April 14, 2024

SMECO Employees Help Florida Restoration Efforts

Five SMECO foremen and former linemen provide assistance to hard-hit Lee County Electric Cooperative. From left to right: Steve Gardiner, Will Robertson, Jimmy Herbert, Blaise Higgs, and Joe Rhoads.

On October 2, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) employees drove to southwest Florida to assist in restoration efforts following a devastating blow from Hurricane Ian.

Five experienced SMECO foremen and former linemen – Steve Gardiner, Will Robertson, Jimmy Herbert, Blaise Higgs, and Joe Rhoads – volunteered to join more than 1,000 workers from multiple states to help hard-hit Lee County Electric Cooperative (LCEC) rebuild their system and restore electric service.

According to LCEC’s website, more than 90 percent of the cooperative’s customers were without power following the storm on Sept. 28. LCEC serves the areas around Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, which faced the brunt of the storm as it made landfall last week.

“This unprecedented recovery requires a substantial rebuild in the hardest hit communities,” said Denise Vidal, LCEC CEO.

As of 6 a.m. on October 4, 59 percent of LCEC customers were still without power. Flooding and widespread destruction are making it difficult for workers to access many of the areas impacted by the storm. Supply chain issues add an additional layer of difficulty to restoring service. SMECO’s experienced team of volunteers includes foremen and former linemen who are able to help identify salvageable materials in the field.

“I am very grateful to be a part of the cooperative community and step in to help our neighbors in need,” said Sonja Cox, SMECO President and CEO. “Being part of a co-op means we’re all in this together and we provide assistance and support to each other when we’re able.”

SMECO was incorporated in 1937 and is one of the 15 largest electric cooperatives in the United States with more than 170,000 member accounts in Charles County, St. Mary’s County, southern Prince George’s County, and most of Calvert County.

Electric cooperatives are shaped by the communities they serve, because co-ops are owned by their customers. Co-op members elect the men and women who serve on the Board of Directors. Members share the responsibility of ownership by financing the cooperative’s operations, but they also share its rewards.

At the end of each year, SMECO’s margins (profits) are allocated to members’ capital credit accounts. SMECO uses its profits to invest in new construction, system improvements, and facility upgrades. The Board of Directors regularly evaluates the financial condition of the co-op and determines when members will receive a refund. Since 1937, SMECO has refunded more than $116 million.

As a cooperative, SMECO will always put its members first and be responsive, reliable, and resourceful—the power you can count on. Follow SMECO on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SMECO.coop and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/somdelectric. The SMECO 24/7 mobile app is available at www.smeco.coop/247.

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative is a customer-owned electric cooperative providing electricity to more than 150,000 services in southern Prince George’s County, Charles County, St. Mary’s County and Calvert County. To learn more about SMECO, please visit their Leader Member Page.


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