Annual Meeting Report 2018

Every Connection Matters

At SkyLine, every connection matters. In 2018, our move toward growth in SkyLine’s strategic plan was ongoing, fueled by acquisition and expansion. From our new CEO who continues SkyLine’s proud tradition of focusing on our customers and our community to our state-of-the-art technical services that ensure Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is able to effectively reach all its offices, every interaction is centered on providing the best possible service to our customers.

Report from the Executive

SkyLine’s commitment to solutions for our customers in the High Country is unparalleled. Our new CEO shares her dedication to our ongoing mission.

It is with much excitement and enthusiasm that we present the 2018 Executive Report. The title of this year’s Annual Report is “Every Connection Matters.” That holds so true for SkyLine Membership Corporation. A connection can be defined as a relationship in which a person, thing or idea is linked or associated with something else. At SkyLine, we are all about connections and as we pair our organizational assets with deliberate efforts to serve, grow and enhance our communities, every connection we make truly does matter!

new ceo

Ushering in a new era of leadership for the state’s largest telecommunications cooperative, Kim Shepherd, who has led Customer Operations for several years, is SkyLine’s new CEO.

Board Honors Retiring CEO with the “JIMMY C. BLEVINS ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY BUILDING” Naming and Dedication

Recognizing his long career and contributions to SkyLine and the telecom industry, the Board of Directors honored retiring CEO Jimmy Blevins with a naming and building dedication ceremony on June 11. As the architect of the cooperative’s present-day network, Blevins spent a significant part of his career working in and leading the Engineering Department.

building dedication
highlights of operation
operations chart
total access lines
access lines chart
voice and internet services
voice internet chart
helping health care stay connected
appalachian regional healthcare system

Rural hospitals are among the key economic anchors for their areas. Along with their principal mission to provide primary acute health care services, they often are one of the largest employers and represent one of two sectors that are key to attracting industrial or business development. These factors make health care institutions essential to the economic vitality of a rural community. As the second largest employer in the region, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s (ARHS) goal of building a healthier High Country has expanded in recent years to include two hospitals, 14 medical practices, a rehabilitation facility with a skilled nursing care wing and a health care foundation.

“While so many rural hospitals are closing across the country, we’ve been able to remain independent and financially sound,” said ARHS Chief Executive Officer Chuck Mantooth. “We feel a responsibility to make life better in the Appalachian region by providing a complete spectrum of health care services that focus on prevention, treatment and healthier outcomes for our residents.

appalachian regional health system

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is a full-service, not-for-profit hospital system, whose mission is to support the provision of high quality, compassionate health care for the mountain region of northwest North Carolina and northeast Tennessee with a spirit of teamwork based on operating values of compassion, integrity and excellence.

the next level in safety

The multi-campus YMCA of Avery County needed multiple services, and SkyLine/SkyBest was there to help, providing stellar customer service throughout.

No matter the customer, SkyLine is committed to finding workable solutions to meet their changing telecommunications needs. In 2017, the Linville-based YMCA of Avery County had a significant building expansion underway with the construction of the Blackburn Indoor Athletic Facility. The Y’s CEO Trey Oakley needed voice connections installed at that location prior to opening only to find out that their existing telecom provider could not provide service to them. Drawing on his connection to SkyLine’s Edward Hinson, who had worked with him on developing the local Chamber of Commerce’s first Leadership Avery Program, Oakley called on Hinson and SkyLine for help.

According to Oakley, customer service had proved frustrating with the YMCA’s existing provider. “The provider was changing its package plans every three to six months, and when the Y had service issues, there were delays in getting support here to our location,” Oakley explained.

“We met with Edward and Brent Keith about our pressing need to get those voice connections prior to opening, and they got the ball rolling,” Oakley said. He also learned that SkyBest’s fiber-based infrastructure, which served nearby Cannon Memorial Hospital, could offer high-speed, symmetrical broadband as well as surveillance services for the multi-campus facility.


