4-County Electric Power Association has a new leader.
The cooperative’s Assistant General Manager Brian Clark was named new chief executive officer and general manager, the cooperative announced in a press release Wednesday. Clark has been with the company nearly 13 years, starting first as a staff accountant and worked his way to chief financial officer in 2013 and assistant general manager in February. The cooperative’s board of trustees finalized the decision Monday.
4-County board chairman Jay Gilliland said Clark was one of five internal candidates who applied for the position after the board determined to hire internally. Clark, he said, “checked all the boxes.”
“(Clark has) dedicated himself in each one of his jobs and projects throughout his career and more especially after he became … CFO,” Gilliland said. “… He took on a lot of other responsibilities that were not necessarily in his job. He was willing to do anything he had to do to better 4-County.”
On Oct. 1, Clark will replace outgoing CEO Joe Cade, who will retire Sept. 30.
Since Cade took over the cooperative in 2010, 4-County has made strides in efficiency, work safety and community engagement, consolidating offices to save money for members, working with the Golden Triangle Development LINK to bring industries like Yokohama to the area and starting the 4-County Foundation, which raises money to give grants to organizations and individuals in the nine counties the cooperative serves.
Those are some of the successes Cade leaves behind, Clark said. Now he wants to make sure he keeps the cooperative going in the same direction.
“I think 4-County’s in a great place,” Clark said. “I know that’s easy to say, but Mr. Joe and the board, they really have done the right things at the right time, which makes my job easy coming in. But it’s kind of like being a pristine athlete at a pro level. You have to work hard at staying in physical shape, so we have to work hard at maintaining what they’ve already built for us.”
The cooperative is a nonprofit, meaning instead of having “customers” the company has members who become part owners when they receive power from 4-County. That kind of set-up, Clark said, allows 4-County to focus on its members rather than a bottom line.
“Granted, if you don’t have a margin, you don’t have a mission in business,” Clark said. “But it allows us to focus on our members more-so than making a bottom line for say a stockholder company or a privately owned company. Because we’re member-owned, we can look at their needs and what serves them best.”
The cooperative provides power for more than 38,000 members in Noxubee County and rural parts of Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Monroe, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Winston and Webster counties.
That focus on members gives 4-County a community focus that Clark is particularly proud of. He said 4-County Foundation is a prime example. Members who opt in have their bills rounded to the nearest dollar, and the spare change goes to the Foundation, which provides grants to other area nonprofits that focus on education, catastrophic intervention and health and human services.
“We have some successful communities like Lowndes County and Oktibbeha County, but we also have some less successful communities like Choctaw County, parts of Clay, parts of Monroe,” Clark said. “All counties have received funds from the foundation, but you really hear from the counties that need it the most. They really sing praises about how it’s done.”
Clark plans to continue Cade’s focus on safety and economic development. He said he wants to find ways to make the cooperative more efficient, and he mentioned a program where members who lose power can inform 4-County through text messaging rather than having to call or go to the office.
Clark also is serving as president of Lowndes County School District’s board of trustees, of which he became a member in 2010. LCSD Superintendent Lynn Wright said if Clark’s leadership in the school district is any indication of how he will lead 4-County, the electric cooperative is in good hands.
“He’s willing to ask good, tough questions and he expects solid answers,” Wright said.
Cade said while he had nothing to do himself with the board’s decision to hire Clark as his replacement, he’s happy with the decision.
“He’s well-educated, he knows what he’s doing and he’s been real good in his jobs here so I don’t have any doubts about him,” Cade said. “I think he’ll do a really good job.
“I’ve had over 25 years of good relationships with everyone I’ve worked with and I know Brian has got the personality to do very well,” he added. “He’s a rock-solid good Christian man.”
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