Our Cooperative Response to COVID-19 with Alan Michalewicz, CEO of White River Electric Association
Alan Michalewicz, General Manager and CEO of White River Electric Association, sits down with our host, Bazi Kanani, to discuss how his cooperative has responded to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across our cooperative family, amazing work is being done by our members as business practices have pivoted in an effort to tackle challenges related to COVID-19. As part of this series, Bazi Kanani interviews CEOs from our member cooperatives and public power districts to discuss how they are responding during this difficult time.
White River Electric Association serves rural areas in three counties of Western Colorado. Alan Michalewicz discusses with Bazi Kanani some of the ways White River has acted in the face of COVID-19 to support these communities. His cooperative has found ways to ease the financial strain faced by some of their members and also continues to deliver high-speed internet to their communities during a time when connectivity matters most.
To learn more about what White River Electric Association is doing in their communities, watch the video below.
Read the Interview Transcript
"Most of the town of Meeker now has high-speed fiber and that's allowed our employees to actually move into their homes, take their computers, take their phones, and operate seamlessly for the customers and the members we have."
Bazi: Headquartered in the small town of Meeker, Colorado in a scenic Rocky Mountain Valley, the White River Electric Association serves rural areas in three counties. During this viral pandemic, this cooperative demonstrates concern for the community in their response while making sure electricity is something their members can count on.
Joining this video call is Alan Michalewics, he's the CEO and General Manager of White River Electric. And Allen, you've been responding to the economic strain on your community.
Alan: COVID has had quite an impact on the small community of Meeker. We've got a number of restaurants and small businesses that are impacted by having their doors closed. And so one of the things that White River took the initiative of was, is our board approved moving our capital credit payments, which we normally do in August, up. So two weeks ago about 1000 of our members got their capital credit checks which hopefully will help them during this time.
Bazi: Alan, I also know you've had to change a number of the ways that you're working in order to keep your employees safe. How has that been going?
Alan: Actually, it's gone pretty well. We're down to just a skeleton staff in the office, and most of our employees are working from home. Most of the field employees are actually coming in only to get material. They're working in two-man crews so we've tried to isolate everything. But the employees took on the challenge very well and are working successfully from home.
Bazi: So Alan, the cooperative model was formed many years ago to bring electricity into rural area. And more recently, it's been used to bring high-speed internet to rural areas. I know that's something that White River has been involved in. And I can't even imagine how much harder this pandemic would be on the community if you hadn't been involved in that work.
Alan: Well, it would have been very difficult for us. The county a fews years ago, got into high-speed internet. We were lucky to have some tiger that they could use under a use agreement. And so, most of the town of Meeker now has high-speed fiber and that's allowed our employees to actually move into their homes, take their computers, take their phones, and operate seamlessly for the customers and the members we have. Other than the front door being closed, most members don't realize that very few people are in the building right now. It's really been a huge advantage.
Bazi: Alan Michalewicz with White River Electric, thanks for your time today, Alan.
Alan: Thank you.
COVID-19 Community Response
As a family of electric cooperatives and public power districts, our distribution members reach consumers at the end of the line, many of whom have been directly impacted by COVID-19. To learn about our response, how are members are responding and the amazing work being done in communities across the West, watch our videos and read the articles here.
Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 46 members, including 43 member utility electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in four states, that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. For more information about Tri-State and our Responsible Energy Plan, visit www.tristate.coop.