CEO’s Message

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — January 2021

Hope for the New Year
Headshot of Clay Fitch

As we welcomed the New Year, my thoughts were drawn back to this same time one year ago. There was hope and excitement for the opportunities ahead, yet we all know 2020 was not the year any of us expected. Who knew on March 13—Friday the 13th, to be exact—so many changes would happen in our communities? Life as we knew it began to look a lot different. Offices and schools closed, community meetings and activities were canceled, and we adapted to celebrating things like graduation in very different ways.

While many of these changes were difficult, there was still positivity around us. I witnessed the flexibility of our members and the dedication of your employees. Throughout the year, we adjusted where and how your employees served you. We had to complete work from a distance and had to adapt many of our service processes to maintain social distancing. Members had to adjust by communicating with their cooperative electronically.

We eagerly await the day when we can be together again for the events that make our communities such wonderful places to live. Serving our community is what makes us smile. Thank you to everyone for your understanding and flexibility.

We also got to witness our community step up in creative ways to support one another. When we learned of widespread layoffs, we immediately ramped up our efforts to help members receive financial assistance to stay warm and safe. Our member advocates worked miracles to help struggling members access existing assistance programs and new funding made available through the CARES Act. It reinforced my appreciation for our communities when members called and anonymously volunteered to help fellow members pay their bills. One of our financial partners, CoBank, also stepped up to help our members by providing a $10,000 matching grant.

I’m also grateful to the local service organizations and churches that participate in WREC’s Commitment to Community voucher program. Our combined efforts helped many members avoid disconnection and overwhelming account balances.

I’m optimistic that 2021 will be a brighter year, but I remain concerned about our friends and neighbors affected by the pandemic itself or by its financial aftermath. If you or another member you know are struggling with electricity bills that are usually higher in the winter, please contact your local office. We are eager to not only help you manage your account during these trying times, but we also have energy-efficiency and conservation programs that can help you reduce your energy consumption while enhancing the comfort of your home or business.

Best wishes for a safe and warm new year!

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — December 2020

Capital Credit Checks on the Way

Headshot of Clay Fitch No matter how many times I’ve been disappointed by the contents of my mailbox, I still open it hoping to find something good inside. If your experience is similar to mine, most days it’s stuffed with bills or advertising—or both. If this sounds all too familiar, I’ve got good news for you!

In November and December, Wells Rural Electric Co. (WREC) will mail approximately 7,089 capital credit checks totaling $687,498. Depending on how long you have been a member—and how much electricity you used—you may find a check in your mailbox soon. Members with active accounts between 1989 and 2018 could receive a check before Christmas.

Electric cooperatives are the only electric utilities where every member is part-owner of the business. That makes us unlike any other form of electric utility. Municipal utilities and power districts are government entities, while stockholders own investor-owned utilities. Only electric cooperatives return margins—similar to profits—to the members who used electricity.

Since WREC is a member-owned electric cooperative, we work hard to serve our members by providing safe, reliable, affordable, and carbon-free electricity. Because members are owners, when revenues exceed the cost of doing business, those margins are returned to the members as capital credits.

Of course, just like any other business decision, there is a process for allocating and refunding capital credits:

  • An independent audit ensures costs and revenues are recorded accurately.
  • Margins are calculated by subtracting costs from revenues for the year.
  • Margins are prorated and assigned to each account according to the member’s total for the year.
  • Your board of directors determines that your cooperative has the financial strength to return capital credits.

To meet our financial obligations—such as long and short-term debt—replace aging infrastructure and build new power lines, to name just a few, the cooperative must retain capital for a period of time. The retention of capital helps us maintain the right balance between providing for the future and keeping rates low.

By holding onto margins before returning capital credits, WREC builds equity. This enables your cooperative to secure low-cost loans, which helps keep rates down, as we maintain and improve our power lines, substations, and facilities.

Returning capital credits is just one more way WREC is looking out for you. If you don’t receive a capital credit check by mid-December but believe you should have, please contact your local office.

Don’t forget to check your mailbox.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — November 2020

Looking Out for Our Members

Headshot of Clay FitchOutside my window, a poplar tree and a plum tree seem locked in a battle over which can produce the most intense color. The fire-orange poplar leaves are a sharp contrast to the almost black purple of the plum leaves, but both clearly show that we are making the transition from summer through fall to winter. All too soon, the colors will drift to the ground, and the work of fall cleanup will begin.

