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By: Chris Reese, President & CEO
Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative has carried out its longstanding mission of providing our members with the highest quality of electric service at the lowest possible cost since we were established way back in 1937. Since then, lots of things have changed as the Co-op has grown and the technology we use has improved. But one thing has been a constant, and that’s the fact that our lineman are, and always have been, the backbone of everything we do.
On April 13th, we will be celebrating Lineworker Appreciation Day. This holiday encourages us to reflect on the vital service that these brave men and women provide to us all.
This is a job that consistently ranks in the top 10 most dangerous occupations in the United States. Our linemen and other lineworkers across the country work every day with live high voltage power lines, often at great heights and in poor weather conditions.
Thanks to the work they do, the rest of us can depend on a reliable flow of electricity to our homes and businesses. We all benefit from their good work, so Lineworker Appreciation Day is our opportunity to express gratitude for what is often a thankless job.
Lineworker Appreciation Day takes place on the second Monday of every April. The U.S. Senate originally declared in 2013 that April 18th would be the date, but this was a one-time resolution. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) has kept the spirit of lineworker appreciation alive by consistently celebrating the holiday, but moved it from its April 18th date to prevent conflicts with Good Friday. The board resolution to make Lineman Appreciation Day the second Monday in April ensures that the date always falls on a weekday, so co-ops can properly honor these employees during a workday.
At Sussex Rural, we are glad to have the opportunity to formally express our admiration for our linemen, and we hope that our members join us. Recent events have served as a good reminder of just how difficult a lineman’s job can be, and the sacrifices our group of workers are willing to make to keep power flowing.
I am of course referring to the December storm that has been much discussed here in the pages of Currents. That storm was the largest to hit our system since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, affecting all of our members and leaving most without power for multiple days. The storm did so much physical damage to the area that trees continued to fall and cause outages on our system for weeks after the storm had passed.
Through it all, our linemen were on the frontlines, doing everything possible to get the job done. They had their work cut out for them too – with so many outages spread across the system, it was bound to take a long time to bring power back to everyone. I spoke to some of our linemen about their mindset like leading up to a major storm so readers of Currents can look at the situation from a lineman’s perspective.
They worry about how hard our area will be hit, how much ice and snow they can expect, and how much damage our system might take from falling trees and branches. To prepare, they not only fuel up their trucks, but make sure to fuel their generators at home so their families can stay warm. They may worry - will their families be safe? Will they have enough food to ride out the storm? They do what they can to take care of them and then get to work, because they know all of our members share those same concerns about their own families.
Our team was working around-the-clock, pulling 16-hour shifts, taking a mandatory 8-hour break for rest, and then heading back out for another 16 hours of work. As you can imagine, this 8-hour window leaves little time for the usual comforts of home.
Assisting in restoration were linemen from our affiliated Pennsylvania cooperatives. They volunteered their time to travel across states, even further away from their own families, to help us speed up restoration. Together with our crews, they chipped away at the long process of restoration until all of our almost 12,000 members once again had power.
It’s thanks to these brave and hardworking men, and men and women like them across the nation, that we have access to all the necessities of modern life. They work tirelessly without seeking praise or thanks, which makes it all the more important that we show their work is not going unnoticed.
During the week of the storm, many members shared stories on social media where they had met some of our linemen while they were hard at work, and expressed their thanks for everything they were doing. Some members brought them coffee or bagels, while other members brought whole trays of baked goods into the office as a token of appreciation. As CEO of a member-owned cooperative, it makes me incredibly proud to see our linemen’s feats of hard work recognized and genuinely appreciated by our members. With Lineworker Appreciation Day approaching, I hope that you will all join us in thanking these lineworkers putting it all on the line, for all of us!
Your Directors For Re-election
Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative’s service area is split into three districts with three directors per district. Each director, who must be members of the Cooperative, serves a three year term with 1/3 of the directors standing for re-election every year. This year’s candidates for Board of Directors are listed below. Elections of board members are held by mail-in ballot as required in our Bylaws. Ballots will be mailed out to members in mid-May and results will be announced at our Annual Meeting at 7 pm, Monday, June 8th at High Point Regional High School.
District 1 - Jack Haggerty, Jr.
Currently serving as Chairman of the Board, Jack has been re-nominated to serve District One. A member of the Cooperative since 1974, he is marking his 39th year on the co-op’s Board and is ex-officio member of all the Board’s committees. Jack is a credentialed NRECA Director and has achieved his Leadership certificate and Director Gold Status certificate. Jack serves as Sussex REC’s representative on the Allegheny Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, and is currently serving as Chairman of the Power Supply Committee. He also serves as chairman of Sussex REC’s subsidiary, SREC Resources.
A graduate of Clarkson University, Jack is a member of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers. He served six years with the N.J. National Guard and also as an elder and president of the board of trustees for the First Presbyterian Church of Sussex.
Before retiring, Jack worked as an Engineer and Manager at Ames Rubber, as a Process Engineer for Laird Technologies, and as a Sales Engineer and Quality Engineer for Ja-Bar Silicone. Jack currently serves on the Sussex Kiwanis and as a trustee on the Old Clove Church Preservation Committee. He and his wife, Sharon, reside in Wantage. They have two sons and three grandchildren.
District 2 - William Kovach
Currently serving as Vice Chairman of the Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative Board and the SREC Resources Board of Directors, Bill has been re-nominated to represent District Two. As a member of the Cooperative since 1992, Bill has served on your Board for 20 years and, like the Chairman of the Board, he is an ex-officio member of all the Board’s committees. He is a credentialed National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Director and has achieved his Leadership Certificate and Gold Director Credential.
Bill graduated with a B.A. in Accounting and an M.B.A. from William Paterson University. He is Vice President and CFO and of Ames Rubber Corporation in Hamburg, NJ. In addition to these duties, he is a member of the Ames Board of Directors as Secretary/Treasurer.
A member of the Institute of Management Accountants, Bill also has served on the United Way board for many years and continues to participate with the Board of Directors on different programs. Bill is an Elder of the Beemerville Presbyterian Church. He and his wife Helen live in Vernon, NJ.
District 3 - Raymond W. Cordts
Currently serving as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative Board, Ray has been re-nominated to represent District Three. Ray joined the Cooperative in 1995 and has served on our Board for 25 years. He is a credentialed National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Director, Chairman of the Audit Committee, and is a member of the Policy Committee. He also serves as a member of the Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative Finance Committee.
Ray is Senior Vice President of Business Development at Lakeland Bank headquartered in Oak Ridge, NJ. He serves as a trustee for the SCARC Foundation and Newton Medical Center Foundation. Ray lives in Augusta with his wife Pam of 42 years. He has two grown children, Jessica & Ray, and two granddaughters.