He has some big shoes to fill, but new Upshur Rural Electric General Manager Rob Walker is confident he can lead the co-op into the future, while ensuring that it still continues to provide the lowest electric prices and best service possible.
He replaces John Dugan, who has retired after 35 years with the cooperative, most of it as general manager of the member-owned utility, which serves parts of Upshur and nine other Northeast Texas counties.
It indicates the high degree of stability that has surrounded Upshur Rural Electric since its beginning that Walker becomes only the fifth general manager in the co-op’s 75-year history.
Walker has extensive experience in working with member-owned energy providers, having most recently served at Carroll EMC (Electric Membership Cooperative), based in Carroll, Ga.
He said that co-op and its service and challenges is very similar to Upshur Rural. One gets that same feeling visiting Carroll EMC’s web site, www.cemc.com. Advice on energy conservation, paying bills by e-mail, etc., is found there, as well as information on reporting outages.
Walker said Carroll EMC has basically “the same structure” as Upshur-Rural, so the transition will be smooth.
He praised Dugan, saying that during his 35 years, “John has been a stabilizing influence” at Upshur Rural and with the communities it serves.
Walker acknowledged that he will face new challenges, both from the market and from environmental concerns.
These dove-tail in older coal-fired generating plants going off-line, which could lead to increases in wholesale prices for electricity if new generation sources are not developed.
Walker said that in Georgia, two new nuclear plants are under construction, which will help there.
Walker took over day-to-day operations in April, overlapping with Dugan and being introduced at the April annual membership meeting of the cooperative.
Walker, 45, and his wife of 14 years, Michelle, have three children, and are happy to have relocated to an area like East Texas.
He has an electrical engineering degree from Auburn University, and a law degree from Georgia State University. Walker is also continuing to work toward a master of business administration degree.
He said his experience includes energy distribution law, and 20 years in the electerical distribution field.
Walker said his goals include making sure the cooperative continues to be “very community-minded,” and rooted in the communities it serves, and to ensure that Upshur Rural continues to provide “good service at a great value.”