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Electric co-op remembers former CEO

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative Inc., would like to offer condolences to the family of Walter H. Smith, who passed away on Sept. 8, 2015.

Smith worked at SMECO for 36 years including his tenure as general manager and chief executive officer from 1974 to 1989. After serving in World War II as a combat engineer in England, France, Belgium and Germany, Smith was honorably discharged in 1946. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1950 and came to SMECO in 1953 as planning and operations engineer. In December of 1965, he was appointed to the newly created position of assistant manager of SMECO. On Oct. 1, 1974, he assumed the duties of general manager and subsequently was appointed executive vice president by the board of directors of Aug. 17, 1976.

Smith led SMECO during unprecedented growth and technological development and advancement. He was known for his calm and conservative leadership that kept SMECO on a steady course as the number of customer-members grew by 55 percent; the annual wholesale power bill increased from $16 million to almost $87 million and investments in infrastructure rose sharply. In Smith’s first year as general manager operating expenses were $22 million. Under his leadership SMECO invested heavily to meet the demands of a growing customer base and by the time he retired, operating expenses were at $111.6 million.

He also oversaw the construction of two new district offices in addition to the construction of the Hughesville headquarters; implemented a lineman’s training program, load management system and electronic meter reading.

Long-time SMECO employees fondly recall Smith agreeing “after much discussion” to the purchase of the co-op’s first fax machine.

“Walt Smith was a leader, mentor and friend to so many of us in the SMECO family,” said Austin J. Slater Jr., SMECO president and CEO. “SMECO wouldn’t be what it is today without the foresight and sound planning that occurred on Walt’s watch. We wish to offer our heartfelt thanks and deepest sympathy to the Smith family.”

Services are being handled by Rausch Funeral Home in Owings.

Information for this press release was gathered from “Lighting Up Our Lives” The History of Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative by Al Gough Jr.

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