In the 1930s there was no electricity where SWRE members live. Kerosene lanterns, ice boxes and wood stoves were a way of life. Only 4% of families in rural America had electricity.
Today, dependable and economical electricity has enabled the countryside to come alive with a higher standard of living for rural residents. No longer do they have to carry water and wood and do all the work by hand like their parents.
This change in life-style began when the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was created by the federal government in 1936. Prior to 1995, REA served as a financing organization so local member-owned electric cooperatives like SWRE could serve rural areas. Today REA has been replaced by the Rural Utility Service (RUS).
As early as 1936, local leaders drove the dirt roads of Texoma to sign up farm families for electricity from a cooperative that they hoped could be formed. Folks in the towns and cities had been served by electricity for years. Electrical service to the farms and ranches of Southern Oklahoma and North Texas was a hope that they could only imagine.
That hope became a reality, though, when Southwest Rural Electric Cooperative was chartered by the state of Oklahoma on December 8, 1937. The first board of trustees consisted of five men: W. S. Laing, S. H. Bell, J. H. Wiseman, George Gant, and H. N. Seymour. The five-member board was soon expanded to nine members.
Building power lines was a overwhelming job that required people working together for the good of all. Many worked together to accomplish a goal that was too difficult for a few to accomplish individually.
The first energizing of SWRE’s distribution lines was affected at the Altus Municipal Power Plant, December 13, 1938 at 2:39 PM. At that time, Altus Mayor Bert Holt pulled the switch releasing energy from the plant to SWRE’s Altus substation. Current was then released at 2:52 PM., energizing the first 26 miles of SWRE line.
In 1940, SWRE crossed the Red River and began serving Texas consumers.
Succeeding years have seen the building of more electric power lines. Electrical appliances have changed home life from drudgery to convenience. Drop cord lights were wired first, followed by electric irons, radios, stoves, refrigerators, and eventually, televisions. Rural America would never be the same. SWRE and her sister cooperatives had arrived.
Each small community and rural area was excited by the prospect of "lighting up" homes and businesses.
The original 1937 SWRE headquarters was located in a storefront in downtown Tipton, Oklahoma. In 1942, the first SWRE Building was constructed at its present site, 700 North Broadway, Tipton. The building is still used by the cooperative.
The first SWRE General Manager was Tom Moran, a leader not only in the development of SWRE, but statewide. He served as the first president of Western Farmers Electric Cooperative and of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives
In 1942, Clark T. McWhorter became the second General Manager of SWRE. He had been one of the original incorporators. He took an active role nationally. Following his resignation as General Manager, McWhorter was selected as a member of the SWRE board of trustees and continued to serve in that capacity for many years.
In 1948, J. M. Maddox became the third SWRE General Manager. He held that position for 25 years until his retirement in 1973. During his long tenure, Maddox served on numerous state, regional and national boards and committees, including the presidency of OAEC.
B. R. Green assumed the duties of the fourth SWRE General Manager in 1973. Green’s lifetime of work in the cooperative movement made a valuable contribution to SWRE.
In 1987, Ray Beavers was selected as SWRE C.E.O. Beavers was involved in the cooperative field for many years. He was active in regional economic development, serving as the founding president of the Great Plains Economic Development Association. Many innovative programs were begun or greatly expanded during his tenure.
Pat McAlister took over the reigns of SWRE in March 2000. McAlister, a native of the Mangum area, came to SWRE from a co-op CEO position in Texas, bringing 36 years of cooperative experience. He retired as CEO in January 2006.
Mike R. Hagy assumed responsibilities as CEO of SWRE in January 2006. He had served for 16 years as superintendent of Frederick Public Schools and for 11 years as a credentialed member of the SWRE Board of Trustees.
Under Hagy's leadership, the co-op made great strides in technology. Automatic metering was implemented and a system-wide mapping and inventory system was put in place. Online services were expanded and SWRE introduced its own app for smart phones and tablets. Programs relating to whole-house generators, community solar, and geothermal were launched under Hagy's leadership prior to his retirement in January 2017.
Kenneth E. Simmons assumed responsibilities as CEO of SWRE in January 2017. Simmons is a 35-year veteran of the electric co-op industry. He came to SWRE from Carroll EMC in Carollton, Georgia. He previously served as president/CEO of Utility Design Services, Inc., a utility consulting firm that worked with electric distribution co-ops of all sizes across the Southern United States.
As SWRE CEO, Simmons works to expand the cooperative's range of operations while focusing on the organization's constant goal of safety, service, and satisfaction.
SWRE's service area includes 6,000 square miles of Southwest Oklahoma and North Texas. Loyal and experienced employees are the key to SWRE’s growth and success. They work in all types of weather, day and night, seven days a week to make sure the cooperative members have electricity at the flick of a switch. They know that providing members with the best possible service at the most economical cost is the key to continued success.
Today's SWRE board and management, like those 77 years before them, realize that success is measured not in miles of line or kilowatt hours sold, but in members' satisfaction with their cooperative and the service that it provides! After all, SWRE is owned by the people it serves.
The good people of rural Texoma formed their own power company 77 years ago because no one else would provide them with electricity. They knew that the best way to get something done is to "do it yourself."
Today, the company that they formed is stronger than ever and is a vital force in helping to shape the economy of Southern Oklahoma and North Texas.