We said goodbye to a good one.
On Tuesday, April 11, we said goodbye to long-time employee and good friend, Ray Brewer. Mr. Brewer had passed a week earlier, finally succumbing after a nearly two-year battle with cancer.
Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative lost a very good man when Ray passed. He was one of those rare people that we were lucky enough to have had the good fortune of getting to know.
He never minced words. You never had to doubt where you stood with him nor where he stood with issues. He told you.
As a friend, he would challenge you to be better. He wouldn’t let you get away with making statements that you couldn’t back up. He helped me learn to say what I meant and mean what I say.
Ray’s story with Coosa Valley Electric is one that illustrates one of a cooperative’s greatest strengths. We like to grow our people from within. Education can help, but we measure individuals by their talent and merit, not how many degrees they can earn or their pedigree.
You may start at our company washing trucks, but that doesn't mean you won’t have the opportunity to work your way up and eventually become a leader in the organization, perhaps even the manager of operations or general manager one day.
Ray was in his early twenties when he started here, working in our right-of-way crew.
He joined CVEC when it was an entirely different place to work. The Cooperative was in the midst of an upheaval, and there was a failed attempt among some discontented members to sell it. Years of neglect had left the electric distribution system in bad shape, and the Cooperative's finances were questionable.
Trees and other vegetation clogged the rights of way. Power lines were way overdue for replacement, and outages were commonplace, daily occurrences.
Most of the work the Cooperative’s crews did was just to get the keep the lights on. There was very little if any planning for the future, and little thought was given to providing quality member services.
The upheaval and discontent were very justified.
Just as the Cooperative survived those days, so did Ray, and he never forgot the lessons he learned. The Cooperative is owned by its members. If they aren’t getting good service, they can do something about it.
Ray joined the apprentice lineman program and after completing four years of training, advanced to become a journeyman lineman.
Later he used his training and experience in our engineering department to become a staking technician. Several years later he moved back into operations to take over as our purchasing agent and backup operations manager.
Then, in 2019, Ray earned the operations manager position, where his knowledge, skills, intelligence, and true talents flourished. His natural leadership abilities allowed him to quickly get a handle on the department and start making some positive changes.
As a member of the management team, he helped us navigate through the challenges of COVID, explosive growth in our residential consumer base and rising inflation.
As he started dealing with his cancer treatments he continued to try to work as much as he could. He would come in as his health allowed, but he also provided advice over the phone. He truly loved what he did, who he worked with and the role he played in the organization.
Even when going through the worst of his treatments, he never lost his sense of humor and always tried to help others as he could.
I am fortunate that I get to work with a great team of talented people. Ray was a key member of that team, and his loss will be felt for some time. We will be filling the operations manager position, but we will never be able to fill Ray’s shoes.
We wish you and your loved ones the best and hope that you have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.