe, reliable and affordable electric service to consumer-members like you. Everyone at the cooperative works hard each day to make that service possible and to ensure each interaction you have with us is a positive one. But when it comes to repairing lines and installing new service, the front line for SVEC is most certainly our Service Department. When you’re experiencing a problem with your electric service or want a new area light installed, it’s our Service Department team who shows up to make sure the job gets done. That means they have to be ready to change gears at a moment’s notice so they can deal with pressing issues. You can learn more about the important work they do day to day in this newsletter. You can also get to know SVEC board member Hugh Hunter. Mr. Hunter has served on the SVEC board of trustees for more than 30 years, representing our members in District 7. He is one of our longest-serving trustees for good reason: He is always there when our members need him. That, more than anything, is what cooperatives are all about. When our community needed someone to provide electricity, its residents came together and created SVEC to fill that need. We never forget who we serve, and we will always put you first.
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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.com facebook.com/sveccoop @SVEC_COOP_FL Instagram.com/sveccoop SVEC is an equal opportunity provider and employer. On the cover: Members of the Service Department replace a breaker on a three-phase pole. See story, page 4.
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National Cooperative Month celebrates our community Cooperatives across the country are celebrating National Cooperative Month in October. This year’s theme, “By the community, for the community,” reflects the deep roots cooperatives like SVEC have in their areas.
SVEC thinks pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and SVEC is proud to join organizations across the country in raising awareness of the disease and the importance of early detection. This month our linemen are wearing pink hard hats to show their support for those in our cooperative family and throughout the community who are fighting breast cancer.
SmartHub keeps you up to speed
Electric cooperatives provide power to more than half of the country’s landmass, serving 42 million people in 47 states. SVEC is proud to be one of the 831 distribution cooperatives across the United States working with our consumer-members to bring electricity and economic growth to rural communities.
myCHOICE Payments that fit your schedule When money is tight, the arrival of your electric bill each month can be a source of anxiety. But did you know you have a choice of how to pay for your electricity? MyChoice gets rid of the monthly bill by letting members pay for electricity as they use it.
You have enough to keep track of every day without adding your electric bill to the list. That’s why SmartHub keeps track of all the important information regarding your bill and lets you know when there’s something that needs your attention. You can set up notifications to alert you when: • Your bill is available. • A payment is due. • Your payment has posted. • Your bill is overdue. • There is a problem with your payment method. • There is a power outage in your area.
Signing up is easy. Get started today by visiting svecsmarthub.com.
Suwannee Valley Currents
»» No more monthly bills. »» Pay for the electricity you want when you want it. »» No late charges or disconnect fees. »» Track your energy use in the SmartHub app. »» Save money by learning more about your usage. When you switch to MyChoice, your current security deposit can even be put toward paying for electricity. Sign up today at svecmychoice.com, by calling member services at 800-4474509 or by visiting the SVEC office.
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Service Department is there for members On the morning of Sept. 23, SVEC Service Supervisor Craig Ragan was planning to go through the standard calls from members about blinking lights, the need to replace area lights and other routine jobs. Then a truck driven by a member of the public hit a threephase power pole, and plans changed. Fortunately, Ragan and his team know how to roll with the punches. “A power outage is always our first priority,” Ragan says. “Because this was a main three-phase line, the accident left about 400 people without power initially. That’s just one of the things that might happen on a daily basis. It could be people hitting poles or cutting down trees that tear lines down, and then we have to drop what we’re doing to take care of that first.” Ragan and his team aren’t complaining, though. Adjusting to new circumstances multiple times each day is so common that it has become a routine part of the job. “We probably change the game plan four or five times, depending on whatever situation arises,” he says. “We adapt to it and do what we have to do to get the power back on.” Nevertheless, the service team remains systematic. As new challenges come up throughout the day, they follow an established list of priorities to determine what projects to focus on: outages first, then new connections and disconnects, followed by individual member requests related to less-urgent things like blinking lights or area lights. 4 | October 2019
“We have our list of priorities and we follow those to the letter to get the job accomplished,” Ragan says.
After any major outages have been dealt with, the Service Department turns its attention to making connections for new members or disconnecting power where necessary. But the department also helps with system maintenance, such as repair and replacement of equipment. The service team recently replaced several breakers that let SVEC restore power almost immediately.
