Southwest Rural Electric is an electric cooperative headquartered in Tipton, Oklahoma. SWRE's service area includes 3,103 miles of power line and 7,610 active meters in 6,000 square miles across southwest Oklahoma and north central Texas. Loyal and experienced employees are the key to SWRE’s growth. They work in all types of weather, day and night, seven days a week to make sure the cooperative members have electricity at the flip of a switch.
Today's SWRE board and management, like those who founded the co-op in 1937, 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. SWRE is committed to providing safe, reliable affordable electricity… one member at a time.
Prior to 1935
In the 1930s there was no electricity where SWRE members live. Kerosene lanterns, ice boxes and wood stoves were the way of life. Only four percent of families in rural America had electricity.
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 Today REA has been replaced by the Rural Utility Service (RUS).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.
December 8, 1937
That hope became a reality when Southwest Rural Electric Cooperative was chartered by the state of Oklahoma on December 8, 1937. The original 1937 SWRE headquarters was located in a storefront in downtown Tipton, Oklahoma.
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 (WFEC) and of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC).
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.
With the creation of SWRE and her sister electric co-ops in the late 1930s and early 1940s, our nation's rural countryside came alive. Building power lines was an overwhelming job that required people working together for the good of all.
December 13, 1938
The first energizing of SWRE’s distribution lines was affected at the Altus Municipal Power Plant, December 13, 1938 at 2:39 p.m. 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 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 were excited by the prospect of "lighting up" homes and businesses.
In 1942, the first SWRE building was constructed at its present site, 700 North Broadway in Tipton, Oklahoma. The building is still used by the cooperative.
Clark T. McWhorter became the second General Manager of SWRE in 1942. 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.
Willie Wiredhand has been the official mascot of electric cooperatives since the 1950s. Everything about Willie is symbolic of rural electricity. He is described as, “the friendly and inspirational golden boy who symbolizes dependable, local, consumer-owned electricity.”
His torso, waist and legs are an electrical plug and his arms are wire with hands in safety gloves. His head, a light socket with a push button nose.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association says Willie was given the last name “Wiredhand” because the electricity brought to rural America by co-ops in the 1930s and 1940s was “the never-tiring, always available hired hand to help the nation’s farmers.”
1970s - 2020s
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 Chief Executive Officer. 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 began and expanded during his tenure.
Pat McAlister took over the reins 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 worked to expand the cooperative's range of operations while focusing on the organization's constant goal of safety, service, and satisfaction. Simmons was instrumental in launching the cooperatives charitable foundation, Operation Round Up.
Jeff Simpson became SWRE’s CEO in July 2020 and continues to serve the cooperative. His 40+ years of experience working at Cotton Electric Cooperative in Walters, Oklahoma, paired with his previous roles as a lineman, operations staff, finance director and marketing professional provide SWRE with the solid foundation it needs for many years to come.