October 28, 2021, marks the 80th anniversary of Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative (GCEC). Throughout the year, look for articles in Florida Currents that celebrate our history. We hope readers enjoy learning more about GCEC.
At the 1969 annual meeting, there was a tie in the board election between L.L. Lanier and Benny Lister for the Group 3, Class 2 seat. Instead of having another costly election, cooperative attorney David Gaskin recommended “election by lot,” or a coin toss. Lister won the coin toss and took the directorship for the next three years.
In July 1969, the Wewahitchka Substation was energized from a 44-kilovolt line coming from Bayou George.
In December 1969, the manager position was vacated. Director Alfred Whitfield was hired as the temporary manager. In 1970, the Crystal Lake Substation was established in Washington County.
In June 1970, GCEC hired Charles E. (Ray) Roberts from Snellville, Georgia, as general manager.
In April 1971, Whitfield presented a $500 reward to H.T. (Sonny) Dean Jr. Gulf County Sheriff’s Department chief deputy, for securing evidence leading to the arrest and conviction of two people for malicious tampering with GCEC lines.
In May 1971, GCEC was approved for a $971,000 loan by the Rural Electrification Administration for system improvements. The funds were used to provide service to 665 new consumers and finance installation of the Dead Lakes Substation.
In June 1973, General Manager Charles E. Roberts resigned. In November 1973, Walter V. Truitt became the next general manager of GCEC. Truitt was from Orange Park, Florida.
In September 1975, Hurricane Eloise caused more than $50,000 worth of damage to the GCEC system. The cooperative applied for federal reimbursement under the Disaster Aid Program. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was not formed until April 1, 1979. It was created under the presidency of Jimmy Carter.
In April 1976, Truitt resigned. In September, Hubbard Norris was hired.
In August 1978, the GCEC board approved a motion to sponsor two high school juniors from its service area to participate in the Washington Youth Tour.
Sen. Lyndon Johnson inspired the Youth Tour when he addressed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual meeting in Chicago in 1957. In 1958, the first cooperative to participate in the program was from Iowa.
Thirty-four young people were sent on a weeklong tour of the nation’s capital. This program quickly grew among cooperatives across the country. In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate joint activities among state delegations and suggested co-ops send selected young people from their state to participate in the Washington Youth Tour. The first year of the coordinated efforts to send students resulted in about 400 participants from 12 states.
In 1979, the first students representing GCEC were selected to participate in the Washington Youth Tour: Angela Alligood of Wewahitchka and Jimmie Hamilton of Cooks Bayou. A panel of rural electric leaders also selected Alligood to represent Florida on the National Rural Electric Youth Consulting Board.
In February 1980, Alligood represented Florida on the National Rural Electric Youth Consulting Board at the NRECA national convention in New Orleans.
Fun fact: Angela “Angie” Alligood Morris accepted a position with the cooperative in February 2007 and has been a co-op employee for 14 years.