Michael Henderson of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. (CFO of the Year Finalist, Public Sector)

Michael Henderson knows exactly the kind of people he is trying to help.

After all, he is one of them.

Henderson, senior vice president and CFO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. and Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., aims to provide affordable service to rural Arkansans, keeping the lights on and the prices low so folks can use the money saved to enhance their quality of life.

For his efforts Henderson, 54, is a finalist for CFO of the Year in the public sector category.

“The fact that your peers have recognized the contribution you make to the success of their company and to the community, it’s very rewarding,” Henderson said.

Henderson grew up in the farming community of Central in Craighead County. His high school — named after the town — had only about 300 students but growing up in a tiny community gave Henderson a feel for the types of customers Arkansas Electric Cooperative serves.

“I grew up in rural Arkansas, and so I know how hard it is for people to make a living and how important it is to try to help improve their quality of life,” Henderson said.

“The way we try to do that is, they’ve only got a certain amount of disposable income, and as small a portion we can extract for electricity, the more disposable income they have to feed and educate their families.”

Henderson said he could have entered some form of manufacturing but chose utilities on his father’s advice, working first as a staff auditor for the Associated Natural Gas Co.

Seeing manufacturing jobs lost to other countries over the years, Harrison knows he made the right choice and hasn’t looked back.

Henderson has been at Arkansas Electric since 1984 and touts the acquisition of the Oswald Power Plant at Wrightsville and the Magnet Cove power plant as the greatest accomplishments during his tenure.

Both were purchased at deep discounts compared to the cost of building new plants, which allowed Arkansas Electric to pass on the service to its members without passing on much of the cost.

“We had a small rate increase, but it was only a small percentage of what it would have been if we had had to build brand new power plants,” Henderson said.

Henderson said that if he ever has any doubts he is doing good work, he just needs to make a visit home to see people struggling with house, car or medical payments.

“There almost is not a higher calling than to help improve the quality of life of the people you serve," Henderson said.