Rebounding & Transitioning

October 28, 2021, marks the 80th anniversary of Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative (GCEC). We hope readers enjoy learning more about GCEC.

Three hurricanes—Elena, Juan and Kate impacted Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative in 1985. Of the three, Kate caused the most damage to the cooperative’s infrastructure. Photos courtesy of Florida Department of Natural Resources

In February 1985, the GCEC board adopted the territorial agreement between the cooperative and Florida Power Corp.

At the 1985 annual meeting, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Rural Electrification Act, Al Whitfield presented Pioneer Award plaques to four people for their long, continuous, and still-active years of service to GCEC: B.A. Pridgeon Sr., 44 years on the board; W.M. Johnson, 35 years on the board; A.W. Gordon, 35 years as consulting engineer; and Burl Grinslade, employed with GCEC for 34 years.

In September 1985, the board approved a motion to buy a new telephone system from St. Joe Telephone Co. for the Wewahitchka office.

In December 1985, three storms impacted GCEC: Hurricane Elena in September, Hurricane Juan in October and Hurricane Kate in November. The cooperative sustained about $250,000 worth of damage from Hurricane Kate.

Because Gulf County was declared a disaster under the Public Works Project, the co-op qualified for grant money. Approximately 50% to 60% of the lost value was recovered.

In January 1986, General Manager Hubbard Norris reported federal auditors had met several times with Office Manager Roy Barnes concerning co-op expenses during the hurricanes. Because Gulf County was declared a disaster, GCEC was approved to receive $222,110. The co-op worked to obtain the same aid for Calhoun County.

In February 1986, the board approved supporting the Integrity Fund, administered by the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation. The fund helps rural electric systems defend against attempts by competing utilities to acquire their facilities.

The board also approved adopting the Good Cents program to promote energy efficiency.

In August 1986, the board approved a motion to seat Lowrey Wilhite as trustee from District II, Group 1, to fill the vacancy created by the death of B.A. Pridgeon Sr. The board adopted a service recognition resolution for the Pridgeon family. L.L. Lanier was elected to fill the vacant president’s position. W.M. Johnson was elected to fill the vice president’s position.

In December 1986, the board approved a motion to join the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative.

A 22-cent stamp designed by illustrator Howard Koslow commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Rural Electrification Administration in 1985. Roughly an inch by an inch and a half, it frames a rural scene with an electric co-op pole in the foreground and a family farm in the distance. Electric lights glow from the windows of the farmstead and barn. Image courtesy of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

In January 1987, Norris reported Alabama Electric Cooperative had built a new substation in the Southport area and GCEC would need to bring a few feeders out to tie the substation to GCEC’s system lines.

At the 1987 annual meeting, the following trustees were elected: Lowrey H. Wilhite, District II, Group 1; L.L. Lanier Jr., District II, Group 2; and George E. Jones, District II, Group 3.

In June 1987, Norris discussed the pole inspection program GCEC was beginning to use for the system.

In October 1987, Norris reported on the new gas island installed at the Wewahitchka office and the work completed to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements. The board authorized Norris to upgrade the tanks at Southport to meet all federal requirements.

In November 1987, Attorney Clinton Foster resigned as cooperative attorney, effective December 1, to fill his appointment as circuit judge for the district. The board accepted his resignation and congratulated him on his appointment.

In March 1988, Norris reported installation of the new radio system was complete in Southport and Wewahitchka and both systems operated on their own frequencies. He also gave an update on the NRTC TV programming. He said GCEC had installed 21 decoders, and members were pleased with the reception they received. The service was offered to rural members unable to obtain cable TV.

At the 1988 annual meeting, Norris read a resolution showing GCEC’s appreciation to Charles Lowman, retiring general manager of Alabama Electric Cooperative. A framed copy was accepted for Lowman by Jim Vann, AEC’s new manager. A motion was made, and the members adopted a resolution recognizing Clinton Foster for his service as attorney for the cooperative. A framed copy was presented to him. The cooperative also instituted a new meter-reading program. Members no longer needed to read their meters.

In June 1988, the board approved a bid from Grissett Construction Co. to build an additional enclosure extending the maintenance shop in Southport.

In July 1988, the chairman appointed a legal counsel committee to search for a new attorney to represent the cooperative. Committee members were Chairman Lowrey Wilhite, Coy Brahier, and George Jones.

In August 1988, the board instructed the legal counsel committee to interview Pat Floyd and Hentz McClellan further. The board also approved the bid from M & W Construction Co. for an addition to the Wewahitchka office.

In September 1988, Sherill Hartley of the Wewahitchka Ambulance Rescue Squad presented the board with a plaque expressing its appreciation for longstanding support and interest from the cooperative and its members, board members, and employees.

In November 1988, the board approved a motion to retain the legal services of J. Patrick Floyd.

In March 1989, Norris reported on a new project to complete two offices and a small room in the back of the warehouse for the right-of-way and underground crews, who had been housed in a temporary trailer.

In July 1989, the Bayou George North Substation was energized and all new feeders were functioning out of the station, with load shifts from Fountain and Bayou George South substations.

In August 1989, Norris reported Al Whitfield, longtime member services director of GCEC, submitted his resignation effective January 1990.

In September 1989, the board approved a promotional program to sell mercury vapor lights.

In October 1989, GCEC sent $500 to help South Carolina repair damages and losses caused by Hurricane Hugo.

Check your September edition of Florida Currents for a continuation of the history of GCEC.