Suwannee Valley Currents
One example is the breakers placed across the entire electrical system. These devices are designed to keep power flowing to members even after being disrupted by small animals such as squirrels. When a squirrel makes contact with a live wire, the breaker will disconnect service temporarily, giving the squirrel a chance to get off the line before service resumes. It might be an inconvenience, but the breaker ensures it is just a short one. “If that breaker wasn’t there and the squirrel got on the line, the power would be off until we could arrive and fix it,” Ragan says. “But with the breaker, it can come back on almost instantaneously.” SVEC tracks how many times each breaker opens and closes. When the count reaches 100, the Service Department is called to replace the breaker to ensure SVEC maintains reliable service.
SVEC’s Service Department is responsible for making outage repairs, connecting new members, installing area lights and more.
Suwannee Valley Currents
Squirrels aren’t the only reason the breakers are needed. If a section of line is knocked out by something like a fallen tree, those breakers can also be used to reroute power around the problem, restoring service for members long before a crew can be dispatched to make repairs. “Some parts of our service area are an hour drive from the office just to get there,” Ragan says. “By rerouting electricity with the breakers, members can have their power back on much sooner.”
As important as dealing with major repairs and outages is to the cooperative, Ragan’s favorite part of the job is the chance to work with members directly. “The way I look at it is that the Service Department is the front line for service from SVEC,” he says. “When the power goes out, we’re the first guys to see the members. We go out there quickly and provide the most reliable and courteous service we can.” That isn’t always the easiest role to play. After all, a family whose plans have been interrupted by a power outage may not be in the best mood. But in his 30 years on the job, Ragan has learned that taking the time to explain to members what his team is doing to fix the problem can go a long way in creating positive relationships. “We’ve found that most of the time when you explain to members what happened and what we did to restore power, they end up having a positive impression of the job we did,” he says. “You can’t make everybody happy all the time, but that’s what we strive to do. And most of the time we succeed.” For Ragan, getting to be the one who shows up and helps members when they’re in need is what makes his job fulfilling. “When I talk to a member who is upset or having a problem, my goal is to have made them happy by the time I leave,” he says. “That’s what we strive to do in the Service Department. We’re thankful for our members, and I personally think we have the best job in the world.”
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MEET YOUR TRUSTEE
Q: What do you like most about living in the Suwannee Valley?
Q: What do you enjoy most about serving on the board?
I like the people and the rural part of the state that we’re in. I just enjoy the country living and having good neighbors.
I like being there to take care of our members and making sure their interests are at heart when we make decisions. During storms my phone never quits ringing because people know if they call me about an issue, I’ll look into it and get back to them. I’m here to serve the members, because it’s their cooperative, not mine.
Q: What line of work are you in?
I work with the USDA Farm Service Agency as the county executive director. We help farmers and ranchers process their applications for various USDA programs. I also manage my family’s farming operations which include cattle, timber and row crops.
Q: What’s the most important impact SVEC has on its community?
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
HUGH HUNTER District 7
The cooperative provides good jobs and pays a lot in local taxes. Both benefit the residents of the four counties we serve. We also provide reliable service to our members and are very involved in the community with scholarship programs and, now, Operation Round Up.
I love the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. I also do a lot of grilling and smoking, mostly barbecued pork and chicken. My wife does some catering, so if the menu requires something to be cooked on the smoker, that’s where I come in.
Q: What made you want to serve on the SVEC board?
I wanted to represent the members in my district and make sure they had someone to contact if they had an issue, with their electric service. That’s just as important to me today. GEORGIA
Hugh Hunter represents District 7, comprised of the eastern part of Hamilton County and the northern part of Columbia County. He has served on the SVEC board of trustees since 1987.