YMCA CEO Trey Oakley, who has been with the local YMCA since 2010, led efforts to enhance safety measures at the multi-facility campus from SkyBest and its new surveillance equipment and remote applications. The surveillance app on his phone helps to keep him connected with staff and the facility, and the equipment provides 24/7 monitoring and rewind capabilities for incident reporting.

building education with opportunities

Scholarships on the local and national level through SkyLine aid in the next generation’s future, including Max Hagaman of Watauga County. The newest national scholarship through the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) is helping Max while honoring the memory of the CEO of ATMC, a sister cooperative to SkyLine.

Community connections are at the heart of what SkyLine does. That is why SkyLine has participated as a local sponsor of the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) Scholarship Program since 2006. This year’s recipient, Watauga High graduate Max Hagaman, was awarded one of three Roger Alan Cox Scholarships, named in memory of the former CEO and 27-year employee of Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation (ATMC) a sister cooperative of SkyLine’s and one of eight TMCs in the state. Max is the 16th beneficiary of the FRS Scholarship Program and the first to receive the new Roger Alan Cox scholarship.

“What made this scholarship so special is how it honors Roger’s passion and endless drive to help ensure that rural Americans have access to the same technology and education as every other American, which also speaks to the core of SkyLine’s historical mission,” said SkyLine PR Administrator Karen Powell.


Inside Watauga High’s greenhouse, Max Hagaman holds a Fraser fir seedling, which is the most popular of Christmas trees grown and sold across the High Country and represents the main agricultural commodity of this region.

executive management team
leadership header

Building on experience, SkyLine’s new CEO, Kim Shepherd, is ready to take charge as the company continues on its path toward growth with a range of new initiatives.

For only the sixth time in its almost 70-year history, SkyLine has a new chief executive officer. Kim Shepherd was named CEO by the board after the June 30 retirement of Jimmy Blevins, who had been with the company 33 years.

This new era of leadership for the cooperative continues the strategic planning that SkyLine’s Board of Directors and leadership and management team have been engaged in for several years. SkyLine regularly revisits and reassesses their five-year plan’s goals, objectives and action plans to verify that they pair with current and trending developments in the technology, regulatory and competitive arenas.

Shepherd brings more than 20 years of experience with SkyLine to her new role, having led such areas in the company as Support Services, Customer Service and Customer Operations, which also includes Field Services.

looking at computer

WHERE teamwork comes TOGETHER

skyline board

Seated, left to right: Joseph McNeil, Vice-President; Kim Shepherd, Chief Executive Officer; R.C. Mitchell, President; James L. Shepherd, Secretary; D.C. Smith, Treasurer.

Standing, left to right: Jerry Roten; Raymond Parker, Attorney; Tommy Joe Ward; Sharon Kasel; Bill Burleson; Olan Bentley.

skybest board

Seated, left to right: Haskell McGuire, Secretary; Kim Shepherd, President; James L. Shepherd, Chairman; Dennis Gambill, Vice-President.

Standing, left to right: Raymond Parker, Attorney; R.C. Mitchell, Assistant Secretary; Joseph McNeil, Treasurer; D.C. Smith.

SkyLine Membership Corporation

SkyLine Membership Corporation is a local, member-owned cooperative, established in 1951 to bring telephone service to rural residents of Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga counties. Later, the cooperative expanded its service territory to include areas of Avery County and Shady Valley, Tennessee, when it merged with Cherokee Telephone Membership Corporation. SkyLine serves a 12-exchange network with nearly 26,000 access lines across a five-county area in northwest North Carolina and east Tennessee. The company has a wholly-owned subsidiary, SkyBest Communications, Inc., and it co-owns with two other cooperatives Carolina West Wireless, a regional wireless carrier operating in 11 western North Carolina counties, as well as wireless company WSS, LLC. Additionally, SkyLine owns a minority percentage of Access/On Multimedia Inc., a regional fiber transport network, which serves north-central and northwestern North Carolina.

