Remaining real in an artificially growing world – Pineland Telephone holds 72nd annual meeting


The 72nd annual meeting of Pineland Telephone Cooperative, Inc. was held on June 13, at the Metter PreK-8 Complex with nearly 250 members in attendance. This year’s entertainment was provided by Metter native and Nashville recording artist Clayton Hackle, joined by Pineland’s own Casey Yarbrough playing the Cajón.

Dustin Durden, Chief Executive Officer, and Mark Bland, President, provided members a recap of Pineland’s accomplishments and initiatives during the past year, with emphasis on the continued effort of providing members and customers with a real experience.

Durden opened the Manager’s Report with a speech written by popular Artificial Intelligence software, Chat GPT. While well-written, Durden commented, “I could have Artificial Intelligence write me a fantastic generic speech about what we have done here at Pineland over the past year, but despite its ability to pick just the right words at the just the right time, it’s still artificial. Your Cooperative accomplishes real things every day to make sure you are provided the best service possible, at the right price, with superior experience every time.”

Durden reported the success of Enhanced ACAM funding, set through 2038; a result of tireless efforts by Pineland and cooperatives nationwide advocating for revision of essential funding mechanisms by the Federal Communications Commission. An update was provided on the Sumter County project, estimated to be complete by the end of 2025, with 420 miles of fiber remaining to be constructed. Pineland subsidiaries, Southeast Fire & Burglar Alarm, Co. and Responsive Technology Partners, experienced continued growth, protecting over 4,400 locations and serving over 1,000 clients respectively. “But here’s the common thing with all this work and accomplishment,” said Durden. “It’s done by real people, doing real things, with real values of Excellence, Integrity, Innovation, and a Servant’s Heart in everything we do.”

Conveying the importance of relationships and real interactions, Durden highlighted moments exemplifying Pineland’s core values, “The stories of a Customer Experience Associate helping a cancer patient whose payment got lost in the mail get her service restored with care and compassion. The stories of an employee who is dealing with cancer of her own, yet still finds

the time to take a call from a customer who needs her assistance... Those are the types of things the great employees at Pineland do every day.”

In his President’s Report, Bland recognized Pineland’s continued service expansion, laying nearly 300 miles of fiber in Emanuel, Jenkins, and Sumter counties over the past year, and the competition now present in the telecommunications industry. Acknowledging the heart of Pineland’s innovation and progress, Bland stated, “You see my friends, success or failure, no matter the cause, is determined more by mental attitude than by mental capacity. What your cooperative does on a daily basis is accomplished by your employees’ hard work and sacrifice.”

Eighteen employees with a combined total of 245 years of service were recognized for their career milestones: Jamie Sutton (35 years), Bret Callaway (25 years), Vickie Aldrich (20 years), Jeremy Salter (20 years), Brian Curl (15 years), Dustin Durden (15 years), Randy McGowan (15 years), Alfred Wimberly (15 years), Keith Wommack (15 years), Danny Wynn (15 years), Amy Harrison (10 years), Beth Kennedy (10 years), Becky Rutherford (10 years), Seth Butler (5 years), Jeffery Griff (5 years), Christopher Headrick (5 years), Eliza Noles (5 years), and Michala Valora (5 years).

Four incumbent directors on Pineland’s Board of Directors were proposed for re-election, John Paul Johnson representing District 2 (Twin City and Garfield), John Moore representing District 6 (Adrian and Kite), Kevin Hendrix representing District 9 (Southeast Metter and Southeast Cobbtown), and Jean Melton-Furr, Director at Large. All were re-elected, unopposed, and will continue their service for three more years.