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Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc., (CHELCO) hosted its Annual Meeting on Saturday, April 15, 2023, at Freeport High School.

Nearly 400 members and guests attended the meeting, where they had the opportunity to speak to department representatives and partake in live demonstrations and children’s activities. Updates were given by Board President, Gerald Edmondson; Secretary/Treasurer, Gayle Hughes; and Chief Executive Officer, Steve Rhodes, as part of the business meeting.

Board Attorney, Jeff McInnis, announced the 2023 CHELCO Board Trustee Election results. The three incumbent trustees up for election were re-elected for three-year terms.

District 3, Reese Harrison

District 5, Ronald Jones

District 8, Gayle Hughes

Board President Gerald Edmondson highlighted CHELCO’s focus on the seventh cooperative principle, Concern for Community, maintenance of affordable rates for the cooperative’s members, and a comparative report on rates across the state.

“I am proud to share that in a residential rate study conducted by the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association at the end of 2022, CHELCO’s rate was the lowest out of all the electric co-ops in Florida,” Edmondson shared. “In comparison with our local investor-owned utility, we were nearly 11% lower, saving our members an average of nearly $200 per year.”

During the meeting, CEO Steve Rhodes discussed the challenges the cooperative continues to face due to inflation and supply chain issues.

“Since 2020, transformers and the cost of wire have nearly doubled in cost,” Rhodes said. “Transformers used to take about two months to arrive at our warehouse. It now takes over a year. This is an extreme example but not an isolated one.”

Rhodes credited CHELCO employees’ creativity for overcoming such obstacles.

Rhodes continued by updating attendees on CHELCO’s rapidly expanding membership, which is growing at four times the national average, along with the co-op’s performance in safety, reliability and cost control in 2022.

“Because of our effectiveness of controlling costs over the past several years, we are in a very strong financial position,” Rhodes said. “Therefore, I’m pleased to announce there will be no distribution rate increase in 2023.”

Immediately following the business meeting, CHELCO drew the six winners of the $1,000 scholarship in a drawing of nearly 75 eligible applicants. Charles Barker, South Walton High School; Lukas Burgis, South Walton High School; Calypsa Coarsey, Niceville High School; Paetyn Hoffman, Niceville High School; Natalie Larsen, Niceville High School; and Jaden Stevenson, Walton High School, were the six recipients of the 2023 CHELCO Scholarship.

To view an entire recording of the 2023 Annual Meeting and the 2022 Annual Report, visit

CHELCO is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative serving more than 62,000 accounts in Walton, Okaloosa, Holmes and Santa Rosa counties.