Wired for success

Twenty years of lighting our lives

Posted on Jun 20 2024 in Kosciusko REMC
Mike Whitaker

Mike Whitaker marks his 20-year service anniversary at Kosciusko REMC. As we celebrate Whitaker’s two decades at KREMC, we delve into his inspiring journey from lineman to assistant manager of operations.

Can you describe your journey with KREMC over the past 20 years? What initially drew you to the cooperative, and how has your role evolved over time?

I started as a meter reader when members had to send in their meter readings with their bills. If they forgot, it was my job to record the meter reading and a list of many other things. After a year and a half of that, I entered the lineman apprenticeship program through Indiana Electric Cooperatives and graduated after four years. I became a lineman and worked the lines for 14 years.

I knew that working at the cooperative was a great opportunity for a long-lasting career with endless potential. I enjoyed the fact that I would be working outside and doing something that would have an impact on my community and the people who lived in it. It was a great place to work, and I could have a career that I could take pride in.

Congratulations on your recent promotion to assistant manager of operations. Could you share some insights into what this new role entails and how it differs from your previous position as head lineman?

As a lineman, you focus on personal safety, the safety of your crew, system reliability, new construction, power restoration, and many other things. You are always ready to go when the phone rings. It’s a part of your life and a part of your family. In my new position, I have many of the same responsibilities, but ensuring safety for the lineman performing the work is my main concern, and making sure we do our part to provide safe and reliable electric power to our members at an affordable cost.

Throughout your career at KREMC, what have been some of the most memorable or challenging projects you have worked on?

There have been many storms that I have worked over the years, and I have many fond memories during those long hours. All the linemen would do whatever it took to get members power restored. It may not have been easy or pleasant at the time, but looking back you are always glad you did it. Everyone has the “I’ll never quit attitude” and the work gets done.

As someone who has spent a significant portion of their career in the field, what advice would you give to new lineworkers or those aspiring to leadership positions within the cooperative?

I would tell the new lineworkers to listen, learn, and watch. Learn from the people you work with. Learn from their mistakes. In this line of work, we don’t always get a second chance. Never take a shortcut when it comes to safety, and try to be ready for the unexpected. Never give up on your dreams, and always set new goals for yourself. Stay on track and set new goals once you achieve the ones you were working on. It may take some time, but eventually, hard work and determination can take you anywhere.

How do you believe the cooperatives role in the community has evolved during your time here, and what do you see as its most important contributions?

Commitment to Community is one of the cooperative principles that helps all cooperatives be successful. KREMC’s community involvement has always been something I enjoy. It gives me a chance to interact with people in the community on a regular basis. In my 20 years at KREMC, we have always been very active in the community. I think our social media presence has increased in the last few years as expected.

I think the Family Safety Day live line demonstration is great for the community. It educates the public on the dangers of the electric grid and dangerous situations to watch for.

The Operation Round Up program touches so many people in our community as well. It is hard to narrow it down to only a few.

What do you find most rewarding about working for a cooperative like KREMC?

I enjoy being involved with our members and community. There are not many people that I speak with who don’t know what KREMC is or what we do. I am proud to work for an organization that does so much for the community. Also, we provide the best product to our members — electricity!

Looking ahead, what do you hope to accomplish in your new role as assistant manager of operations, both for the cooperative and for the community it serves?

I plan to invest in our employees. They are the backbone of the cooperative. Taking advantage of training seminars and sitting in on round table discussions to learn new and safer ways to get jobs done. Allowing younger employees to experience different aspects of their job and encouraging personal and professional growth. If we continue to grow, we will continue to succeed.

Finally, as you reflect on your 20 years of service at KREMC, is there a particular moment or achievement that stands out to you as especially meaningful?

Providing affordable electricity to our members always stands out. I realize how complex the electric grid is, and that is amazing. Providing fiber internet to all our members and now some non-members who may not have access to reliable internet is incredible. Just a few short years ago, many of our members did not have access to reliable internet. I was one of those members. The time it would take to get online so my kids could do homework, watch a movie, or work from home took so long. Often you would get kicked off and start all over. We kind of take our internet for granted now, but I am reminded of how much it has impacted my life and all our members.