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Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative's 2017 Annual Meeting Sees Record Attendance
The Sweet Potato Pie Kids, Tugalo Holler, The Sheltons, and The Primitive Quartet Sing Gospel and Bluegrass
By Karen Brewer

                
Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

President and CEO Charles Dalton gives his report at the 77th annual meeting of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative the evening of Thursday, April 20, 2017. Below, view more than 150 photographs in several slideshows from the event.


            The annual meeting of the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative always draws a crowd, and this year was no exception, as the 77th annual meeting, held the evening of Thursday, April 20, 2017, drew more than 6,000 to the Pickens, South Carolina Blue Ridge Electric equipment facility. “We think this is the largest crowd we’ve ever had at a Blue Ridge annual meeting,” said President and CEO Charles Dalton.

            Gospel and bluegrass music provided by The Primitive Quartet, The Sheltons, Tugalo Holler, and The Sweet Potato Pie Kids, free food and soft drinks, a door prize of an electric skillet for every registered member, a chance to win valuable prizes (including a $500 electric bill credit, gift cards from area stores, and the main prize of a 2007 Ford F-150 pickup), and an opportunity for a good time and fellowship helped draw the crowd.

            Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Communications Manager Terry Ballenger introduced some of the musical groups and also made announcements, including about the upcoming Blue Ridge Fest, a fundraiser benefiting 12 charities in the four counties that Blue Ridge Electric services.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

The Sweet Potato Pie Kids opening the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative's annual meeting on Thursday, April 20, 2017.  At the conclusion of this article, view a photo slideshow of 50 photographs of The Sweet Potato Pie Kids at the Blue Ridge Electric Co-op meeting.


            The Sweet Potato Pie kids, one of two bands part of Pickens County’s Young Appalachian Musicians (YAMS), introduced themselves as Molly Johnson, Ross Flowers, Colin Gilstrap, Luke Brazinski, Caitlyn Nicholson, and Emma Hendricks and started the evening with music. They were followed by Tugalo Holler, a group from Westminster (Stephen Hudson, Jessica Hudson, Michael Hill, Bradley Webb, and Michael ‘Porkchop’ Branch). Pickens natives The Sheltons -- George Shelton, Frankie Shelton, and Sandra Shelton Martin -- were joined on stage by their brother, Rob Shelton, before the business portion of the meeting began. Music by The Primitive Quartet, introduced by Dalton, followed the business meeting.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Tugalo Holler, from Westminster, singing and playing at the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative's 2017 annual meeting.  At the conclusion of this article, view a slideshow of photographs of Tugalo Holler at the annual meeting.

            Kenneth Southerlin, Chair of the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, called the business meeting to order, and Rev. Bryan Hester, Associate Pastor of Pickens First Baptist Church, offered an invocation. South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Kevin Bryant led everyone in attendance in The Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag after he asked all of the veterans in the audience to raise their hands. “Please join me in The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and remember all of the freedoms that that flag represents, that these veterans put their lives in harm’s way for us,” Bryant said.

Dalton welcomed everyone to the cooperative’s 77th consecutive annual meeting and said, “When our forebears conducted the first annual meeting, back in 1941, little did they know that, just weeks later, the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor. We owe so much to that generation, and I believe we honor those early pioneers that formed Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, and those early members, this evening as we carry on that tradition that was started in 1941 of having these annual meetings.”


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

The Sheltons - Sandra Shelton Martin, Frankie Shelton, and George Shelton -- singing during the annual meeting of the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative on April 20. At the conclusion of this article, view a slideshow of photographs of The Sheltons from the annual meeting.

            Bryant, an Anderson native who served in the State Senate for 12 years before recently becoming Lieutenant Governor, recognized Darryl Broome, who serves as Director of the Office on Aging, and congratulated Dalton for being the President since 1982 of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, which, he says, operates so well.

            Dalton thanked the members for their attendance. “We are member-owned,” he said. “You are the Blue Ridge Co-op, and that’s why we’re so appreciative of you being here tonight, and we thank you so much for your support throughout the years.”

