NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Robert “Bob” Occhi, former CEO and president of Coast Electric Power Association, has received the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) President’s Award. This award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding leadership contributions to rural electrification, the nation, their states, or communities on the occasion of a special celebration, action or event.
Occhi retired as CEO last March after a 42-year cooperative career. He is being recognized for his tireless dedication and strong advocacy for electric cooperatives at the state and national levels. His commitment to rural economic development, coupled with his support for emerging technologies, helped drive growth in communities served by 26 Mississippi electric cooperatives.
Occhi’s outstanding leadership skills played a key role in the state’s recovery after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Coast Electric and its 70,000-plus members in South Mississippi were in the eye of the hurricane, and sustained more than $110 million in damage to the system. Under Occhi’s leadership, and with the help from more than 3,200 mutual assistance utility workers from 19 states, Coast Electric reached full financial recovery within five years.
“Bob’s loyalty to the electric co-op family is well known, and regarded with great appreciation and respect,” said NRECA President Phil Carson. “Bob’s leadership was put through a battery of tests after Hurricane Katrina. Many of us remember his sure hand and ability to guide his co-op and community through those immense challenges.”
“There was every reason to feel defeated in the face of Katrina, the nation’s worst natural disaster. But under Bob’s leadership, Coast Electric remained a beacon in the tumultuous weeks and months after the storm,” said Gilbert Arceneaux, Chairman of Coast Electric Power Association’s board of directors. “There was never talk of defeat or giving up; there was only the sure and steady work of getting things done and of living up to the mission and vision of Coast Electric.”
“Bob has been a tremendous mentor for me,” said NRECA Director Kevin Doddridge. “His cooperative is one of the largest in the country, yet he could tell you in detail the business and personal lives of the employees. I have yet to see a CEO so loved and respected by his employees.”
More than 6,000 representatives from electric co-ops across the nation are attending NRECA’s Annual Meeting, which runs from Feb. 25-28 in Nashville and sets NRECA’s legislative and organizational agenda for 2018. Co-op representatives also hear from NRECA officials, key public figures and business experts about issues affecting electric cooperatives and their consumer members. The Annual Meeting is held in conjunction with TechAdvantage, a technology learning event and expo that features more than 300 exhibitors showcasing their state-of-the-art technologies, equipment and services.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.