After a distinguished career of 45 years, where he has lead Jones-Onslow’s unprecedented growth to that of one of the largest and most respected electric cooperatives in the United States, Chief Executive Officer J. Ronald McElheney has announced his retirement at the end of 2015.
Mr. McElheney, who has served in his current position since June 1988, has established JOEMC as one of the most progressive and innovative electric cooperatives in the country. Focusing on providing affordable and reliable electric service, while striving for the best customer service experience possible, Mr. McElheney has never forgotten that despite its complexities, the electric business is all about people.
“Remember…we have only one thing to sell — SERVICE,” Mr. McElheney always tells employees. “Do it with a smile on your face and with genuine care and concern for any problems our customers may have. This kind of attitude makes all our jobs easier.”
Over the years, Mr. McElheney has represented Jones-Onslow at the statewide level by serving as President of the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC) and the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives (NCAEC).
“During his tenure as Jones-Onslow’s CEO, Ron has been an extremely valuable member of both the statewide boards, having served in every officer role of both organizations and having held important leadership positions on key committees,” stated Joe Brannan, Executive Director and CEO of NCEMC and NCAEC. “In particular, he has been a long-time member of the NCEMC’s Power Supply Committee and has been instrumental in efforts that ultimately led to key electric generation investments by our group. These decisions were made for the betterment of JOEMC members as well as for members of other electric cooperatives across the state.”
“Ron has set high standards in mentoring new electric cooperative CEOs and fellow directors on the importance of supporting the statewide organizations,” Brannan continued. “He has consistently maintained great relationships with business leaders and elected officials, not only locally, but in our state and nationally. While we will miss Ron’s significant contributions and leadership on many, many issues, I can say that we are in a better position due to his many contributions.”
Under Mr. McElheney’s leadership, Jones-Onslow has been recognized twice by its national organization, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, for outstanding achievement. In 2000, JOEMC received the National Community Service Award “Building for the Future” for the cooperative’s dedication to youth and educational programs. In 2010, the cooperative received the Paul Revere Award for its grassroots advocacy efforts on energy issues including affordable electric rates for consumers.
Another shining legacy of his career has been Mr. McElheney’s dedication to giving back to the communities that Jones-Onslow serves. Whether providing grants to local teachers through the Bright Ideas Educational Grant Program, awarding scholarships to young adults continuing on with their college education after high school, or working with economic developers by providing grants for job creation, Mr. McElheney has instilled in the employees of JOEMC the importance of giving back to the community and being a caring, corporate partner.
Mr. McElheney has also personally dedicated his time and effort over the years, serving on the boards of Coastal Carolina Community College, the Jacksonville-Onslow Economic Development Commission and Committee of 100, and the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce, where he was recognized in 1998 as its Golden Eagle “Man of the Year.” He was also chairman of the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee (MAC), which is regarded as one of the best MACs in the United States.
“To run a successful company you need a leader who is a visionary and believes in technology and innovation, someone who looks ten or twenty years into the future,” stated Board Chairman John Pierce. “Ron McElheney has been that kind of leader.”
“Whether speaking at the annual meeting, working with the board on decisions that will impact the cooperative and its customers, talking with employees about customer service, or representing JOEMC and its interests in Raleigh or Washington, Ron’s genuine concern and commitment has always shown,” Pierce continued. “Whatever the topic, whatever the issue, Ron has always asked the question of how will this impact our customers and is it in their best interest.”
“In the end, the thing I respect most about Ron, the thing that is most commendable, is that he will leave things better off than when he came here…he has had an impact on JOEMC, its customers, and this community. It has been a true honor to work and serve with him over the years.”