During a career that spanned 67 years, Billy E. Brown left his mark on the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative where he worked, and on countless lives in Pasco County.
His achievements were honored on Sept. 5 by the Pasco County Commission, which passed a resolution detailing his many accomplishments.
Brown is a lifelong resident of Pasco County and attended Pasco High School before he served in the U.S. Coast Guard and in the Korean War, the resolution says.
The resolution also provides additional details of Brown’s life.
He went to work for the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative (WREC) on Oct. 16, 1956.
At that time, WREC served 2,996 members and employed 40 people, the resolution says.
Today, the electric cooperative is the third-largest in the nation and has more than 250,000 members.
In 1985, Brown “formed a for-profit entity named ‘URADCO’ that brought thousands of jobs to the Cooperative’s service area and built two industrial parks: One Pasco Center and One Hernando Center,” the resolution adds.
“The Cooperative also formed the WRECares/Operation Round-Up program that provides financial assistance to families who have suffered a catastrophic event,” it adds.
Brown “founded the WREC Educational Foundation, which awards 110 college scholarships valued at $12,000 each to high school seniors on an annual basis,” the resolution adds.
“To date, the Foundation has awarded 2,414 scholarships valued over $18.5 million.”
Brown “is not only a well-respected leader at the local, state, and federal levels, but also a vocal advocate for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).”
Brown has received recognition for his work through the years, including the NRECA Regional Award for Outstanding Service, NRECA Paul Revere Award, NRECA President’s Award, NRECA Cooperative Purpose Award, NRECA William F. Matson Democracy Award, NRECA National Community Investment Service Award, Dade City Chamber of Commerce Richard Tombrink Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 2022 Pasco County Economic Development Council Leadership Award, the resolution adds.
He also served on the Seminole Electric Cooperative’s Board of Trustees for more than 48 years and on the Florida Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and served with various nonprofit organizations, such as the Rotary and United Way.
He retired from WREC in April.
In accepting the board’s honor, Brown said: “It has been a joyous and rewarding experience to work for the co-op, the board of trustees, its members – a highly loyal and dedicated group of employees of unusual talents for 67 years.
“Early on, as manager of the cooperative, there was an extreme downturn in the economy in Florida. Construction was our only industry then and when it came to a halt, we saw many people losing their jobs, their incomes and ability to provide for their families.
“We decided then that we wanted to be more than just another utility supplying quality electric service.
“We wanted to do some things to improve the quality of life for the people in our service area. I thought that we probably were one of the few that had the wherewithal to do those kinds of things.
“We presented the proposal to our board of trustees. They unanimously approved it. The net result is all of the great things the cooperative has done.
“It’s also been my pleasure to work with this board of commissioners and those before you, to be helpful in projects presented by the county that were in the benefit of the people of Pasco County, my home county, and I thank you very much.”
Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley told Brown: “Mr. Brown you have been an icon in our community, and I can say for a fact that you’ve been a true friend to me and my family for many, many years.”
He said Brown “has worked so tirelessly to make this community better, and I appreciate everything you have done toward making it a better community for all of us to live in.”
Oakley added: “When I graduated from high school, same as when you graduated from high school, if you weren’t involved in citrus here in this community, you didn’t have a job here to come back to. You had to go find a job somewhere else.
“Well, that’s changing, and part of that is due to what you have done with WREC.”
Commissioner Seth Weightman told Brown: “Mr. Brown, I sit here as a proud co-op kid. My dad just retired after 45 years and three months of service with the co-op.
“Because of you and this co-op, it provided life and provided a way for my dad and other families to have a family and live a life here in Pasco County that otherwise might not have been. So, I owe a great deal of my success because of what the co-op provided my family through the years and the jobs it created.
“I honestly don’t believe that my brother, my sister or I would be where we are today if it weren’t for the foundation of the co-op and what it brought to our county, what it brought to Dade City and to so many folks here.”
Published September 20, 2023