SkyBest Communications, Inc.

SkyBest Communications, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SkyLine Membership Corporation. Established in 1998, SkyBest is a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC), offering a variety of deregulated services including broadband internet, voice and long-distance services, enterprise network solutions, business phone systems, SkyBest Security, video surveillance, automation and SkyBest TV over an expanding fiber network. In 2014, SkyBest established a subsidiary, The Video Exchange, to serve as a source for video content for TV station operators and channel owners across the U.S. Most recently, SkyBest has expanded its service territory to cover more of the Boone business community as well as Lenoir in Caldwell County and Mountain City, Tennessee. In 2017, it established a wholly-owned subsidiary, SkyBest Holding Company, LLC, acquiring Chesnee Communications in upstate South Carolina later that year, and acquiring Loretto Telecom in middle Tennessee in 2018.


how dollars were spent
how dollars were received

Download a PDF of our Financial Section

at skyline we appreciate where we live


SkyBest Communications was among the corporate sponsors of An Appalachian Summer Festival, now in its 34th year. Named one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast” by the Southeast Tourism Society, App Summer features music, dance, theatre, visual arts and film. This year’s popular series included Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristen Chenowith, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Kool & the Gang and Michael Feinstein, among others.

an appalachian summer festival
christmas charities


Employees make Christmas brighter for the young and elderly in Ashe County through the Interagency Christmas Project and Appalachian Senior Programs’ Project Star. Employees also help individual families in area counties with gifts, heating assistance and other needs.

christmas charities


Salem Brown and Wendy Escobedo, two Ashe County High School seniors, represented SkyLine at the Foundation for Rural Service Youth Tour of Washington, D.C. They experienced a close-up view of our nation’s capital, including visits to numerous landmarks and a greater understanding of telecommunications in rural communities.

frs youth tour
project teamwork


Project Teamwork is an employee-led community outreach program, providing financial relief to area families during times of crisis. Since 1997, this program has contributed more than $170,000 to help our neighbors across the region.


With more than a half million dollars awarded to date, the Frank-James SkyLine Scholarship is presented annually to children of SkyLine/SkyBest customers. Selection is based on academics, financial need, and school and community involvement.

frs youth tour


Working to raise awareness and support for the American Heart Association, SkyLine provides the phone bank at the annual Ashe Heart Auction. At this year’s Ashe Heart Walk, fellow employees joined Angie Miller’s team in memory of her brother Ricky Goodman and father Doug Goodman, whose lives were lost prematurely to heart disease and the family of Terry Severt in his memory.

heart association
leadership camp


For many years, SkyLine has made it possible for area youth to attend Cooperative Leadership Camp at White Lake to learn more about how cooperatives operate while building their leadership skills. Led by the Cooperative Council of North Carolina, this year’s participants representing SkyLine were Kaycee Allen, Katie Matheson and Malorie Eller.


Food insecurity plagues many across our service area, so SkyLine has partnered with area food pantries in efforts to fill their shelves with non-perishable breakfast items. In its fifth year, the Rise & Shine Food Drive is now underway and will conclude October 31.

rise and shine food drive


SkyLine continued its support of Lees-McRae’s popular Summer Theatre program, serving as the presenting corporate sponsor of the first show, “The Wiz.” This season also featured “My Way,” a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra, and “In the Heights.”

the wiz
directory recycling


Since 1993, SkyLine has sponsored a Directory Collection Drive with the help of 17 area public schools. For their efforts toward sustainability, each school is awarded a quarter for each old directory they collect.


SkyLine and its employees are active supporters of Relay for Life across their communities, forming teams and fundraising for the American Cancer Society. All money raised supports the ACS with their efforts in research, education, advocacy and service.

relay for life
skyline logo

P.O. Box 759
1200 NC Hwy 194 N.
West Jefferson, NC 28694

Toll free: 1-800-759-2226
Phone: (336) 877-3111
Fax: (336) 877-2020


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