NEWBERRY — Keith Avery, president of Newberry Electric Cooperative, stepped out from his role as a Rotary member to guest speaker as he discussed the Cooperative’s purpose and history Friday afternoon.
He was accompanied by members of his management team — Debra Shaw from government and public relations and Jason Merchant from engineering and operations.
“We take our core values to heart,” said Avery who explained that safety is an important primary concern. “We consider it a good day if people can go home.”
Avery explained that the Cooperative was formed for those in the rural communities after 1939. Today, there are more than 13,000 active accounts and they serve Newberry, Laurens, Fairfield and Lexington counties. They also have 9.2 consumers per line, Avery said.
“That’s better than North Dakota where they have 1.2 consumers per line,” said Avery.
The Newberry Co-Op is affiliated with Touchstone Energy, which allows them to have national recognition. They are also affiliated with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina and the Palmetto Economic Development Cooperation, among others.
While the Newberry Co-Op serves four counties, they also help outside the country.
“We have gone to Haiti, South America to help nations build power lines and set up power,” said Avery.
Avery said that they also service industrial companies including Kiswire, Trucast, West Frazier, Komatsu, SWM and Dalkotech.
Another difference that sets the Co-Op apart from other companies is that it is a non-profit but still pays taxes. Last year, Newberry Electric doled out $1.6 million in taxes to Newberry County. They also pay taxes in the other three counties.
They give back to the members of the cooperative, a luxury they didn’t have when they first formed. Last year, Avery said they paid out $409,000 to the members.
The Newberry Electric Cooperative also has a nine member board of trustees that is elected by members to three-year terms.
“We are owned and governed by the membership. Anyone can run for the board as long as they meet the qualifications,” said Avery.
The cooperative is involved in many programs in the community including WIRE (Women Involved in Rural Electrification); Honor Flight; a surge protection program; and summer leadership trips.
The Newberry Rotary Club also honored Students of the Month from the county’s high schools.
Erin Jeter from Whitmire Community is in Beta Club and is in her second year as drum major for the marching band. She is also involved in basketball and softball, and is president of her senior class. She is in student government and was a junior marshal last year.
Daniel Romero from Mid-Carolina High School is in Beta Club and has also won several contests for his artistic skills. Most recently, he won a prize in the Newberry Ag Expo’s art contest. He is in the art club and also tutors other students at Mid-Carolina High. He is also involved in his church, St. Mark’s Catholic.
Samantha Rikabi from Newberry High School also attends St. Mark Catholic. She is in the Senior Beta Club, National Honor Society and is a volunteer at the Newberry hospital. She was a junior marshal last year and does service learning. She wants to attend USC and study bio medicine.
Sean Blanton from Newberry Academy is active in the Junior Civitans. He was elected vice president of his home club, was governor for the state’s Junior Civitans and international vice president for the Junior Civitans. He is involved in cross country, baseball, swimming, chess team and shooting and has won awards for his shooting skills. He hopes to attend the Citadel.