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key personnel

Chief Executive Officer Steve Rhodes

Steve Rhodes currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CHELCO).    

Steve began his electric cooperative career in 1988. Prior to his arrival at CHELCO in 2013, he held the position of President and CEO at Kosciusko Rural Electric Membership Cooperative (KREMC) in Warsaw, Indiana, for ten years.

At the present time, Steve is a member of the PowerSouth Board of Trustees, and serves on the Executive Committee of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council. He also is an active member of the All Sports Association in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and the Mid-Bay Bridge Rotary Club in Bluewater Bay, Florida, and is a past-chairman of the Touchstone Energy Board of Directors, a national brand representing over 750 electric cooperatives. 

Steve received his master’s degree in business administration (MBA) and his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.

Steve lives in Niceville with his wife, Tami. 


Vice President of Engineering J. Matthew Avery, P.E.

On October 27, 2003, Matthew joined CHELCO, as Supervisor of Engineering Services.  A year later, Matthew was promoted to Manager of Engineering where he served just over three (3) years.  Matthew now serves as Vice President of Engineering. 

He worked with Baldwin County Electric Cooperative, Alabama Power Company, ImproveNet and AZED Communications.  Matthew’s background provides successful experience in telecommunications design and engineering, electrical design and engineering, engineering and sales consulting, sales and marketing in residential and commercial construction industry, and management background in engineering, operations and marketing and sales.  He possesses additional experience in ensuring regulatory compliance, customer service, and training of personnel.  Matthew currently manages multiple specialties within the engineering division.

Matthew received his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Auburn University and is a registered professional engineer in the State of Florida and Alabama.  He is a graduate of The Dale Carnegie Course and also participated as a graduate assistant.  Matthew graduated from the Robert I. Kabat Management Internship Program through The University of Wisconsin School of Business and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.  Matthew is also a member of IEEE, the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology.


Vice President of Operations Donny Fugate

Donny has thirty seven years' experience in the utility field, starting his career at Sumter Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SECO) in June 1979. At SECO, he held positions as a lineman, safety coordinator, line construction supervisor, before working his way to operations superintendent prior to relocating to Northwest Florida in 1999.

Upon starting with Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CHELCO) in 1999 as a large project liaison, he was promoted to manager of operations in 2002. He completed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Management Internship Program in 2006, and was promoted to his current position Vice President of Operations in 2010.

In this role, he oversees the management, budgeting and planning of the operations and energy control departments to include personnel and equipment engaged in overhead, underground and service maintenance and construction. He also functions as the Chief Emergency Coordinator for storm preparedness and restoration related to hurricanes and other natural disasters or storms.  

Mr. Fugate’s experience and education have provided him with extensive expertise in several areas including: employee development, organizational management, emergency management/disaster planning, safety and managerial accounting. 


Vice President of Administration Scott Seay

Scott Seay joined CHELCO in January of 2012 as Vice President of Administration.  He has over 29 years of management experience, 15 years of which he has specialized in recruiting, hiring, benefits administration, occupational safety, property/casualty insurance administration, legal compliance and environmental compliance.  His background includes employment with a power distribution equipment repair and decommissioning company and in the textile manufacturing industry.

Scott holds a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Troy State University at Dothan. He received the distinguished award of 2008 Outstanding Graduate Student in Human Resource Management at Troy University (Dothan Campus).  He completed NRECA's Management Internship Program and has earned certificates in Employee Relations Law, Occupational Safety and Health and in the Interviewing and Selection Process. 

Scott has extensive training in leadership, presentation skills and communications, to include working effectively with news media and Toastmasters Competent Communicator designation.  He is on the board of directors of CareerSource Okaloosa Walton, has served as Chair of the Walton County United Way Funds Distribution Committee and is involved with the Society of Human Resources Managers.  


Chief Financial Officer Wayne Thompson

Wayne’s work experience includes extensive managerial and accounting experience in the hospitality industry, where he served internationally as an Internal Auditor and domestically as a General Manager. He then worked in governmental accounting as the city clerk/comptroller for the City of DeFuniak Springs, Florida.

For the last 25 years, Wayne has managed the Financial and Information Services Division at Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative (CHELCO) where he currently serves as Chief Financial Officer. He currently serves on the boards of driectors for Applied Technology Solutions, Inc. and Southland Utility Services, where he is the treasurer.

Wayne holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting from the University of West Florida and has completed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Management Internship Program. 



Vice President of Member Services Steve Wolfrom

Vice President of Member Services Steve Wolfrom manages the division of CHELCO responsible for customer service, call center, marketing, communications, community relations, economic development and legislative affairs.

Wolfrom is a graduate of Bowling Green State University and started his career with electric cooperatives in 1986 managing marketing and communications at Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative, North Baltimore, OH. From 2002 to 2006, he was manager of communications for Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, Prattville, AL. He moved closer to family in 2006 as CEO of Henry County REMC, a small electric co-op in New Castle, IN. Wolfrom then moved to CHELCO in May 2013.

He won national communications awards nine consecutive years while at Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative. He won community leadership awards from the National Association of Community Leadership while in Hancock County, Ohio. Wolfrom is on the board of directors of the Walton County Economic Development Authority and Walton Area Chamber of Commerce. He serves on the Northwest Florida State College Foundation board and it’s Finance Committee. Wolfrom is a member of the Rotary Club of DeFuniak Springs. Wolfrom co-chaired the committee that hosted the president of the Tournament of Roses visit to Niceville and the Emerald Coast. The Niceville High School band will be appearing in the Jan. 2, 2017, Rose Parade.

He previously served on the Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce board and the American Heart Association Heart Walk Advisory Committee. Wolfrom helped raise funds for the United Way of Okaloosa and Walton counties as a Dancing with the Stars competitor in 2016.


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