There is a cliché that “hindsight is 2020.” However, when talking about the year 2020, I am not sure we gained a clear vision in the aftermath.
The year was rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, in which most of our employees were asked to work individually or remotely. In our 2020 spirit to “Power On,” and since we were already in a state of disruption, we made the commitment to start our total facility complex improvement plan. The remodeling plan was drafted, approved and begun. In looking back, it turned out to be a great year to be temporarily relocated. Most of our office employees took turns working at our temporary office on the northside of the square in Osceola.
Our engineering and operations departments remained extremely busy in 2020 even in the midst of the pandemic. During the first half of the year, we kept our employees safely separated. They completed a huge amount of maintenance work during this period. There was a temporary pause in new construction related to COVID and then suddenly, we had many new service requests all come in at once. We were blessed as a cooperative, as most of our member-consumers were able to continue their business operations.
Our organization was not immune from the pandemic when the majority of our employees contracted the illness. Luckily for us, none of our employees required hospital care and in fact, many were right back to work as soon as their isolation time was over. A few employees have lingering effects, but all are back to work.
As we “Powered On,” we managed to continue with our normal business processes. Annual budgets were approved. Monthly board meetings were held, sometimes by Zoom and sometimes off-site. Capital credits were paid out. New equipment was purchased, including a new bucket truck and a new dump truck. We installed five new iron poles, to test out pole material options. Annual pole and breaker testing was also completed. Replacing distribution line equipment that was no longer reliable continued even at the height of the pandemic. This included (but was not limited to) poles, crossarms, insulators, fuses, substation equipment, overhead line, and a continued focus on replacing failing underground line.
We experienced some damage as the derecho passed through our territory. However, once we had our member-consumers’ power restored, we sent linemen to other Iowa cooperatives that were not as fortunate, to perform storm restoration work.
Our annual Youth Tour program was again postponed. We ventured into a new scholarship program awarding 10 students with college scholarships. Our Operation Round-Up program continued to pay out grants to eligible member-consumers and organizations.
We had two great long-term employees retire. Roger Phillips, our serviceman linemen, and Tim Lupkes, our warehouseman lineman, moved onto the next phase of life. With the pandemic going on, we were not able to celebrate them and tell them goodbye. It was a big loss for our cooperative to have two experienced linemen retire. We miss them both.
2020 tested us in so many ways. Clarke Electric Cooperative has always embraced technology, and when we were called to work remotely, we were able to work from home without sacrificing efficiency.
Our hindsight shows us that the year 2020 was anything but typical and often extraordinary. As we move through 2021 and continue to “Power On,” we thank you, our member-consumers, for your patience during our remodeling process and the pandemic. We also need to thank our great employees who put up with many changing processes and less than desirable work conditions. They dealt with cold kybos in the winter, disjointed meetings and shared offices. As always, our team of employees showed resilience and dedication. They continued to work with wonderful attitudes while still providing the great service you expect and deserve.
Powering on to 2021!