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Delaware Electric Cooperative veteran Book takes the helm

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Delaware Electric Cooperative CEO and President Rob Book

Delaware Electric Cooperative CEO and President Rob Book | PHOTO COURTESY OF DEC

GREENWOOD — Rob Book, who has worked with the Delaware Electric Cooperative (DEC) for 22 years, has taken the helm of the member-owned electric distributor in the new year as its new president and CEO.

In the top job, Book will be tasked with leading the utility co-op that serves 112,000 homes, farms and businesses in Kent and Sussex counties, as well as 175 employees. He was named president and CEO in November by the board, and succeeded Greg Starheim, who served only a year following the retirement of longtime leader Bill Andrew.

After months of transition, while Starheim serves as senior advisor, Book has officially settled into the post as of early January.

“Our pure goal is to service our members, it’s not to go out and make money. It’s to serve our members as efficiently, effectively and cost-effectively,” Book told the Delaware Business Times. “It’s a special place to be, where 175 employees every day know that’s the core mission. I’m proud to have worked in the DEC in various roles over the years, and I’m excited for the future.”

Book most recently served as senior vice president of member services at DEC, but started as a coordinator of informational services back in 2001. Over the years, he served as manager of government and community relations, and later assistant vice president of member services.

“The co-op is in very good hands. Rob is widely respected across the country as a co-op leader and has a proven track record of leading teams to develop innovative solutions to complex problems,” DEC Board Chair Pat Dorey said in a statement. “Aside from his work ethic and integrity, he is also a Delaware native and has a unique understanding of the communities the co-op powers.”

Before working with the DEC, Book served as a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. William Roth (R-Del.) for six years. He describes himself as having caught the “political bug,” which made him a great fit when the DEC was looking for a government relations representative.

“At the time, we really had no footprint,” Book said. “One of the first big things we worked on was giving members the ability to regulate the DEC instead of having the Public Service Commission step in. We were just coming out of de-regulation, so there was a lot of work around that.”

While that bill passed in 2001, it was ultimately enacted in 2006. Rates for members were frozen at the time until 2005, leading to some anxiety about regulatory constraints on the DEC. Throughout the years, Book was still registered as a lobbyist for the DEC until he was promoted to CEO.

In his role as managing community and government relations, Book also helped transition the co-op into several outreach initiatives, at a time when primary communication with customers happened in a monthly bill. He oversaw and helped lead the organization into a new communication plan through emails, texts and social media as well.

Other initiatives Book has been instrumental in include launching DEC’s nationally recognized “Beat the Peak” program, which saved members more than $38 million since 2008. The DEC was the first to launch the program, and now close to 100 co-ops use the “Beat the Peak” slogan today.

Last year, the DEC returned more than $5 million in credits to more than 65,000 members.

Looking ahead, Book believes the recent technology changes will pose some challenges in managing services for clients. He’s noted that recent components on their lines help manage electricity, in some cases, minute by minute. 

“We’re seeing a lot of solar panels pop up, and if you get a lot of permeation from that, that can cause problems on the system. Another challenge is going to be electric vehicles. As they get across people’s minds more, we’re going to have to figure out how to manage that added demand,” he said. “All those facilities that offer charging have to be provided with power. So by continuing to work with our parent suppliers, it’s something we intend to support.”

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