One of O’Bryan’s most memorable moments from the past 25 years was the devastating February 1994 ice storm that nearly destroyed the western half their system.
“We lost in excess of 10,000 utility poles with total recovery costs of about $21 million dollars,” O’Bryan Said. “It was a logistical nightmare since we had to scrape to find housing and food services for the many hundreds of workers brought in to assist us and there was no power anywhere! The recovery was incredibly hard given the conditions, especially for our lineman, and power to the last customer was restored after about 30 days.”
O’Bryan was working as a controller for Delta Electric at the time and for several years, worked with federal and state agencies to document costs and seek federal disaster reimbursement.
“We are particularly proud of the fact that we did not have to raise electric rates during that time to cover the cost of the storm,” O’Bryan said.
Delta Electric is a rural electric distribution cooperative serving customers in all or part of 13 counties and has offices in Winona, Greenwood, Indianola and Cleveland. They have 82 full and part-time employees and over 6,000 miles of distribution power lines to maintain.
O’Bryan said a big challenge for Delta Electric is the rapidly changing technology within the utility industry.
“Whether it be smart meters, cybersecurity, networking or renewable energy, we must have the right people in place to understand, deploy and manage this technology,” O’Bryan said. “We are blessed to have met this challenge by being able to attract and retain some very capable young employees who are up to the challenge and so we are doing some innovative and exciting things with technology. Michael Maloney of Winona, who provides expertise for us in the areas of information technology and geospatial engineering, typifies this young group of professionals who are providing leadership.”
O’Bryan is a native of Winona and a graduate of Winona High School. After graduation from Ole Miss with a degree in accounting, O’Bryan worked in public accounting for Watkins, Ward and Stafford CPA’s doing tax and audit work and eventually became licensed as a Certified Public Accountant after passing the CPA exam. He then transitioned to banking for a few years before joining Delta Electric as Controller in March 1992. In May 2002, O’Bryan was named Secretary Treasurer and in June 2015, he succeeded Ronnie Robertson as General Manager, who passed away after battling cancer.
“Ronnie inspired us all with his courage as he fought the good fight and he is greatly missed by us all,” O’Bryan said.
As he began to work in this industry and learn from his predecessors and others, O’Bryan realized how challenging and rewarding this business could be and decided, after much prayer, that he wanted to make a career in this line of business.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and privilege of working at Delta Electric,” O’Bryan said. “We are blessed with the most dedicated group of employees that I have ever known and I enjoy working with them every day to deliver safe, affordable and reliable electric power to our customers. Our Winona District manager Tim McBride, along with employees of the Winona office and other Delta Electric employees, exemplify this dedication to our mission and to community service in Montgomery and Carroll counties. Another dedicated professional with a Winona connection is our Assistant General Manager and Chief Engineer, Harold Pittman, who also grew up in Winona.”
Over the years, there have been many individuals in the Winona area who have been positive role models in O’Bryan’s life. O’’Bryan said Billy Flowers and Harvey Putman were both Winona accountants and mentors that inspired him to enter the accounting profession. Brother Johnny Walker and his current pastor at McCarley Baptist Church, Bro. Rupert Ingram of Winona, provide him with spiritual guidance and encouragement.
“Former Delta Electric General Managers Harry Bonner and Ronnie Robertson taught me much about the rural electric business,” O’Bryan said. “My greatest mentor of all is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who gave Himself for me and provides direction in my life while sustaining me daily.”
O’Bryan serves on the board and various committees of Cooperative Energy, Delta Electric’s generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Hattiesburg. He also serves on the board and various committees of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi, the statewide association representing the 25 rural electric cooperatives, headquartered in Ridgeland. He has just begun a term serving on the board of the Mississippi Economic Council.
He is involved with various aspects of the community, including servings as past president and member of the Kiwanis Club of Greenwood, United Way, Greenwood Leflore Chamber of Commerce, Carroll County Development Association and Delta Council. Professional memberships include American Institute of CPA’s, Mississippi Society of CPA’s, Delta Chapter of CPA’s and the National Society of Accountants for Cooperatives. He is currently serving as President of McCarley Water Association.
O’Bryan and his wife, Lou, are active in McCarley Baptist Church where they both sing in the choir. He teaches Adult Sunday school, serves as deacon chairman and he is a member of the finance committee.
“Lou does a fantastic job of directing the children’s activities in our church; she is still touching the lives of children!” O’Bryan said. “Of course, I would not be where I am without the loving support of my wife, Lou, who retired in the Winona Public Schools after 33 years of teaching.”
The couple have been married 38 years and live in McCarley on her family’s home place. They have two grown children, Andy and Brad, who are both married. In their spare time, the two enjoy spending time with their two precious granddaughters, Ava Elizabeth O’Bryan and Ainslee Marie O’Bryan, who also live in McCarley.
But the most challenging moment of late for him personally came last year when O’Bryan went through quadruple bypass heart surgery in August 2016.
“I had been ignoring symptoms for months and I finally told my doctor who immediately scheduled a stress test,” O’Bryan said. “So, the message for men, including myself, who don’t like going to the doctor is DON’T IGNORE THE SYMPTOMS! I thought that maybe it would be a couple of stents and I would be back at work the next day, but no, the news was much worse! So, Lou and I put it in the Lord’s hands and all I can say is God is good!”
O’Bryan had the surgery on Friday, August 12 and he was back home on Monday, August 15.
“I returned to work part-time in two weeks with Lou driving me,” O’Bryan said. “I cannot thank Lou enough for nursing me back to health! I sincerely appreciate the prayers and support of our church, family and friends during that time.”