SMECO CEO announces retirement
SMECO president and CEO Austin J. Slater, Jr., submitted his retirement letter to the Board of Directors at the monthly board meeting held Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
In his letter, Slater recounted his tenure as CEO for the past 17 years as rewarding. “I have proudly worked for our cooperative for more than 33 years,” Slater said. “It is impossible for me to imagine my life without the time devoted, relationships made, and rewarding accomplishments I’ve experienced and shared with so many people here at SMECO and in the Southern Maryland community.”
Slater joined SMECO in 1979 as senior vice president of the Finance and Accounting Department. He left in 1995 to become the lead for utility management practice for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). He served as CEO and general manager of Tideland Electric Membership Corporation in North Carolina before returning to NRECA as vice president of national consulting and training. Slater returned to SMECO in December 2002 as the CEO.
Scott White, Chairman of the SMECO Board of Directors, said, “Joe’s leadership of the co-op has been transformational. His impact on SMECO, our employees, our members and the Southern Maryland community has been truly noteworthy. We completed the Southern Maryland Reliability Project, installed smart meters throughout our service area, built a new engineering and operations facility, and invested in technological upgrades that benefit all of SMECO’s members. It takes great leadership skills to run an organization like SMECO, and Joe has displayed courage, vision, confidence, inspiration, and dedication in his role as CEO.”
To allow time for the board to select a replacement and ensure a smooth transition, Slater said that he would continue in his role as long as necessary, but that the process should be completed and a new CEO should be in place in March 2020.
The cooperative has grown under Slater’s presidency
|Total miles of line
|Number of substations
|Capital credits refunded to date: General refunds
|Capital credits refunded to date: Estates
|Total full-time employees
Major milestones under Slater’s leadership
||SMECO switched to a computerized outage management system so crews in the field could send and receive outage information instantly. The new system replaced printed outage tickets and radio-dispatched crews.
||Customers could now access bills and pay them online. Call center hours were extended to provide 24/7 access for customers.
||SMECO launched the mobile workforce, equipping key vehicles with computers to enable field employees to increase efficiency and response time.
||On May 1, SMECO took over responsibility for the electric systems at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, NESEA’s Webster Field facility in St. Inigoes, and the Navy Recreation Center in Solomons.
SMECO launched Members Helping Members. SMECO celebrated one million hours worked without loss of time or a disabling accident.
||SMECO Solar LLC went live on November 18.
||The state-of-the-art Engineering and Operations Center in Hughesville officially opened.
The cooperative began construction of a new double-circuit 69-kV transmission line from La Plata to Waldorf.
||SMECO completed the Southern Maryland Reliability Project. The project started conceptually in the ’70s and constuction on the final Calvert-St. Mary’s section began in 2009. The seven-year, $108-million project was constructed under budget and ahead of schedule and completed a 230-kilovolt (kV) loop throughout SMECO’s service territory. On April 7, 2015, an insulator on a Pepco line failed and caused the Pepco transmission line to fall to the ground. Power went out for thousands of people from southern St. Mary’s County to College Park, including the White House. Thanks to the completion of the 230-kV Southern Maryland Reliability Project, power to most SMECO customers was restored within about half an hour.
The cooperative launched the SMECO 24/7 mobile app and texting services.
||SMECO deployed smart meters throughout Southern Maryland. The cooperative determined that installing smart meters would provide infrastructure that would benefit its members immediately and over the long term.
Annual meeting voting was held by mail for the first time. In the fall, SMECO and the College of Southern Maryland launched Practical Electrical Utility Worker Training, a 12-week program of pre-apprentice courses focusing on the construction trade. During the first semester, five students began the program.