The power behind your power

Posted on Feb 28 2017 in Steuben County REMC

Bill Stackhouse, director of operations, and David VanAken, system engineer, (partially hidden) review the outage management and mapping system.

March 3 is Employee Appreciation Day, and Steuben County REMC would like to take a moment to recognize the hard work and dedication of our behind-the-scenes employees. While the linemen may be the visible faces of the co-op, there is a lot of work that has to happen to keep your electricity flowing. Let’s take a moment to dig further into some of these integral positions.

The operations and engineering department ensures that the overall system is well maintained. This team is responsible for planning ahead for future needs and continually monitoring existing equipment and resources. An equally important area of focus is safety. Working with electricity is an inherently dangerous task, and helping to foster a culture of safety for all workers is a major priority. Members can count on the operations and engineering department for everything — outage management, growth planning, maintenance of the system, safety protocols and so much more.

Jennifer Duke, customer service representative, works at her desks.

The customer service representatives (CSRs) are responsible for ensuring that you are treated appropriately, and it all starts at the time you sign up for membership. These front-line employees answer calls and questions about billing and energy use. They help members understand their bills and assist in finding answers to their questions. They welcome members to the cooperative family, greet them at the door or on the phone, and ensure their accounts are maintained efficiently and effectively. They take payments and monitor billing. They also reassure members during outages and make certain that each outage is reported immediately. These employees often know a little bit about everything and can help direct members to the right departments to have their specific needs met. It would be very hard to function without these employees!

The member services/marketing department is responsible for helping REMC members make the most of their membership by taking full advantage of all the benefits it has to offer. This department is responsible for the co-op’s annual meeting and other outreach events to the membership. They ensure that the co-op is heavily invested in the overall health of the Steuben County community with sponsorships and Operation Round Up grant funding to local organizations. They coordinate educational seminars, including safety demonstrations for area schools. They provide energy evaluations to members and help them understand and reduce their electrical use. They maintain communications, such as our cooperative pages in this magazine, as well as social media, marketing efforts and campaigns, and member calls-to-action. They are the keepers of all the exclusive value-added services that you enjoy as members of the cooperative. Without this department, no one would know about all of the wonderful things the co-op has to offer!

The accounting and finance department is responsible for the financial well-being of Steuben County REMC. It includes billing, collections and overseeing all other financial obligations of the business. The co-op generates an electric bill that we send to you either electronically or through regular mail. We do so to ensure we can apply the latest technology, help lower your energy costs and send timely, accurate bills to you. The accounting and finance employees maintain the co-op’s budget and ensure that our investments are to the benefit of the membership. While we are a member-owned cooperative and operate differently than investor-owned utilities, we are still a business. As such, the accounting department ensures that revenue collected from the membership exceeds our expenses. Typical expenses include the money we pay for electric power, equipment, new technology, upgrades to the infrastructure, employees and other expenditures. This department then coordinates the distribution of capital credits to our membership, a detailed process that redistributes funds to members in proportion to what they paid in electric bills for a specific year — a great member benefit! These employees are vital to the health and maintenance of the cooperative. Their extensive knowledge and detailed, diligent works helps to keep operations running smoothly.

The human resources department is responsible for all personnel associated with our co-op. They handle the recruiting, hiring, retiring, benefits and initial orientation as well as training for all employees. Continual learning and training for co-op employees is crucial to having a skilled workforce that helps keep the co-op operating at an optimal level. This learning element is also one of the seven cooperative principles and extends to our members. For example, Steuben County REMC sponsors youth programs, including an educational trip to Washington, D.C., as part of the co-op’s Youth Tour program each summer.

Our numerous employees and departments work closely together to serve you because you, the member, are at the heart of everything we do. Unlike other types of businesses, as a cooperative, our concern for community is one principle that sets us apart from other businesses. From sponsoring a local school’s baseball team to supporting new jobs and industry through our economic development efforts, we stand as a driving force in our community. The electricity we provide literally powers our communities. And it takes every person in the co-op to deliver on this promise. Across the country, Steuben County REMC and 900 other electric cooperatives provide safe, reliable and technologically advanced service to 40 million Americans while maintaining a unique consumer-focused approach to business.

Help us celebrate these many and different employees on March 3, National Employee Appreciation Day!