SECO Energy was founded in 1938 as Sumter Electric Cooperative, Inc., a small not-for-profit rural electric utility serving a few hundred folks in the Webster area. Over the years, sound financial management, appropriate governance policies and economic growth in Central Florida have resulted in the cooperative doing business today as a fiscally sound SECO Energy with a membership of more than 205,000 residents and business owners across seven counties.
Cooperatives in Florida are legislated by Florida Statute Chapter 425. Not only is SECO Energy in full compliance with the Florida statute, the cooperative also adheres largely to Florida Public Service Commission guidelines developed for investor-owned utilities (although cooperatives are not technically required by statute to do so). SECO also files its rate tariffs for approval and emergency response plan outline annually with the PSC.
SECO Energy’s member-elected Board of Trustees are fairly compensated for their service and the cooperative’s election guidelines make it easy for an interested party’s name to appear on the ballot. A potential candidate simply notifies SECO in writing of intention to run. No signatures or nominations are necessary.
The potential Trustee candidate must reside in the District, cannot be closely related to another Trustee or employee and must meet very general eligibility requirements per the SECO Energy Bylaws. In fact, four of the nine current Trustees have been elected to the Board in the last eight years. The cooperative encourages election participation at District Meetings and holds an Annual Meeting as required by Florida Statute. In 2018, SECO Energy’s Annual Meeting drew a crowd of nearly 7,000.
Once elected, Trustees are compensated for each monthly Board of Trustee meeting. The amount covers meeting attendance and the study time needed to prepare for Board meetings. The compensation is standard for this region and for a Board responsible for governance and the financial oversight associated with a company of this size with $855 million in utility plant. SECO Energy is the third largest cooperative in Florida and the seventh largest in the nation.
SECO Energy Trustees are not provided with company-paid health, dental or vision insurance or pension/retirement benefits. Trustees are encouraged to participate in trainings and conferences to provide the education needed to govern and oversee the utility.
For trainings/conferences, transportation type and dates/time is limited to the most economical. Overstaying of training/conference dates at company expense is not permitted. The cooperative’s policies prohibit the coverage or reimbursement of spouse or family member travel or entertainment expenses if they accompany a Trustee to a conference or training.
Board meeting dates and times are published two months in advance in our monthly edition of SECO News which is mailed with billing statements and posted on social media and SECOEnergy.com. Members are welcome to attend any meeting in its entirety (with the exception of executive sessions) and can examine the minutes of any past board meeting. Board of Trustee compensation records are released publicly as required in the cooperative’s Form 990. The cooperative publishes an Annual Report as well. SECO Energy is an award-winning utility in customer satisfaction.
SECO Energy has retired Capital Credits regularly as a true not-for-profit electric cooperative should. Capital Credits are the accumulation of all prior year’s revenue after the co-op’s operating costs and expenses have been paid. These credits are allocated on a pro-rata basis to each SECO Energy member’s account as “Capital Credits” and represent a portion of the member’s patronage with the cooperative in the prior fiscal year.
During its September 2017 meeting, SECO’s Board of Trustees approved a record $5.4 million Capital Credits retirement to be returned (retired) to members. Since SECO Energy’s inception, the co-op has retired more than $57.8 million to current and former members. Capital Credits returns are made possible by the sound financial stewardship of SECO’s Board, leadership team and flock of dedicated, cost-conscious employees. The cooperative anticipates (with Board of Trustee approval, of course) another healthy Capital Credits retirement at year end 2018.