Coast Electric flips the switch, brings in new CEO

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Recently, Coast Electric came under new management. Ron Barnes was selected to lead what he said is the largest electric cooperative in Mississippi, serving over 81,000 homes and businesses.
The University of Southern Mississippi graduate has spent the past 22 years at Coast Electric, starting in 1995 specifically to run marketing and public relations efforts, he said.
Then, he gradually accepted more responsibilities throughout his career, being put in charge of facility maintenance before taking over and running the member service department, which encompasses all call center offices.
In October of 2016, Barnes earned the Assistant CEO title, where he worked under Bob Occhi, the former CEO for more than 30 years.
“I was very fortunate to work under his mentorship over my 22 years and work directly for him,” Barnes said, who became CEO on April 1. “I believe having that mentor share his vision for the company with me will help me in continuing that vision and make sure the company is headed in the same direction.”
With so much experience at Coast Electric, Barnes said he came into the new position knowing everyone within the cooperative, which is one of the most important aspects he carries with him as the new CEO.
“This transition has been smooth because I already know the employees and the strategic trajectory of our cooperative. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel and that makes it easier for everyone, not just me,” Barnes said.
To continue the path in which Coast Electric was heading under Occhi, Barnes said he will continue focusing on the main objective of providing a safe environment for his employees and members.
Barnes said safety is critical to this type of business, where the product could be dangerous if not used properly. Next, Barnes plans to focus on keeping the cooperative’s reliable reputation.
“When people flip the switch, we need to have the power available for them,” he said.
Barnes said his main focus as CEO is serving Coast Electric’s members with the utmost professionalism and highest quality they can offer to make the communities they serve better places to live, work and play.
“One of our founding principles is commitment to community, so we believe that at the end of the day, our job is to bring more opportunities to south Mississippi,” Barnes said. “More opportunities means a better community; a place where people have jobs that they enjoy and helps them feed their families.”
The Jackson native said what makes Coast Electric successful is the outstanding employees, board members and the company’s mission to serve its members in every way possible. Because Occhi established this vision for the company, Barnes said he believes his job is to continue that vision as the company grows.
“I look forward to leading this organization and its vision. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to carry out the vision of this wonderful organization,” he said.

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