H AM I LT O N C O UN T Y
7 HUNTER White Springs
SUWAN N EE VACANT C O UN T Y Wellborn
C O L UM B I A C O UN T Y
L AFAY ET T E C O UN T Y
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Suwannee Valley Currents
Mud Creek’s Original Fried Catfish From Mud Creek Bar-B-Que, Hollywood, Alabama Catfish fillets
From tarpon to bass, there’s nothing off limits when kayak fishing By Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Kayak fishing is a growing sport, and it’s easy to see why. Kayaks are nimble, cost less than most motorized boats and provide access to places even the best casts from land just can’t reach. But those who love the sport say kayak fishing is more than just a quick and less expensive way to get on the water. “Because you are so low in the water, there is this sense of vulnerability when you start fishing, but you also have this feeling of freedom and accomplishment, blood, sweat and tears,” says Justin Ritchey, who has kayak fished for more than 10 years and has competed across Florida and internationally. He has taken fourth place in the 2014 Hobie Fishing World Championship in Amsterdam. Ritchey got his start kayaking in college by renting a two-person kayak for the weekend and asking random classmates to foot the rental fee for time on the water. Ritchey would proSuwannee Valley Currents
vide the car, fishing gear and knowledge. What often gets people into kayak fishing is the ability to access places they just can’t reach from shore. “You can go anywhere you want with no stress of a motor breaking down or electronic failure,” Ritchey says. “And because you are quiet, you can often get closer than boat anglers can get.” You also can often get in shallower waters than many motorized boats. While what you catch within paddling distance will vary according to where in Florida you are fishing, if you can catch it, your kayak can take it. Ritchey has personally caught sailfish, blackfin tuna, mutton snapper, kingfish and tarpon from his kayak. “In a boat, when a fish takes a lot of line, you have less control,” he says. “In a kayak, you might be getting towed, but you are never too far away from the fish, which allows you to get the fish in much faster.”
Equal parts flour and cornmeal Salt and pepper (generous portions of each) Good quality oil (such as Crisco or peanut oil) Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Add oil to a heavy skillet, such as cast iron, until it reaches about halfway up the sides. Heat the oil to 350 F. A good test to check the oil temperature is to flick a little of the dry breading mixture into it. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Dredge catfish fillets in the flour mixture, shaking gently to remove excess. Lay a couple of fillets gently in the hot oil and fry for 2-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Turn fillets with a spatula and cook for another 2-4 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and keep warm in the oven on low while frying the remaining fillets.
Do you have a great recipe?
Email a copy of a recipe you’d like to share to email@example.com.
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SVEC in the
COMMUNITY SVEC HELPS POWER THE ECONOMY SVEC does more than power our homes and businesses. The co-op is a driving force in our economy, and it provides and supports hundreds of jobs in our local communities. The value of SVEC’s contribution to the economy was detailed in an economic impact study conducted by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. It found that over five years, from 2013 to 2017, SVEC contributed $239.8 million to Florida’s Gross State Product, including $209.6 million in value added to the local economy, which includes Columbia, Hamilton, Lafayette and Suwannee counties. SVEC’s contribution to our economy can also be measured in jobs. From 2013 to 2017, SVEC directly provided or supported an average of 378 jobs per year and a total of $88.3 million in labor income throughout Florida, including 285 jobs annually and a total of $70.6 million in labor income in the local community. Many of the 89 full- and part-time jobs provided by SVEC are linemen, but other jobs at the co-op include engineers, member service representatives and accountants. With these jobs, we’re able to serve our consumer-members. The economic impact study also found that SVEC generated more than $61.3 million in state and local tax revenue. That revenue is reinvested in strengthening our community’s schools and other essential services. The retirement of capital credits is another way SVEC supports the economy, returning money to families and businesses so they can spend and invest. As a not-for-profit business that operates at cost, revenues above the cost of doing business, known as margins, are allocated to our consumer-members in the form of capital credits. If the financial condition of the co-op will not be impaired, the SVEC board of trustees can elect to retire, or return, capital credits to consumermembers. During the five-year period, SVEC returned more than $3.2 million in capital credits as checks or bill credits. Back in 1937, the members of our community came together to form Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative so they could bring power to the community, fuel economic growth and create jobs. Today, eight decades later, SVEC continues to do just that.
SVEC EMPLOYEES WALK AND RUN FOR LIFE A group of SVEC employees took part in the Walk/Run 4 Life 5K at First Federal Sports Complex in Live Oak. The race on Saturday, Sept. 28, benefited the Pregnancy Care Center. Thank you to everyone who participated and came out to cheer on our runners and walkers!
OPERATION ROUND UP® AMOUNTS TO BIG CHANGE Because of the support and generosity of our members, SVEC’s Operation Round Up® has already significantly benefited our local schools in its first year.
So far, the Operation Round Up board has:
to local schools. Authorized grants in all four county school districts in SVEC’s service area, along with a number of accredited independent and private schools.