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by Share Brandt

We Are Family

Last month I was lamenting the missing tulips. Now I can celebrate the color bursting along the sidewalks leading to the State Capitol entrances; red and gold glistening throughout the day, rain or shine. It is still a little chilly, even though Mother’s Day has come and gone and Father’s Day is just around the corner.

As we honor Moms and Dads I am thinking about the generations of families working at electric cooperatives—moms and sons/daughters, dads and daughters/sons find their way into the electric co-op family. Sometimes it skips a generation and the grandparents foster the interest in working for an electric co-op. Right here in Wisconsin I can count 14 such combinations in our family of electric co-ops.

Generations at Work

Some of our examples include grandpas and dads who work as linemen and their young sons who look up to them—40 feet up in a bucket truck or on a pole they climbed. These fathers work in rain and snow, day and night, whenever duty calls. If a storm triggers an outage, these fathers don’t play Monopoly by candlelight or tell bedtime stories. They charge into the fray to fix what was broken to bring the lights back on.

Some parents work in the eye of the storm, others take action behind the scenes in the dispatch center, tracking problems and directing crews to trouble spots. If it is an extended outage, team members need relief so employees may take shifts or call in neighboring co-ops to help. The hours are long, and tasks are dangerous. But the payoff—making life better for the members—is satisfying at the end of the day.

\What the young sons and daughters see is a parent who has dedicated his or her life to a career at a co-op. Sometimes the senior member of the family has been promoted to line superintendent or general manager. To a young person looking at a career, the electric co-op offers job/life stability and an opportunity to advance.

They see the pleasant interaction between co-op member-owners and co-op employees. They see their parents enjoying their work and not concerned about getting laid off because of corporate downsizing. Co-ops have a strong history of right-sizing their number of employees per members served. They see their parents being involved in the community, serving on local boards, coaching youth athletics, or serving as emergency management volunteers.

Family with a Purpose

Here are just a few examples at Wisconsin’s electric co-ops. Kevin Babcock is the operations manager at Jackson Electric Cooperative; his father preceded him in the position. Allison Pendergast is the marketing coordinator at Adams–Columbia EC and her father is the CEO for St. Croix EC. Dan Hoag is a retired line superintendent at Oakdale and his grandson, Eric Johnson, is a lineman with Adams–Columbia EC. Lori Davis is the finance manager at Jump River EC in Ladysmith and her son is a lineman at Dairyland Power Cooperative.

There are many more cases of family members following in the footsteps of previous generations. There are countless examples nationwide. It is because electric cooperatives are family with a purpose beyond selling electricity—we are part of the fabric of your communities