Chief Executive Officer
Stephen Rhodes currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CHELCO).
Steve began his electric cooperative career in 1988 and has served at several cooperatives during his career. Prior to his arrival at CHELCO in 2013, he held the position of President and CEO at Kosciusko Rural Electric Membership Cooperative (KREMC) in Warsaw, Indiana, for ten years. At Midwest Energy Cooperative in Cassopolis, Michigan, he served as Vice-President, Marketing and Customer Services, and as President-Chief Executive Officer of Western Michigan Electric Cooperative in Scottville, Michigan.
Steve recently served as Chairman of the Touchstone Energy Board of Directors, a national brand representing over 500 electric cooperatives, is a member of the PowerSouth Board of Trustees and the Southeastern Data Cooperative (SEDC) Board of Directors, and serves on the Executive Committee of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council. He also is an active member of the All Sports Association in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and the Mid-Bay Bridge Rotary Club in Bluewater Bay, Florida.
Steve received his master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from The University of Toledo Graduate School of Business and his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.
J. Matthew Avery, P.E.
Vice President of Engineering
J. Matthew Avery currently serves as the Vice President of Engineering for Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CHELCO).
Prior to joining CHELCO in 2003, Matthew worked in the utility industry since 1996 with another electric cooperative, an investor owned utility and a fiber optic company. Matthew also worked in the residential and commercial construction industry.
Matthew received his master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from the University of West Florida and his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Auburn University. Matthew is a registered professional engineer in the State of Florida and Alabama. He is also a graduate of the Robert I. Kabat Management Internship Program through The University of Wisconsin School of Business and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
Matthew is involved in the community. He is an active member of Crosspoint United Methodist Church and serves on the Board of Trustees. He is a board member of the Okaloosa/Walton United Way. He is a Past-President for the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the All Sports Association and Past-President of the Niceville-Valparaiso Kiwanis Club. He is past Chairman of Mentoring Emerald Coast (formerly BUILD), a community-wide mentorship program. Matthew was also an Honorary Commander with the 16th Electronic Warfare Squadron, 53rd Wing, Eglin AFB.
Matthew lives in Bluewater Bay with his wife, Jamie, and their two children.
Vice President of Operations
Donny has 39 years of experience in the utility field, starting his career at Sumter Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SECO) in 1979. At SECO, he held positions as a lineman, Safety Coordinator, Line Construction Supervisor and Operations Superintendent.
Fugate relocated to northwest Florida and started with Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CHELCO) in 1999 as a Project Liaison for large projects. He was promoted to Manager of Operations in 2002. He completed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Management Internship Program in 2006, and was promoted to his current position of Vice President of Operations in 2010.
In this role, he oversees the management, budgeting and planning, of both the Operations and Energy Control Center Departments to include personnel and equipment engaged in overhead, underground maintenance and construction along with electrical system control and operation. He also serves as the Chief Emergency Coordinator for storm preparedness and restoration related to hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Mr. Fugate’s experience and education have provided him with extensive expertise in several areas including: Employee Development, Organizational Management, Emergency Management/Disaster Planning, Safety and Managerial Accounting.
Vice President of Administration
Scott Seay joined CHELCO in January of 2012 as Vice President of Administration. He has over 29 years of management experience, 15 years of which he has specialized in recruiting, hiring, benefits administration, occupational safety, property/casualty insurance administration, legal compliance and environmental compliance. His background includes employment with a power distribution equipment repair and decommissioning company and in the textile manufacturing industry.
Scott holds a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Troy State University. He received the distinguished award of 2008 Outstanding Graduate Student in Human Resource Management at Troy University (Dothan Campus). He completed NRECA's Management Internship Program and has earned certificates in Employee Relations Law, Occupational Safety and Health and in the Interviewing and Selection Process.
Scott has extensive training in leadership, presentation skills and communications, to include working effectively with news media and Toastmasters Competent Communicator designation. He is on the board of directors of CareerSource Okaloosa Walton, has served as Chair of the Walton County United Way Funds Distribution Committee and is involved with the Society of Human Resources Managers.
Chief Financial Officer
Wayne’s work experience includes extensive managerial and accounting experience in the hospitality industry, where he served internationally as an Internal Auditor and domestically as a General Manager. He then worked in governmental accounting as the city clerk/comptroller for the City of DeFuniak Springs, Florida.
For the last 30 years, Wayne has managed the Financial Services Division at Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative (CHELCO), in DeFuniak Springs, where he currently serves as Chief Financial Officer.
He currently serves on the board of directors for Southland Utility Services, Inc. where he is the Treasurer.
Wayne holds a B. A. degree in Accounting from the University of West Florida and has completed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Management Internship Program.
Vice President of Member Services
Steve Wolfrom is the Vice President of Member Services at Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative (CHELCO) in DeFuniak Springs, FL.
Wolfrom manages the member services, area offices, call center, marketing, communications and community relations. He joined the cooperative world in 1986 as director of marketing and communications at Hancock-Wood Electric, North Baltimore, OH. He served as manager of marketing and communications at Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, Prattville, AL, from 2003 to 2006 and was CEO of Henry County REMC, New Castle, IN, from 2006-2013. He graduated from Bowling Green State University in Ohio with a journalism degree.
He is president of the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Walton County Economic Development Authority board. Wolfrom has been active in the community in his various roles, including president of the chamber of commerce and the economic development corporation in Indiana. While in Ohio, he earned the Ohio Community Leadership Award.
As a communicator at Hancock-Wood, he won NRECA Spotlight on Excellence Awards nine consecutive years for various projects. He served as a portfolio judge for the Certified Cooperative Communicators program and wrote a guide on portfolio preparation that was used by NRECA.
He is a graduate of the NRECA Management Internship Program and earned his Certified Key Account Executive designation while at Central Alabama Electric.