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Today is June 3, 2020

Editorial

Coming together during a crisis

By Michael Callahan

Michael Callahan
Michael Callahan,
Executive Vice President/CEO
EPAs of Mississippi

We are living in unprecedented times. Our country has asked for sacrifice and discipline during the COVID-19 crisis. That has meant a temporary change in the way residents of our communities live as well as the way our electric cooperatives interact with our members.

I’m proud to say that our electric cooperative family – both employees and members – has responded to these unique challenges professionally and with empathy. The choices we have made have been about what’s best for our community. Concern for community is a core principle our electrical cooperatives have always promoted and prioritized.

COVID-19 has brought out the best in all of us and serves as a reminder that Mississippi’s electric cooperatives have always done what’s necessary to help one another. Members have stayed indoors to work from home, teach and nurture children while school is out and to take care of loved ones. While some of our members don’t have the luxury to work from home, they have stayed home anyway for the communal sacrifice to stop the virus from spreading.

Cooperative employees have changed the way they serve our members. Those changes, however, have not affected the cooperatives’ ability to respond to the needs and services our membership deserves. Across Mississippi and the country, cooperative leadership has assessed priorities and needs to ensure power outages are dealt with in a timely and safe manner.

Many cooperative employees are working from home like other Americans across the country. That decision was one of necessity to stop the spread of COVID-19. Although our customer service representatives miss the personal one-on-one interaction they usually share with our members, the cooperatives have created other ways to pay bills and deal with other service requests via online or by phone.

More than 1.8 million Mississippians rely on the electric cooperatives for electric service. But the relationship between cooperative employees and members is more than a simple service. A true concern for our community is at the heart of what we do.

Speaking of serving community, last month I wrote that April 13 was National Lineworker Appreciation Day. Instead of participating in that celebration on their day, the brave men and women that ensure Mississippi’s electric cooperatives have power were out restoring power to areas hit hard by Easter Sunday storms and tornadoes.

At the peak of the storm outages, there were more than 55,000 electric cooperative meters without service and more than 1,500 poles had to be replaced. Several Mississippi and out-of-state electric cooperatives assisted the distressed systems in restoring service in the heavily damaged areas. Because of social distancing, it took a few more days than usual to restore service to all the areas in need.

A sincere thanks to all our members for their patience during the storms’ aftermath and for continuing to stand strong during this difficult time in our country’s history. Mississippi’s electric cooperative employees and members continue to work as one to lift and strengthen ourselves because community is everything.

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