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Greenville Business Magazine

Balancing Act

Aug 02, 2018 12:37PM ● By Emily Stevenson
By David Dykes
Photography by Amy Randall Photography

When Jim Lovinggood became Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative’s president and CEO in February, he was just the third person to hold the Pickens-based utility’s top position in its 78-year history. Undaunted, his aim is to guide the company through the ever-changing electric utility industry, which is wrestling with the potential of solar and renewable sources of energy.

“That’s definitely driving our industry and we’re embracing those and trying to really focus on how to work those in to the everyday operation of our company,” Lovinggood says.

Lovinggood also embraces communications technology and social media to improve dissemination of information during outages and other events.

“While the evolution of technology is a constant challenge, our organization is in the midst of exciting times when it comes to new and emerging technologies,” he says. “My goal as CEO is to keep Blue Ridge on the cutting edge of all technology, especially in the way we communicate with and provide service to our members.”

Lovinggood says becoming the company’s president and CEO was “no doubt, one of the great honors of my life.”

Lovinggood, 60, has been an integral part of Blue Ridge for 36 years. He was the second employee his president and CEO predecessor, Charles Dalton, hired in 1982. Lovinggood most recently worked as the cooperative’s vice president of engineering. Dalton worked in the top post from 1982 until his retirement in January.

“We didn’t need to look very far to arrive at the individual we see as best suited take this co-op into the future,” says Kenneth Southerlin, chairman of the Blue Ridge board of directors. “Jim has a proven record as a tireless and productive employee. My fellow directors and I are full of enthusiasm for Jim’s success in this new role and believe in his ability to keep Blue Ridge moving in a positive direction.”

Lovinggood pledges Blue Ridge will remain “very active” in giving back to the community, especially through its annual fundraising event, Blue Ridge Fest.

Through the volunteer efforts of the company’s employees and the generosity of sponsors, the festival has donated more than $2.5 million over the last 19 years to local human-help agencies in areas served by the cooperative. Lovinggood is on several boards including Anderson University Board of Visitors, Central Electric Power Cooperative, Cooperative Electric Energy Utility Supply, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, New Horizon Electric Cooperative and Tri-County Technical College Foundation. In addition, he is a member of the Anderson Rotary Club.

Blue Ridge, organized in August 1940, is a member-owned, not-for-profit electric distribution utility that serves about 68,000 members in the Upstate with about 7,000 miles of power lines. It supplies electricity to Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg counties, or about 1,775 square miles of service territory.

It doesn’t generate its own power. Instead, it buys from several different sources.

Lovinggood was born and raised in Pickens County. His early days at Blue Ridge included mapping, drafting and substation inspections. He worked his way up and now says his priority is to build on the company’s platform of “great service.”

“It is a balancing act between trying to get into the new world of renewables but yet not lose track of the fact that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow and we’ve got to be able to provide that level of service when they don’t,” Lovinggood says.

He counts Dalton among his mentors and praised his predecessor in a message posted online.

“Every now and then, we hear about the coach of a highly successful athletic program who has retired after an impressive and lengthy run,” Lovinggood said. “These successful coaches are often labeled as a ‘legend’ by their many fans, given their incredible accomplishments, and are held in high esteem by almost everyone. However, after these legendary individuals have coached their final game, most fans feel a deep sense of loss and great concern about the future direction of their team. That’s not unlike the position in which I find myself at this point in time.”

“As we look to the future, it’s my plan to build on the legacy Charles has cultivated over his nearly four decades of service,” Lovinggood says. “We’ll continue to focus on serving our members as efficiently and effectively as possible, remaining faithful to our slogan of ‘Service Second Only to Safety.’”

He adds, “The values of integrity, accountability, innovation, and commitment have been at the core of all we do. Those same values will be my guide during the coming years.”