SEMO Electric: Crossing state lines to help restore power and rebuild lives

25 Sep 2020

As multiple hurricanes make landfall in the southern part of the USA, lineworkers from electric cooperatives across the country packed their trucks and equipment to travel hundreds of miles to help restore power and help communities rebuild lives. Hurricane Laura knocked out electricity to more than 1 million people when it made landfall on August 27 and in Louisiana, all of Beauregard Electric Cooperative’s members were without power. In response, a total of 359 lineworkers from 30 electric cooperatives in Missouri left their homes to help. They joined more than 1,200 additional lineworkers from other states who were making their way to Louisiana. 

All over the country, it is not uncommon to see electric cooperative equipment trucks travel down the highways during hurricane season. SEMO Electric is no different. This year, eight SEMO lineworkers travelled to help Beauregard Electric Cooperative.  

“In 2009, we had a huge storm in this area and we had nearly 1,000 people from all parts of the area trying to help us restore power. So part of the cooperative movement is helping each other to take care of our member owners. And we felt like it was our obligation to go down to Louisiana and help that cooperative down there,” said SEMO Electric CEO Sean Vanslyke.

“Eight years ago, I was lucky enough to get into the cooperative world as CEO of SEMO. And the cooperative world is about making people's lives better. The cooperative business model is just different. It means that we serve the people who own us. And so our goal every day is to take care of our members in the best way that we can,” he added.   

SEMO Electric is also active internationally, particularly by supporting development projects developed carried out by NRECA International, the international arm for NRECA, the country’s apex for America’s electric cooperatives.  

“We've had one of our linemen go abroad twice to Bolivia to work to electrify communities that didn't have power. We've also donated a line truck to the Philippines. So we work hard to promote and encourage that activity,” added Mr Vanslyke, who also serves on the state Advisory Committee for the National US Global Leadership Coalition. “We try to be involved, we have a lot of daily duties that we have to take care of first, but we aim to help others if we can,” he said.

SEMO Electric was established in 1938, when a group of farmers in southeast Missouri came together to form a cooperative to meet the demand for electricity in the rural area. From its humble beginnings with just a few lights on a farm homestead, SEMO Electric has grown to serve thousands of homes, farms and businesses. The secret to success has been staying true to the cooperative ethos, says Mr Vanslyke.