The Board of County Commissioners honored Billy E. Brown with a resolution on May 23, 2017.
Brown has worked for the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, Inc. (WREC) since October 16, 1956. He started with WREC in the Line/Operations Department, earning $1.10-an-hour. He quickly advanced to supervisory positions in Warehousing, Member Services and Billing. He served as District Manager in Brooksville during the 60’s and has held the position of Executive Vice President and General Manager since 1973.
Before he became General Manager, Brown is credited with winning the Deltona contract to provide power for the Spring Hill development, beating out Florida Power. It is reported that while Florida Power’s rates were cheaper, Withlacoochee could build the lines quicker.
Brown’s vision in creating the for profit company URADCO, a real estate subsidiary of Withlacoochee Electric, is credited in helping to persuade Sam Walton to build the WalMart Distribution Center at One Hernando Industrial Park. WalMart purchased 200 acres from URADCO for $1.32 million and they opened the distribution center in 1992. URADCO built two industrial parks in the area: One Pasco Center and One Hernando Center.
Brown has been instrumental in a number of successful community programs during his tenure. He implemented a program that assists families affected by catastrophic events which has paid out $1.9 million to help 577 families since 1994.
Under Brown’s leadership, the WREC Educational Foundation has awarded students throughout the 5 county service area over 1640 scholarships worth $9.7 million.
Like WREC, Brown is from Dade City. His parents owned a restaurant near the courthouse called the Corner Lunch. He was a high school athlete and played semi-pro baseball for four years. He was drafted in the Korean War while on a farm team for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After serving in the Coast Guard, he came home to Dade City and started to work for the Withlacoochee Co-op.
He recalled, “When I started working at the co-op, we had just under 3000 meters.”
“Today we have 225,000, representing service to about a half a million people… Of course over the years I’ve had a lot of recognition nationally, but none of it means anything like when it comes from hometown folks and thank you for that,” said Brown.
He continued, “The cooperative’s roots are in Hernando County. We were one of the last co-ops in the country to get started because of the war and lack of materials. Our first member was turned on April 1, 1947 and that was the then Sheriff of Hernando county Neil Law.”
“Again I thank you for your consideration and recognition.”
Commissioners and business leaders thanked Brown for all that he has done for the area.
Cliff Manuel, President of Coastal Engineering stated, “When he says something, his word is his bond. You never have to go back and wonder what he meant.”