New Year. New Beginnings.
by Bob Hance on Tuesday, January 2, 2024
What do you want to be when you grow up? As adults, we love asking younger people that question. It can be such an abstract concept for someone on the brink of adulthood. A few know with absolute certainty, many have no clue, and the rest think they know, but quickly discover they were wrong.
I fell into the third bucket. I originally wanted to be an architect. However, after some schooling, I quickly decided that wasn’t for me. I wanted to draw, but I wasn’t interested in all the other stuff that went with the program. I decided to drop out, and that’s when God opened a door for me.
In 1974, I took a job drawing system maps for a small electric cooperative near my home in Newaygo, Michigan. I didn’t really know anything about co-ops at that time. In fact, I thought the place was an appliance store, which it kind of was. Back then, electric co-ops often sold appliances and helped customers learn how to use them. Anyway, there I was in the O and A Cooperative basement with a T-square and drafting table, about to embark on a lifelong career serving my rural neighbors. I literally started at the bottom.
Over the past 50 years, I’ve had many amazing opportunities and several twists and turns. God has been my guiding light through all of them. It was through my faith in Him that I saw, and still see, opportunity where others see risk. It’s what encouraged me to keep going when life’s challenges felt unbearable. And it’s what kept me grounded and willing to advocate for what I knew was right.
Yet, I haven’t done this alone. I’ve been surrounded by great colleagues, customers, and friends filled with passion, commitment, and that rural grit that has made this country great. In fact, part of the reason we started our internet service was because you came to us and said, “We need this.” So, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. Now when I see the impact that our internet has had and continues to have on our communities, I feel nothing short of awe.
But once again, God has guided me and told me it’s time to pass the torch. I will retire in the fall. It feels incredibly surreal to write those words. This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, but I learned long ago that when God speaks, you listen. Still, I struggle to wrap my head around what it will be like not to walk these halls, see these faces, do this work. After all, MEC isn’t just my place of employment; it’s who I am.
Please know this: At the end of the day, all this work over the past five decades has been about helping others. I want our corner of the world to be a place that people love to call home. I want our communities to be vibrant, relevant, and sustainable. Ultimately, I want to honor the legacy of our forefathers from 80 years ago who put up light poles when others wouldn’t.
And with that, I thank you for allowing me to serve you for 22 years. MEC wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for your commitment to your neighbors and community.