On the political front, the bright colors of the campaigns are quickly fading into the hard work of governing, and our sacred right to vote is transforming into the necessity of holding a representative government accountable.

I hope you voted no on Question 6, and it failed to become part of the Nevada Constitution. The outcome is not yet known as I write this column in October. As detailed in last month’s article, there were many good reasons to vote no.

Whether your electric cooperative will be subject to the provisions of an amendment to the Nevada Constitution or the law enacted through Nevada Senate Bill 358, your board and employees will still work hard to ensure your access to safe, reliable, affordable, and carbon-free electricity. There will be times, however, when we need your help.

I can only speculate on what legislation or regulation will emerge when the political dust settles, but bad ideas are like weeds—they just keep coming back.

The pressure to breach the Lower Snake River dams might intensify. There may be requirements to let more water spill over the dams rather than use it to generate electricity.

There are rumors of new taxes to plug holes in state and federal budgets. Given another year of catastrophic wildfire losses, we might see proposals for Red Flag Rules, which would require utilities to shut power off under certain weather and fire conditions.

We constantly have our ear to the ground for rumblings that indicate trouble is approaching. We will do our best to keep you informed about growing issues so if the need arises, you will be ready and able to demonstrate that Wells Rural Electric Co. is a grassroots organization that exists only to serve its members.

As communication preferences change, WREC is exploring the best ways to share information with you and activate a grassroots response. Information will most likely come from future editions of Ruralite magazine, our website, or through social media.

Calls to action will probably come through social media, emails, texts, or phone calls.

If ever you question whether a message you received is really from your rural electric cooperative, please contact your local office by calling one of our published telephone numbers.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — October 2020

No on Question 6

Headshot of Clay FitchPlease vote no on Question 6 when you cast your Nevada general election ballot.

Why? Question 6 suffers from many of the same flaws that plagued Question 3 two years ago:

  • Energy policy doesn’t belong in the Constitution.
  • It could take five or more years to make any changes to the amendment.
  • A restrictive mandate threatens reliability.
  • There is potential for higher costs for consumers.
  • Existing law already requires renewable energy.

Let’s examine these issues in detail.

First, Question 6 would amend the Nevada Constitution. The Constitution should guarantee the rights of the citizens and provide the basic framework of the government. Policy matters, such as the source of electricity, should be enacted through legislation where all points of view and real-world impacts can be considered.

Second, if problems develop as we begin to implement Question 6, it could take five years to make any changes. Anyone wanting to make a change would either have to gather enough signatures on a petition or get the legislature to put the proposal on the ballot.

It’s doubtful any problems will be discovered before the legislature adjourns next June, so it will probably have to wait until 2023. A change would then have to be approved by voters in 2024 and again in 2026 before it could take effect.

Third, Question 6 will require all “providers of electricity” to ensure 50% of the electricity they sell comes from renewable resources, but it doesn’t guarantee renewable resources will be available, or allow any room to maneuver if supplies fall short.

A similar mandate is creating considerable challenges in California, and spilling over into Nevada. Just a few weeks ago, extreme heat caused a massive demand for electricity. To avoid blackouts, regional grid operators begged Wells Rural Electric Co., and many other utilities, to reduce their need for electricity.

We passed that request on to you. Through your efforts, and those of other consumers across the West, a crisis was avoided. Question 6 could make that unusual event much more frequent.

Fourth, just as surely as night follows day, higher demand will eventually lead to higher prices.

Lastly, Question 6 is unnecessary. Senate Bill 358 of the 2019 Nevada Legislature already requires utilities to provide renewable energy. In contrast to the rigid mandate of Question 6, Senate Bill 358 allows utilities to adjust to changing conditions.

By participating in the legislative process, WREC demonstrated support for renewable energy but persuaded lawmakers to include protections for cooperative consumers like you. Those protections, and the ability of the legislature to make additional changes if needed, allowed WREC to support the bill.

WREC is committed to providing safe, reliable, affordable, and carbon-free electricity. Your board of directors made that decision decades ago. Question 6 would limit our ability to meet your changing needs.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — August 2020

Respecting Each Other

Headshot of Clay FitchI have had many conversations recently with community members, employees, and your Board of Directors. The conversations centered around our communities, as well as the country and the world. Clearly, there are differing opinions on what a public organization such as Wells Rural Electric Co.’s responsibility is during such challenging times.

