Not Quite Done Yet
by Bob Hance on Wednesday, January 8, 2020
You reach a certain age and people begin peppering you with that long-awaited question.
When are you retiring?
Later this month I reach that magical age of 65. In the world of many retirement plans and Medicare, it’s the milestone that gives you permission to step away and enjoy the rest of what life has to offer outside of the nine-to-five working world.
I’m just not quite done yet.
I have enjoyed a long, productive, and extremely satisfying career in the electric cooperative industry. I started at the ripe old age of 19 as a mapping agent at a cooperative right here in Michigan, and have since served 46 years in various roles. To say I’m an industry veteran is a bit of an understatement.
I joined the MEC team in 2002, and it’s been quite the ride. It’s this team, the board leadership and employees alike, which keep me going. If we were a status quo kind of organization, a cooperative that, per their mission statement, strives to provide “reliable, affordable electricity” to its customers, I might call it a day. I’m not suggesting that’s a bad mission as it really gets to the heart of why we were established in the 1930s. I’m simply suggesting that for me, working on behalf of 35,000 rural customers in southern Michigan and northern Indiana and Ohio, it’s not enough.
In my 18 years at MEC, we have set and achieved some audacious goals. Early on the goal was implementation of advanced metering infrastructure, which really represented the first iteration of what is known today as the smart grid. That resulted in greater efficiencies and allowed us to use data in new and exciting ways to improve your service. We also established some huge goals to improve electric reliability and service, ultimately implementing a very aggressive and strategic program to reclaim our rights-of-way.
Throughout the 18-year journey, providing you a broadband experience was always at the top of our collective to-do list. We implemented a number of different efforts before the board directed us in 2014 to deploy fiber across our distribution system. This is opening many exciting doors for system reliability and safety, while allowing us to leverage the technology to deliver a best-in-class high-speed internet experience for our customers. We closed out 2019 with more than 11,000 subscribers in southwest Michigan, and will start lighting up customers in southeast Michigan in a few short months.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “I'm not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues.”
I have the privilege of leading an amazing team and working with a bold and courageous board, all deeply committed to transforming the rural experience. I could step away today and feel good about my career, but I’m just not quite done yet.