WST Electric celebrates 75th birthday

Published 8:58 am Sunday, March 10, 2013

A 75th anniversary celebration is under way at Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative.

The co-op received its charter to operate as a nonprofit organization from the state of Louisiana on Feb. 4, 1938, just as cooperatives were popping up to power the dairy industry across rural America, said Coylean Schloegel, manager of marketing and economic development.

Co-ops like WST, Schloegel said, are owned by the people they serve, and the members have the opportunity to elect representation on the board of directors.

“They are their voice, and they create policies and procedures to run the co-op,” she said. “We’re a nonprofit and we do not have stockholders. We’re looking out for the best interest of our members.”

When Feb. 4 arrived, the Franklinton office commemorated the occasion with a cake-decorating class and competition. The employees who were interested in learning more about cake decorating remained after work and were divided into teams. After a demonstration from an employee skilled in decorating techniques, the each team created a 75th anniversary-themed design and applied it to an already- baked cake.

The judges awarded first place to the team of Kim Tynes, Pam Baker, Debbie Sheridan and Cindy Hebert, and also handed out ribbons for second place, third place and honorable mention. All in attendance had cake and ice cream to celebrate the co-op’s anniversary, and cake was served to members the next day.

The lobby of the Franklinton branch is currently decorated in a birthday theme, and members who stop in can get a look at pictures from the co-op’s early days.

A special recognition of the 75th anniversary is also in the works for WST’s annual meeting, to be held Saturday, May 4 in the Franklinton High School Cafeteria, Schloegel said. The meeting is open to all members of the co-op.

Schloegel has also been highlighting two to three of the co-op’s employees each week on Washington-St. Tammany Electric’s Facebook page.

“It personalizes who is actually working at your co-op,” she said.

More information about the anniversary, including photos, a video and a history of the co-op, is available online at www.wste. coop.

Schloegel said she enjoys working at WST because its mission is unique.

“There’s a sense of value when you know you’re working for the people, so you’re looking out for their best interest,” she said.

As a member, she said she also takes pride in her co-op. She said WST has a great group of employees and managers who genuinely care about the interests of its members.

“If you’ve ever had the opportunity to see the dedication during storms of our linemen, people in the office, how we work together — it’s an incredible thing to witness,” she said.

In addition to its main office in Franklinton, WST has branch offices in Abita Springs, Folsom and Slidell. The co-op currently has more than 50,000 accounts, about 129 employees and approximately 5,000 miles of distribution line, Schloegel said.

Schloegel said amazing progress in both machinery and technology has been made since the co-op began.

“If you begin to think about how far we’ve been in these 75 years, what do you think the next 75 years is going to look like? We look forward to experiencing that,” she said.