As the executive responsible for this organization and its people, I want to restate our core organizational values and beliefs, as well as our philosophy and mission. These are our guideposts. I feel fortunate the Board of Directors had the vision to establish principles that have guided your cooperative for decades. There have been minor revisions to prepare for changing circumstances, but I believe these principles have remained relevant and appropriate for the times.

Philosophy/Mission

Our mission: Wells Rural Electric Co. improves the quality of life of the communities we serve by meeting the changing needs of our members through the guiding principles of our locally controlled cooperative.

Our philosophy: We value our public power traditions, while seeking new and better ways to preserve the benefits of that heritage. We believe that with innovation, teamwork, and commitment, we can compete effectively in a changing environment.

Core Values and Beliefs

Safety: Working safely and protecting our members, your employees and your infrastructure is not negotiable. The “Commitment to Zero” program enhanced our efforts to eliminate accidents and injuries by integrating a nationally recognized safety program.

Integrity: Being ethical and holding ourselves accountable to conduct business in a fair, honest, transparent, compliant, and environmentally responsible manner is at the core of what we do.

Member service: Providing quality service at a competitive price while being responsible to our members’ needs creates added value and improves member satisfaction.

Respect: Encouraging constructive dialogue that promotes a culture of inclusiveness, recognizes our differences, and accepts varying viewpoints will lead us to optimal solutions for even the most difficult challenges.

Operational excellence: Engaging employees to strive for excellence and continuous improvement ensures we provide reliable service while managing costs and creating a rewarding work environment.

Sustainability: Maintaining financial integrity, minimizing our environmental impact, and supporting responsible economic development in our communities ensures the long-term viability of the organization and the communities we serve.

Part of my commitment to the organization and our members is to continue to listen and to learn. I will do so while ensuring the safe and reliable provision of electric service for you.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — July 2020

I’m Proud of Our Community’s Response to a Crisis

Headshot of Clay FitchI know COVID-19 has occupied our time and thoughts for the past few months, and I suspect we have a way to go before this is behind us. Recently, I’ve heard members talking about the “new normal.” It makes me wonder what that means for us as individuals, our families, our friends, our businesses, and our communities.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of our members to each other. We’ve had several members contact us about paying the bill for another member they know is struggling. We know of local businesses that continued to pay their employees even after they were ordered to close their doors. If the “new normal” means having more understanding and empathy for our fellow members, at least one good thing will have come from this pandemic.

I express my heartfelt gratitude to our employees for their dedicated service and to you, our members, for your patience and flexibility during this challenging time. The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to change how we do things, but our commitment to serving you safely, affordably, and reliably remains unwavering. In addition to being dedicated to your service, your employees have also made generous donations to help members during this challenging time.

More than a decade ago, your Board of Directors made the decision to partner with local service organizations, welfare agencies, senior centers, family resource centers, and churches to provide Commitment to Community vouchers for electricity to assist members who have encountered unexpected financial hardships.

While this program has always been important, it has been invaluable as WREC members have endured unprecedented unemployment. One of WREC’s vendors, CoBank, also provided a grant to help members through this difficult time.

If you, or someone you know, is falling behind, I hope you will contact your local WREC office. Our Member Advocates can help in ways we have never been able to before. Not only can these specially trained employees help you determine if you are eligible for one of the temporary assistance programs, but they can also help you apply for state and federal aid programs. Some of these programs have received supplemental funding and have adjusted their criteria to address the unique circumstances created by the economic impacts of COVID-19. Even if you haven’t been eligible in the past, you may be eligible now.

While no one can ever fully prepare for a crisis like we are experiencing, I am proud of our employees, ever resourceful and resilient, and I am grateful for your patience and understanding. Throughout our membership, people are rising to the occasion. We join so many others in looking forward to a brighter future filled with health, safety, prosperity, and peace.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — June 2020

Nominations for Board of Directors to Open

Headshot of Clay FitchNominations for four seats on the Wells Rural Electric Co. Board of Directors open Monday, June 8. Director seats subject to election are held by incumbents Gerald (Jerry) Anderson, Lois Nannini, Bruce Widmer, and Kirk Dahl.

