AREA hosted more than 400 local cooperative managers, board members and their families at the annual AREA Summer Conference July 10-13 at Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach.
Attendees heard from a number of speakers on topics including safety, finances, economics, cyber security, FEMA, healthcare and politics – both state and national. The yearly event is a favorite time for renewing old friendships among cooperatives while members enjoy the food and sunshine of the Alabama Gulf Coast beaches.
Among the speakers was Seth Hammett, vice president of business development for PowerSouth and chairman of the newly formed Energy Institute of Alabama. Hammett briefed the group on the goals of the group, which was formed to give utilities in the state a platform to speak with one voice on public policy. In addition to AREA, the institute’s other members are Alabama Power Co., the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority, Electric Cities of Alabama, PowerSouth Energy and Tennessee Valley Authority. The institute is inviting legislators to attend a series of meetings designed to inform the about terms used in the electric industry such as net metering. A group of senior policy advisors, including Dean Chuck Karr of the University of Alabama’s School of Engineering and Steven Taylor, director of Auburn University’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts.
In a preview of the presidential campaign, Laura Schepis, vice president, political affairs, for NRECA, correctly predicted the running mates for both the Republican and Democratic candidates in addition to discussing some possible Senate seats that could switch from Republican to Democrat in November.
Terry Mitchell, board chairman at Central Alabama who was recently named communications director for the Department of Mental Health, gave members a history of the department, including the state mental hospitals in Tuscaloosa and Mt. Vernon which at one time housed more than 5,000 residents. Mitchell brought a brick from the original Bryce Hospital for a door prize, and Keith Pugh of Southern Pine was the winner.
Comments from a legislative panel with Rep. Rod Scott, R-Birmingham, Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, concluded the conference agenda.