Brad Castor was named president and CEO of Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative Inc. of Mena in late June, following the retirement of his mentor, Leon Philpot.
Castor had been assistant general manager for nine years. He has served RMEC for more than 33 years, as lead lineman, crew foreman, general foreman, safety coordinator, engineer and operations manager. Upon graduating from Mena High School, Castor went to work for Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. in 1986. He joined RMEC in 1987 as an apprentice lineman and earned his journeyman lineman title in 1992.
What would you like to accomplish as president and CEO?
Implementing a geospatial information system is at the top of the list. Our GIS will be the backbone for anything that has to do with mapping. It will be used for a visual representation of our electric system, help with outage management, asset and vehicle tracking, rights-of-way maintenance and electrical models. ... Once completed, our GIS will provide us with knowledge of every nut, bolt and washer installed in the field, which will help with inspections by creating a history of issues found and repairs made.
The GIS will be utilized to design new facilities, model existing and planned facilities, and help troubleshoot during outages or other operational issues. The opportunity that Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative will have to fine-tune member restoration will be one of the most important features GIS brings. Our GIS should be completed by December 2021. Advanced metering infrastructure will be next.
How can the electric co-op model bring broadband to rural areas?
High-speed internet access is a key ingredient to a healthy 21st century rural economy. Not only is broadband important to the people who live in rural America, it is also vital to the electric co-ops that serve them.
There are important roles in this endeavor for the government and the private sector, areas in which they can partner. For decades, electric cooperatives have enhanced the quality of life throughout rural America with electricity. Now, co-ops across the nation are helping reinvigorate rural economies by bringing broadband access to homes and businesses. These partnerships with local telecom companies and others have one element in common: the need for financial backstopping through federal and state grants and loans.
Do you have any concerns about the utility’s infrastructure?
Electric co-ops have been in the infrastructure development and improvement business for decades to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve — a mission we will continue. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., our wholesale energy provider, to improve the grid to meet member-consumers’ needs while continuously improving the resiliency of our electric system.
Co-ops continuously improve the cyber and physical security of our systems and have been leaders in developing and using smart grid technologies. A strong public-private partnership is essential, particularly in the area of cybersecurity. Electric cooperatives support a wide range of research activities to help improve our nation’s future energy infrastructure. We will continue to seek advances in technologies.
Co-op facilities require easements and oftentimes permits to cross through publicly and privately owned lands. We continue to need reasonable access to those lands and permits granted in a timely manner for infrastructure construction and maintenance, tree-trimming and other right-of-way maintenance and other activities.