Nominations must be made on the 2020 Board of Directors Election Nomination Form available at all WREC offices and our website. All mandatory questions must be answered for the nomination to be valid.

Completed nomination forms must be received by Lauren Landa, general counsel, by 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time Monday, June 22. Mail the completed form to Lauren Landa, 530 Idaho St., Elko, NV 89801, or P.O. Box 1358, Elko, NV 89803; email; or fax to (775) 738-4220. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure receipt of the nomination. Late nominations will not be placed on the ballot.

Any member in good standing for a minimum of one year as of June 22, 2020, may nominate another eligible member, himself or herself, using the approved form. The nomination form must be signed and dated by both the nominee and the person making the nomination, if other than the nominee. Nominees must verify their membership by providing their name and contact information.

To be eligible for election to the Board of Directors, nonincumbent nominees must attend a mandatory informational workshop held electronically and/or telephonically on Tuesday, June 30, at 1 p.m. Pacific Time.

Nominees must not have any felony convictions within seven years prior to June 8, 2020. The nominee must be of legal voting age prior to June 8, 2020.

The nominee must be a member or spouse of a member, or a local officer, director, partner, official, or manager of an entity that is a member. An entity is a partnership, corporation, limited liability company, firm, association, business trust, personal trust, body politic or subdivision thereof, or other multiple ownership-type business structure. No more than one person may serve on the board based upon any one membership.

The nominee, or his/her entity, must not have an unpaid account with WREC that is outstanding for more than 90 days. The nominee, or his/her entity, must not have an account written-off as a bad debt by WREC within seven years prior to June 8, 2020.

The nominee must not be a current employee of WREC or a former employee of WREC within five years prior to June 22, 2020.

The nominee, or his/her entity, must not have been the subject of a Ruralite feature story since February 19, 2020.

Additional voluntary information, including years of WREC membership, occupation, and years on WREC board may be included. Education and training credentials—not more than 300 characters and spaces—may also be included. WREC reserves the right to edit.

The nomination should be accompanied by a photograph of the nominee suitable for use in preparing the ballot package.

General counsel shall determine the eligibility of each nominee.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — May 2020

Taking Care of Our Community

Headshot of Clay FitchMetropolis wasn’t always a ghost town. At its peak in 1912, Metropolis boasted 700 residents, a brick high school, a railroad depot, and the finest hotel between Salt Lake City and Reno.

Eleanor Hasenkamp Holland was a schoolteacher who left behind a wonderful collection of photographs detailing life in that once-bustling community just 12 miles north of Wells.

On the back of the photograph on the bottom right, she wrote, “Do you remember the flu masks? We didn’t use them in Metropolis, but Elko required them so Gertrude Hunt and I had to manufacture some before we took off for the weekend. We laughed over them, but it didn’t seem so funny when I came down with the flu and nearly died. Fortunately, none of the other teachers took ill, though they all helped take care of me.”

Eleanor Hasenkamp Holland
Eleanor Hasenkamp Holland

Eleanor was one of about 500 million people worldwide sickened by the influenza pandemic of 1918. Eleanor recovered, but about 50 million people died.

Even though this story is 102 years old, I suspect it sounds eerily familiar. But the part of her story that resonates with me is the final phrase: “They all helped take care of me.”

I have written many times about Wells Rural Electric Co. being created by neighbors working together to help each other get safe, reliable, affordable, carbon-free electricity. That sense of community still guides every decision made by your locally elected Board of Directors and your employees at WREC, including our strategies to help all of our members get through this pandemic together.

Two women wearing masks wearing fur coatsYour cooperative has made many changes to address the impacts of COVID-19, but the most significant is the creation of a new position called Member Advocate. Several existing employees are putting aside their usual responsibilities to focus on helping individual members deal with the financial hardships caused by COVID-19. If you are having difficulty making ends meet, please call your local office as soon as you can so your member advocates can help you access the range of tools we have available to help you manage your account and, hopefully, some of your other financial burdens. Those tools include the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), SmartHub, energy efficiency, Commitment to Community vouchers, payment arrangements, budget billing and more.

Other employees and your Board of Directors are working to develop more tools member advocates can use to help you and your family get through this very trying time.