He recognized members of the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Board of Directors and thanked them for their service:  Chair Kenneth Southerlin, Vice Chair Mendel Stone, Treasurer Spencer Dalton, Secretary Joel Davis, Ben Bolt, Jimmy Lee Dodgens, William Elrod, Frank Looper, and Len Talley.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Terry Ballenger, Communications Manager for Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative.



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Kenneth Southerlin, Chair of the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Board of Directors.



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Rev. Bryan Hester, Associate Pastor of Pickens First Baptist Church, just before giving the invocation for the annual meeting of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative.


Below, linemen from Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative raise a flag.



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Kevin Bryant congratulates Charles Dalton on being President and CEO of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative since 1982.



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Kevin Bryant leads in The Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag.



Dalton introduced the elected officials, in addition to Bryant, who were in attendance: State Senator Thomas Alexander from Oconee County, State Senator Rex Rice from Pickens County, State Rep. Bill Whitmire from Oconee County, and State Representatives Davey Hiott, Neal Collins, and Gary Clary, all from Pickens County. He also noted that Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw and 11th Circuit Solicitor David Wagner were in attendance, as was Elizabeth Edwards, representing Congressman Jeff Duncan from South Carolina who represents the Third District in the United States House of Representatives.

            In addition, John Boyt and CEO Rob Hochstetler from Central Electric Power Cooperative were present at Blue Ridge Electric’s annual meeting.

Also present was Mike Couick, President and CEO of The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, which, Dalton said, “is our statewide association where he represents Blue Ridge and the state’s 19 other co-ops. He has been at the statewide association for 11 years now. We were able to get Mike away from his former position as General Counsel for the South Carolina Judiciary Committee, a post in which he had rendered distinguished service for 21 years. Mike is one of us. He grew up in York County on a farm. His educational background includes graduating with honors from the University of South Carolina Law School. I can tell you, truthfully, that our statewide association is in great hands with Mike’s leadership. He has done a quality job for us. We are honored to have him here this evening.”

Couick praised the co-op, saying, “You’ve got the very best cooperative looking out for your interest all of the way from the Board to your CEO, to the senior staff, to all of these employees, but, most importantly, the membership is so engaged.”


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Members of the Board of Directors for Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Directors for Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, including the three standing each reelected to another three-year term: William Elrod, Len Talley, and Ben Bolt.
Photographs by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Elected officials present at Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative's 2017 annual meeting.

Dalton recognized the employees of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, most of whom were working at the annual meeting. “This is one of the most enjoyable parts of the program,” he said. “I want to ask all of the Blue Ridge Electric Co-op employees to come down front. Almost all of our folks are here working tonight. They’ve been going about their responsibilities in a tremendous way, making this meeting as enjoyable as possible for all of you who have come here to join us. In my view, one of the big benefits of hosting this annual meeting is the opportunity it presents to all of us to get to mix with you, our members. That is a highlight for all of us. I take pleasure in calling attention to these individuals, because I am very proud of the job they are doing. They keep on getting better in the work they perform. That translates in the high level of service Blue Ridge delivers to you. This group of folks standing before you right now know and understand their job responsibilities In addition, they well understand the fact that the co-op is member owned, and that gives them an additional motivation to serve you.” He also noted the high safety record at Blue Ridge Electric, noting that only three accidents have occurred within the past eight years. “What a tribute to our employees,” he said. “I will be the first to tell you that no business is better than the persons who run it. The employees are what make the difference. Blue Ridge continues to succeed because we have top-notch people performing in every phase of our operation. I appreciate these folks, and I also want to give credit to our employees who are now retired. They have made valuable contributions, as well. If any of our retirees are here this evening, I invite you to stand with these folks. Please join me in thanking our past employees and all of these present employees for the great job.”

