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Mark Snowden on His New Role as CEO of First Electric Cooperative

3 min read

Snowden oversees First Electric’s 240 employees and more than 100,000 member accounts. He spent 24 years at Cimarron Electric in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, where he started as a marketing and member service representative in 1998 and eventually rose to the position of president and CEO in 2008. In 2022, he joined National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp. in Dulles, Virginia, as senior vice president of its Strategic Services Group.

Snowden has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.

Parts of your territory were hit by a tornado on March 31. What are the things a co-op must do in the immediate aftermath of a tornado, and then in the months afterward?

After a tornado passes, our linemen immediately respond and perform a safety assessment to make sure downed or damaged power lines are grounded and out of harm’s way from the general public. Staking engineers are brought in to identify broken equipment and what material is needed. Finally, linemen are dispatched to affected areas to make the necessary repairs and restore electricity to members whose property can receive service.

How did you handle tornadoes in Oklahoma, and what lessons did they offer?

No matter what state you come from in this industry or what type of disaster you are dealing with, the one priority that stays constant is safety. Nothing we do as we serve our members is more important than making sure all our people get home after a storm or any day of work. The safety of everyone involved must always come first. Like all first responders, our linemen and employees rely on their training to make sure power is restored safely and quickly. I’ve learned over my 25-year career that the key to all of this is effective communication. As one can imagine, there are many moving pieces in the power restoration process. Making sure our people have the tools they need, the procedures in place and the ability to communicate in the field allows us to deliver the most reliable electricity possible.

What does an increasingly electrified society — cars, heat pumps, etc. — mean for electric cooperatives?

First, it allows us to build a stronger relationship with our member-owners. We take great pride in delivering affordable and reliable power to our members and being accountable to the homes, businesses and farms in central and southeast Arkansas. Second, a more electrified future provides a springboard for important conversations about the “balance of power” needed to handle the increased electrification. Education about base load generation and intermittent power is extremely vital to understanding the generation mix. We need a commonsense approach to serve the increased load.

What was it that attracted you to this job in Arkansas?

Being in the electric cooperative industry for 25 years and serving 24 of those years at an electric cooperative in western Oklahoma, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to serve on national cooperative boards and work for one of the electric cooperatives’ national lenders. Arkansas is looked to as an example of how to do things right when it comes to serving our members. The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, our statewide organization, has such a unique business model compared with other states. As an outsider looking in, I admired it. How they produced power, manufactured transformers and delivered so many needed services the distribution co-ops count on — all under one roof. 

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