Twenty-one of our 22 Alabama electric cooperatives were represented at the 2019 Summer Conference at Gulf Shores. More than 170 were registered for conference sessions, with 420 attending the Monday night seafood dinner with family members and guests. Attendees heard updates from Phil Irwin of Federated, Rodney Patterson of CoBank, and Dr. Peter Muhoro and Burton Benkwith of CFC.
Other speakers included Danny Raines of Raines Utility Safety Solutions; Heidi King and Charity Myers who spoke about the value of preserving your co-op’s history; and Ricky Higby who gave a high-energy presentation on creating a culture of respect and preventing discrimination in the workplace.
One of the more dramatic presentations was that of Aaron Beam, a former top executive with HealthSouth who spent five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to accounting fraud during his years with the company. “My downfall was I didn’t have the courage to do the right thing,” he said. “I was a coward.” He warned against succumbing to the power of one word, “greed,” which led to the downfall of him and many others who enjoyed extensive wealth for a short time.
Members also heard from John Cassady from NRECA, who updated them on issues at the federal level, where the relationship between the President and the Democrat-controlled House is “nothing short of toxic” and continues to hinder progress on some fronts.
A panel of Alabama legislators assembled by AREA Public Affairs Vice President Sean Strickler tackled a number of topics, including the recently passed gas tax for roads, the proposed toll to fund a new bridge in Mobile, workforce development, a state lottery and the impact of possible relocation of state prisons on rural communities that would be adversely affected financially.
Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, and Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, were presented with AREA’s Legislator of the Year awards for their support and work on behalf of our electric cooperatives. They participated in the panel along with Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Birmingham; Sen. Steve Livingston, Scottsboro; Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Arab; and Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville.