A Good Name
by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

We all know such a person. Someone whose integrity and honesty are widely known, widely respected, and even more widely defended if questioned. Someone who does good deeds rather than merely talking about them. Someone who makes a town a community, a community a neighborhood, a neighborhood a comfortable home.

When I think of such a person, I think of Mary Sweitzer, of Highland County. Mary appeared on our cover back in January 1998 when Monterey was showcased in our Down Home profile of Virginia hometowns. She was photographed on a bitterly cold November morning, with outstretched arms, holding a wand in one hand, the small town of Monterey spread out behind her, the gentle folds of the Allegheny Mountains in the distance.

It was a delight meeting Mary in connection with that story. And it’s been a treat following her activities over the last five years through her weekly column in the Highland County and Bath County newspaper, The Recorder, as well as through word of mouth in Highland, where I have a small weekend getaway. Mary’s column — full of clean-but-funny jokes, local happenings, vacation destinations of local folks, club fundraisers and encouragements to visit those who are sick and shut-in — is the first place I go when I receive my copy of The Recorder, and the place where I spend the most time, reading and admiring the way it stitches this remote area’s residents together into a community that cares about its own, and welcomes those who come to visit.

But I also know that Mary is heavily involved behind the scenes and behind the microphone at the local volunteer community radio station, that she helps every year with the county fair, and that she spreads good wishes and good cheer wherever she goes. In short, Mary Sweitzer has a good name. And it’s likely that you know a Mary Sweitzer in your community.

Virginia’s electric cooperatives have worked very hard for 65 years to build and maintain a good name in the communities we serve. After all, we’re owned by members of the community, our board members are elected from the community, and our employees live and work in the community. Because we’re local, we’ve been able to build a strong record of reliable service. Because we’re a cooperative and you own us, we offer electric service at cost, making our rates in the rural areas, small towns and suburbs where we serve competitive with those of the large utilities serving Virginia’s metro areas and large cities.

We’re proud and protective of the good name we’ve built. Unfortunately, sometimes other companies will try to trade on our good name by claiming that they’re connected with us, or that we endorse them. Please be very cautious whenever you receive a mailing or a sales call from someone claiming to represent “rural cooperative members” or “cooperative members.” These companies may claim that your electric cooperative endorses their products or services.

If your electric cooperative ever endorses anything (and most electric cooperatives do not), then you will have no doubt about it. It will be clearly marked. So please, if you ever receive such a solicitation, be cautious, and call your electric cooperative to inquire about it and to report it.

Lots of companies want to benefit from the integrity and goodwill that we’ve worked hard to establish in dozens of communities across the Commonwealth. But if we’re behind something, you’ll know it! It’s all part of being a good neighbor, with a good name.



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