CEO Jim Duncan is celebrating 40 years with SECO Energy. On June 10, 1979, Duncan joined SECO (then referred to as Sumter Electric Cooperative, Inc.) in the position of Director of Accounting and Finance. He held this position until March of 1990 when he accepted the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO). As the leader of a not-for-profit utility, Duncan’s priorities focus on maintaining affordable, reliable service for the cooperative’s member-owners.
Over the years, Duncan has seen a lot of positive change, tremendous economic growth and vast system expansion. In 1990 before Duncan became CEO, the cooperative served 66,600 members. Today it provides service to more than 205,000 homes and businesses. Revenue has grown from $74.4 million to $293.7 million. Total utility plant has increased from $143.5 million to $878.7 million. Member equity has matured from 22 percent to 31 percent. The co-op regularly retires capital credits to members with a $5.5 million retirement last year and a $63.3 million returned since inception.
Duncan is humble about his role in leading the cooperative through some tough times and building the organization’s financial strength. He stated, “Our Board of Trustees are the people who are ultimately tasked with reviewing and approving budgets that keep our cooperative fiscally healthy. I credit the Trustees with exercising sound judgement and responsible governance over the years that has allowed SECO to become the third largest cooperative in Florida and the seventh largest in the nation.”
Another of Duncan’s key accomplishments is the significant reduction in outage duration for members. In 1989, members experienced 348 minutes of average outage time annually. Today, that number is only 66 minutes. Duncan attributes the improvement to the development of a robust vegetation management program, system improvement projects that increase reliability, a comprehensive storm hardening program and a workforce that cares deeply about its member-owners’ satisfaction. Duncan states, “Our current senior staff deserves the recognition for ensuring that the delivery of electric service is safe, affordable and reliable and that our members receive the highest level of customer service in the industry.”
Surveys show that SECO Energy members are very satisfied with SECO Energy. In 2018, members again rated the not-for-profit electric cooperative top in customer satisfaction. SECO received an outstanding ACSI score of 89. When comparing SECO to the ACSI Utility Sector scores SECO is a clear national frontrunner. Nationally, cooperative utilities scored a 77 in 2018. Scores for municipal and investor-owned utilities were both slightly lower at 75.
Members also rank SECO high in J.D. Power surveys as well. In 2015, SECO Energy was ranked highest in satisfaction among mid-sized utilities in the south, and in 2016 and 2017, SECO was ranked highest in satisfaction among cooperatives nationally.