When I turned 16, I landed my first paying job working for a small family-owned bookstore. The starting wage was $1.35/hour, and I was thrilled to have money in my pocket at the end of every week. No more “allowance” or asking my parents for money for the things I “needed.” Of course, “needs” in the mind of this 16-year-old were really wants.
For $1.35/hour, I swept floors, stocked shelves, cleaned windows and, as with any good “job description,” did “other duties as assigned.” Over time and as I became more familiar with the store, the staff, the policies, procedures and most importantly the inventory, I was allowed to help customers. That was pretty “heady” stuff for a kid, to be allowed behind the register, answer questions and to be trusted with taking payments. That was a time long before computerized inventory, bar codes and automated registers. The inventory was kept on index cards, and you were expected to know what was in stock. The sales receipts were handwritten, and if needed, there was a calculator next to the register to help with adding up the purchase.
The summer between my junior and senior year of high school, the owner called me into his office to let me know that he and his wife were planning an extended vacation into Canada and out west — their first vacation in several years. And then…. he informed me that they wanted to leave me “in charge.” He handed me a key to the store and gave me contact information should I need it during their absence.
I will never forget the emotion I felt at that moment. I looked at the key in my hand and for an instant thought “Wow, I’m in charge.” Then reality and pride turned to panic. Something like…” Yikes, I’m in charge.”
For the last, almost 50 years now, people have been handing me keys and telling me “You’re in charge now.” And my response has always been close to the same as when I was 17. That “Wow, I’m in charge” followed almost immediately with “Yikes, I’m in charge”.
The time has come for me to hand in those keys for the last time. And while it is difficult to say goodbye, it is with the deepest of gratitude to the REMC board, employees and members that I say, “thank you.”
Wally Summerville, my predecessor as the REMC CEO, advised me that I would face an industry in change, and he was correct. Dave Lewallen, the CEO who is following me, will face an even more rapidly changing industry. But with change comes opportunity and I believe that not only is Dave up to the change, but he will find those opportunities that will make the REMC better as it faces those challenges.