Shiveley announces retirement from co-op
Accomplishments, technology changes over the years recalled by co-op CEO
After 42 years with the Barry Electric Cooperative, Bill Shiveley, executive president/CEO of the cooperative and Cassville mayor, has announced he will retire from Barry Electric sometime after the first quarter of 2017.
On Aug. 1, 1974, Shiveley began working for the company as a lineman, at the age of 27.
"I started as a digger truck operator," Shiveley said. "I operated the truck, set poles, did ground work, etc. I started apprentice lineman training."
A graduate of Wheaton High School, Shiveley is originally from South Dakota.
"My parents moved near Fairview in the late 1960s," he said. "I was raised on a farm there."
Shiveley worked 17 years as a lineman at the cooperative, as a maintenance crew leader and operations superintendent, working his way up the ladder, until 1989, when he became assistant manager.
"I did still work some in operations, but began learning administration, finance, and things like that," he said.
One accomplishment in particular Shiveley recalls from his time at the co-op is the fiberoptics project.
"That's something that's been a dream of mine for several years, and the board came around on that and determined we needed to do this," he said. "But, we started working on the the fiber-to-home project about six years ago."
In 42 years, Shiveley has witnessed many changes in the utility industry.
"When I went to work, we didn't have a bucket truck," he recalled. "We climbed everything. Also, members had a member card, read their own meter, billed themselves and sent the money in with the card. Since I've been manager, we've gone to reading our own meters with meter readers to Itron electronic systems. Then, around 2000, we went to an automated system where we read meters from the office."
Before the technology changes, Shiveley said it took four men two to three weeks to read all the meters in the service area.
"We used to read them all between midnight and 6 a.m.," he said. "Now, we read them every 15 minutes and bring the readings back three times a day. It saves a ton of money."
There were also other improvements in Barry Electric's history during Shiveley 's tenure.
"We used to be where Fastrip is now on Main Street," he said. "We purchased the land north of town, built a new office building in 1996, and moved out there. We've also upgraded our computer systems, and GPS'd our full system. All of our poles are on automated mapping. So technology has helped a bunch, and I've tried to keep us up with things."
In addition to his position, Shiveley has also served as mayor of the city since 2012. Initially, running a city along with a cooperative was not on his radar, he said.
"I was busy and was asked to run for mayor, and I told them no three times," he said. "Then, finally, they asked again and said, 'We cannot think of anyone else who has utility experience and understands working with other people's money better, and it may as well be you.'"
His term as mayor ends April 2017, and Shiveley said he has not yet made up his mind if he will run for the post again.
Shiveley said as both mayor and CEO of the Cooperative, he has always striven to manage residents' and members' money wisely.
"Running the city and the Cooperative are the same in that you're working for people and using their money," Shiveley said. "You've got to remember that it's not your money. It's the members' money, and I try to do the best job I can for them."
Shiveley praised those he's worked with over the years, especially during challenging times such as power outages.
"I always had really good coworkers," he said. "Everybody does their job like they're supposed to, and I've always had a good board to work with. It's like they're all family. We spend a lot of time with them, like when you have an ice storm and are with them 24 hours a day.
Shiveley recalled specific storms that brought everyone together, and doing whatever was needed to get the power back on for members.
"There was the snow storm of 1984, the ice storm Christmas of 1987, and the ice storm of January 2007 -- you remember the big storms," he said. 'There were trees down all over the place [in the 2007 storm], but in seven days or so, we were getting our members back on."
Dedicated to his job, Shiveley recalls long hours and sleeping on the floor during those times, to take care of members.
"I slept on the board room floor a lot," he laughed. "We'd work from 5 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m., and I would stay overnight and answer the phone, and do emergency calls since I did have line experience. Then, someone would come in at 5 a.m. and relieve me, and I would go home and sleep till 8 or 9 a.m., then come back."
Shiveley, who will be 70 next year, said he's only had three jobs his entire life.
"I worked on a farm from age 12-18, and at a service station from age 20-27, and I was in the Navy four years," he said.
Shiveley's dedication to his job is one of the reasons Barry Electric has only had three managers in its 70 years of existence.
"I attribute that to the fact that the co-op is a good program, and the people in it are good people," he said.
John Marney, vice president of the co-op board, and manager of Barry County Farmers Co-op in Exeter, said the board was already in the process of finding a replacement.
"He's done an excellent job for years," Marney said of Shiveley.
"I told them I'd be there to help with the transition and to make sure everything goes smoothly," Shiveley said. "I'd like to see the year-end be completed, and the audits done. And, since I'm involved with that, I need to be there. The first three months are pretty busy getting all your required reporting in, and that's why it would be difficult for a new person that had no history to take care of all that."
Shiveley said he would not mind staying on a couple more years, but after giving the company and its members 42 years, he has a few plans of his own.
"I will be 70 next year, and have a couple things I'd like to do," he said. "I'd like to see the fiberoptic project a little further down the line, but I think it's just time I let someone else take the reins. The project is in good shape, we've got good people on board, and I don't think there will be any issues."
Shiveley said he felt privileged to be with the co-op 42 years, unheard of in today's job market.
"It's a good place to work and they're good people," he said. "The whole co-op program state-wide has good people who work hard and are dedicated to serving their members."
Shiveley said having an electric co-op that's member owned in a small town in not the norm.
"We're a little unusual in that most cooperatives do not serve towns with over 1,500 people," he said. "And we are quite unique in that we are a compact system. We serve five small towns, and we have a very good member-to-miles ratio. We're about 9.4 whereas the average in the state is probably five or less. Our employees are dedicated to providing good service. We try to be there right now when you need something. And we're working to get better. We're looking at a program called 'predictive outages,' and hoping to put that in place in the budget next year.
Shiveley said the program sends a signal to see if the meters are communicating, helping the co-op know if there's a problem before the member does, thereby potentially preventing outages altogether.
"We're working toward that for next year," he said.
Attorney David Cupps, president of the board, was out of of the country and could not be reached for comment at press time.