Here’s to more in 2023

As I look toward 2023, I can’t help but take stock in 2022 and what we collectively accomplished.

Connecting you to the world is WCTEL’s mission. Personally, it is one of the most gratifying initiatives of my career. As only the third CEO of this 70-year-old cooperative, I, together with the WCTEL family, stand on the shoulders of giants. Our history is rich. Our values are the same ones that our incorporators had 70 years ago. Our mission remains the same: Serve. Do no harm. Preserve and protect our mission, our people. Evolve. Innovate. Take care of each other and our communities. Those guiding principles are the litmus test that I apply to every new initiative. Does it accomplish all or some of these? If yes, it’s worth pursuing. And if not, then perhaps we are losing focus and we need to reassess. Last year was another historic year. We moved our final copper customers over to fiber, making us a 100% fiber network. Through a partnership with Blue Ridge Electric, we continued to build out a fiber network in the Upstate under the brand Upcountry Fiber. We grew our base in Greenwood and Newberry. At year end, our customer base grew to 35,000. All of this growth drives our No. 1 goal: Preserve the legacy and sustainability of our original cooperative areas of Abbeville County, McCormick County, Iva and Starr. We also invested in our communities in other ways. Two projects in particular remain at the forefront of my mind, and you’ll read more on them in this issue. One project came to us through Jackson McCall, son of our director Eric McCall. Jackson’s idea was simple, but it has made a sweeping impact on our area, and it’s one that is a model to be emulated around this country. The Dixie High School FFA Wrap Recycling Program took on the challenge to reduce the amount of net wrap, hay twine and silage wrap entering the landfill. This type of leadership gives me so much hope for our future. These kids are a light in this world, and we are happy to support innovative concepts like this. You can read more on this on Page 13. The second recent initiative was our Give Big, Get Gig Holiday Food Drive supporting food pantries in Abbeville, Iva, McCormick, Greenwood and Newberry. Customers who donated at least 3 items were eligible for an internet upgrade to our Gigabit internet package for the month of December. While we’ve received feedback from many happy customers who had housefuls of guests connecting to the internet over the holidays, the real winners were our communities. The need is great, especially over the holidays and extended school breaks. I couldn’t be prouder of our customers, members and employees who joined together to help. These are two examples of many. But, they fuel me. Just like our community fuels me. Progress, innovation, service and heart. WCTEL embodies all of it and all of you. From our heart to yours, thank you. Let’s have a great 2023 and do more great things together.