Stay home, stay safe, stay positive and stay connected.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — April 2020

Together, We Shall Overcome

Headshot of Clay FitchFor more than 60 years, Wells Rural Electric Co. has taken pride in fulfilling our mission to provide safe, reliable, affordable and carbon-free electricity to our members. As our lives and society have changed immeasurably in that time, I’m constantly reminded that here, in rural Nevada, we still look out for our neighbors and protect each other, just as we always have.

As the global health emergency presented by COVID-19 affects life in our communities, I want to assure our members that WREC will continue to fulfill our commitment to reliability. Electricity remains at the heart of what drives our day-to-day lives.

These are unprecedented times, and the increased focus on social distancing measures has the potential to overwhelm. Because of modern technology and the devices we use on a daily basis, however, we now have the ability to remain connected to one another even while practicing social distancing. Electricity plays a central role in that process, and we are here to make sure you can still connect with loved ones, stay caught up on the news and enjoy the other conveniences electricity provides even during increasingly difficult circumstances.

I take very seriously WREC’s duty to act as a responsible citizen in our communities. We are supporting local, state and federal efforts to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus. We each have a responsibility to heed warnings from medical professionals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and adhere to appropriate social distancing practices. It is our duty to help protect those in our society who are most at risk.

As a result, WREC has closed its offices to in-person transactions. Our commitment to reliability remains unchanged. Please continue to report every outage to our dispatch center by calling 1-800-566-6696.

Our efforts to provide excellent service require healthy employees. Those who are able to work remotely are being asked to work from home. These measures are meant to protect the health of WREC’s members and employees. That does not mean you should expect us to be any less responsive to your needs. Our drive-through windows and payment drop boxes remain open, and there are online and phone service payment options for those who wish to contact us or pay remotely.

Regardless of the circumstances, we are still actively engaged every day in providing the best possible service to our members. We are here for you.

Now, more than ever, it is important that we all remember the important roles we share in building our communities. Our daily functions may change, but WREC’s commitment to you will not. Even in isolation, electricity ensures we remain connected, we remain a community and we remain more powerful together.

We will meet these challenging times just as we always have: together.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — March 2020

$883 Billion Is a Lot of Money

Headshot of Clay FitchCensus data helped 55 federal agencies decide where to spend $883,094,826,042 in 2016. That same year, Nevada received $6,219,293,623, which funded federal programs including education, rural health care, housing, transportation, Community Development Block Grants, adoption assistance and many, many more. For comparison, total state tax collections in 2016 were $8,025,046,000.

The decennial census is the once-a-decade population and housing count for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The results of the census determine the number of seats for each state in the U.S. House of Representatives and are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

The census also measures the nation’s economy providing vital statistics for virtually every industry and geographic area in the country. For instance, census data is used to prove that the members of Wells Rural Electric Co. live in areas with a low population density. As a result, WREC qualifies for the Low-Density Discount from our wholesale electricity provider, Bonneville Power Administration, which saves you money on your electricity bill every single month.

Answering the census is safe, easy and important.

The law requires the Census Bureau to keep your information confidential and use your information only to produce statistics. To protect your safety, the Census Bureau cannot publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you. Your information will never be shared with law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI or local police, or with immigration agencies such as ICE. Census workers must pass a background check and will always have identification badges. If you have any doubts, you can contact the Census Bureau to verify their identity.

To make responding easy, households will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail in mid-March with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 census. By April 1, 2020, every home will receive an invitation to participate. You can complete a census questionnaire by mail, by phone or online at 2020census.gov.

The goal of the census is to count every person once, only once and in the right place. An accurate count is so important to our communities that several local governments have formed “Complete Count Committees” to encourage every person to respond to the census.

If you haven’t completed a census questionnaire by June, census takers will go door-to-door to ensure everyone is counted. In northeastern Nevada, the Census Bureau has only been able to hire about 30% of the people needed to complete the count. If you are interested in working for the Census Bureau, additional information is available at 2020census.gov/jobs. If you are hired, the Census Bureau will provide all necessary training for free. Beware of any person who promises a job with the Census Bureau but asks you to pay for training.

As the 2020 census approaches, we will continue to share information about how you can make sure our community is fully represented. Visit 2020census.gov anytime to get the latest news.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer