Steve Rhodes, CEO of Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative (CHELCO) headquartered in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, has been named the 2023 Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives Distinguished Service Award recipient. Touchstone Energy Board President Deb Mirasola presented Rhodes with the national award earlier this week at Touchstone Energy's annual meeting and general session of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's annual membership meeting, PowerXchange.
Rhodes was honored for his dedication and service promoting the Cooperative Difference and helping Touchstone Energy evolve into the strong brand and national network it is today, with nearly 700 members in 45 states.
"I can personally attest to the contributions of this year's honoree as I have had the opportunity to work with Steve to further our cooperative purpose," said Mirasola. "We are so grateful for his visionary leadership that helped us build this incredible organization."
A 35-year electric co-op industry veteran, Rhodes has served in his current capacity as CHELCO CEO since 2013. Before joining the CHELCO team, he spent ten years as president and CEO of Kosciusko Rural Electric Membership Cooperative in Warsaw, Indiana.
At the national brand level, Rhodes was elected as a Touchstone Energy board member in 2010, where he served as a director for six years, including two as board president. In 1997-98, while working as CEO of Western Michigan Electric Cooperative in Scottville, Michigan, Rhodes was a member of the national steering committee that created the brand.
CHELCO Vice President of Member Services & External Affairs Emily Cowan nominated Rhodes for the national award, stating that he is "embedded in the foundation of Touchstone Energy from the 1990s on, his handprint is on the initial map of the brand from conception to launch."
"Steve is the culmination of the human connections he has made, and those connections are, without a doubt, what powers him," said Cowan. "During his 35 years in the electric cooperative industry, he's conversed with hundreds of members and forged a wealth of relationships that have added insight, direction, and motivation to his cooperative path. Steve is a prime example of what Touchstone Energy's tagline—The power of human connections®—means when lived out in the real world."
"I am honored and thankful to be selected for this award," remarked Rhodes. "Touchstone Energy has been a huge part of my career in the electric cooperative program. I am just one of the many supporters and contributors that have helped the brand thrive over the past 25 years. I consider myself fortunate – and blessed – to have had the opportunity to serve."
The Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Distinguished Service Award is the organization's highest honor, presented annually to a cooperative leader who has made outstanding contributions to building the brand on the national stage.
CHELCO is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative serving more than 61,000 accounts in Walton, Okaloosa, Holmes and Santa Rosa counties.