Dalton then turned his attention to honoring veterans in attendance. “This evening’s annual meeting is a shining example of at least one of the wonderful advantages we enjoy as citizens of these great United States, and that is the freedom to assemble,” he said. “These and other freedoms are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. However, I think we all understand that the Constitution would not be worth the paper it is written on, were it not for those folks who have taken an oath to protect those freedoms. Of course, I am speaking of the brave men and women who have volunteered to serve in our nation’s Armed Forces. As has been our practice at these annual meetings, we want to pay tribute to those individuals here and persons who wore a military uniform in service to America. First of all, I want to invite any veterans of World War II who may be in attendance, and able, to stand. Thank you so much for your service. You are truly the Greatest Generation. Thank you.” He then asked all other veterans to stand, as well as those currently serving and any members of the military Reserve or National Guard. “Our heartfelt thanks go to all of you. Thank you so much. Thank you for being with us tonight.”



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Mike Couick, President and CEO of The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina.

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Attorney John Tiencken

Photographs by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative employees present at the 2017 meeting. President and CEO Charles Dalton praised current and retired employees and said that he appreciates the great job they have done. "Blue Ridge continues to succeed because we have top-notch people performing in every phase of our operation," he said.



           
Dalton then recognized three high school students selected for the Washington Youth Tour. “In each of the last 40 years or so, Blue Ridge Electric Co-op has sponsored rising high school seniors from this region on the Rural Electric Washington Youth Tour,” he said. “This week-long visit to Washington, D.C. can serve as an experience that is both educational and inspiring. We have had many of these young Blue Ridge ambassadors to return home with expressions of deep thanks for what they describe as a life-changing trip. This year saw about a dozen students from area high schools apply for the youth tour slot. Each of those young scholars underwent a personal interview with a panel consisting of staff members from other electric co-ops across our state. The evaluation process included a look at the student’s academic performance, in-school activities, service to the community, and personal character. This group of applicants represented an excellent cross-section of talented young people. The judging panel selected three outstanding and well-rounded academic achievers. These three contest winners are with us on the stage this evening: Tanner Stegall, Pickens High School, Peyton Brown, Wren High School, and Drew Holcombe, West Oak High School. On behalf of Blue Ridge, I am pleased to hand each of them a small financial gift to go toward their upcoming trip. In June, those folks will join about 2,000 other students from across the country on this youth tour adventure. They will be exposed to various aspects of the national government and will have an opportunity to meet with our Senators and Congressmen. It will be a busy week, full of both fun and educational activities. So again, let’s congratulate those folks and thank them for being here tonight.”


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative President and CEO Charles Dalton congratulates Drew Holcombe, Peyton Brown, and Tanner Stegall, high school students selected as delegates for the Washington Youth Tour.

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine.

Drew Holcombe, Peyton Brown, and Tanner Stegall, rising seniors at local high schools, were selected for the Washington Youth Tour in June.
  

            Dalton recognized Attorney John Tiencken, who noted that, at district meetings held March 6-7 in Oconee, Pickens, and Anderson Counties, three incumbent Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Directors, Len Talley from District 1 (Oconee County), William Elrod from District 2 (Pickens County), and Ben Bolt from District 4 (Anderson County) were nominated for new three-year terms. No additional nominations were received at the annual meeting, and all three candidates, unopposed, were voted by acclamation.

            After further business and reports, Dalton called attention to the Blue Ridge Fest fundraiser for local charities to be held at the same location on April 28. “We’re pulling out all of the stops to make it a great evening,” he said. “The fest will feature a line-up of beach music and more than 500 pre-1989 collectible cars for the classic car cruise-in. Every dollar of the net proceeds will be distributed among 12 wonderful charities who are serving in this four-county service area.”

            Dalton concluded by once more thanking everyone for attending the meeting. “I want to again express my appreciation for your attendance at this 77th Blue Ridge Co-op annual meeting,” he said. “This is so special for us. These Directors, my fellow employees, all of us understand we are truly blessed to be serving the best people in the world. We have nothing but great gratitude for all that you do to support us, and we appreciate your attendance here tonight.”

 


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

The Primitive Quartet singing Gospel music at Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative's annual meeting. See below for a slideshow of photographs of The Primitive Quartet from the April 20 event.



Slideshow photographs below of The Sweet Potato Pie Kids by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine.

Slideshow photographs below of Tugalo Holler by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine.

Slideshow photographs below of The Sheltons by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine.

Slideshow photographs below of The Primitive Quartet by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine.