Founded in 1938, Community Electric Cooperative was created through the efforts of the Holland Ruritan Club and other community leaders to provide electrical service in Southeastern Virginia’s rural areas.
The late Paul L. Everett, prominent attorney from Suffolk and a Holland Ruritan, led the effort to form the electric utility that today serves more than 9,500 families and businesses.
The first board of directors consisted of Louise F. Davidson of Holland, Frank H. Johnson of Zuni, Gretchen C. Ellis of Whaleyville, Bettie C. Gwaltney of Windsor, E. W. Beale of Zuni, Thomas S. Braband of Smithfield, Ruth C. Parker of Whaleyville, Roy Brinkley of Suffolk, and J. K. Jones of Holland.
This first board was unique. Of the hundreds of electric cooperatives being formed across the United States, Community's founding board had more women than any other in the country.
The Cooperative elected officers immediately after the Virginia State Corporation Commission granted its charter on December 23, 1938. The Co-op's first president was Louise F. Davidson.
The Rural Electrification Administration granted Community Electric Cooperative a $220,000 loan in October of 1939. A month later, construction was underway on the utility's first 220 miles of line, running from Windsor into Nansemond County, which has since merged into the City of Suffolk.
Some 1,543 member-consumers turned out at the Co-op's first outdoor annual meeting in Suffolk's Peanut Park in 1949. Enthusiasm was high. With the post-war construction boom, Community Electric Cooperative rang in the New Year of 1950 with 2,451 meters, all having gone online within a decade, and most after the war. Construction continued to accelerate into the mid-1950s, with the number of services increasing by more than one-third, to 3,637, by 1955.
The Cooperative reached a major financial milestone in 1955. For the first time, the utility achieved a year of operational margins. Capital credits totaling $26,705 were assigned to members, and in 1959 the members received their first capital-credit refund checks.
In 1971, the Cooperative passed 1,000,000 man-hours without a lost-time accident. The record represented one of the best in the nation at the time.
By January of 1975, Community Electric Cooperative had installed some 5,875 meters and 1,111 miles of line.
James M. Reynolds was hired in 1977 by the Co-op board of directors to succeed Jean Woodward as manager. Reynolds served until his retirement in April 2013. Only the third CEO in its history, Steven A. Harmon took the helm in June 2013.
In 1979, Community Electric Cooperative executed a wholesale power contract with Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, a generation-and-transmission cooperative. Initially, Old Dominion negotiated rates on behalf of Community Electric Cooperative and its other member systems.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Old Dominion procured ownership of electric-generation facilities to support Community Electric Cooperative and the 11 other cooperatives which own Old Dominion. In 1983, Old Dominion acquired an 11.6 percent interest in the North Anna Nuclear Power Station. Old Dominion also owns a 50 percent interest in the Clover Power Station, which it built, and which went on-line in 1995. In addition to North Anna and Clover, Old Dominion has developed three peaking electric generation facilities to further support Community and the other 11 member cooperatives.
Over the last 15 years, the Co-op has recorded a growth rate of roughly 1.5 percent per year in the number of meters connected. The Cooperative currently serves more than 11,000 accounts over its 1,590 miles of distribution line.