George Carter spent 17 years working in the electric cooperative industry before he became president and CEO of Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative in Paulding in 2005. He says there are a couple of reasons he’s spent more than 30 years of his career at cooperatives: those who surround him, and the important work co-ops do in their communities.
“I have been blessed with a great group of employees who have always gone above and beyond expectations,” he says. “It’s been easy to stay.”
It’s a common sentiment among employees at electric cooperatives, because co-ops provide many of the qualities that define a great job: a close-knit team, community involvement, and growth opportunities, just to name a few.
The 24 electric cooperatives that power rural Ohio are focused on improving quality of life for co-op members and ensuring the long-term prosperity of the communities they serve. That focus, employees say, is what makes cooperatives different from other workplaces. When a team is focused on a common goal, especially one that makes a positive impact on communities they love, it often results in fulfilled employees.
It’s not unheard of, in fact, for someone to spend their entire career with the same co-op.
After he graduated from high school, Anthony Smith had the opportunity to take a summer job at Marysville-based URE (Union Rural Electric Cooperative). That summer job, in turn, influenced his decision to study engineering in college. Smith continued working at URE while he studied electrical engineering technology at Columbus State Community College and computer engineering technology at DeVry. He rose from his entry-level role drawing maps and drafting substation projects to eventually become the co-op’s CEO in 2017.
“Training and education are priorities for electric cooperatives, and I wish more people realized how innovative co-ops actually are when it comes to technology deployment,” Smith says. “On top of that, co-ops offer attractive employment opportunities and are some of the most people-oriented employers you can find.”
Growth opportunities offered by co-ops have also attracted prospective employees who are interested in switching industries. Brittany Root, member services representative at Lancaster-based South Central Power Company, worked in the corporate banking industry before becoming a stay-at-home mom to her five children. When the opportunity to join South Central Power presented itself, Brittany felt encouraged by the support offered by the cooperative.
“I had just gone back to college to finish my bachelor’s degree when I began interviewing with South Central Power, and when I learned about the co-op’s tuition reimbursement program, it felt like a natural fit,” says Brittany. “I was excited to work with a company so closely involved with the community while also having the ability to grow in my own career.”
Brittany successfully completed her undergraduate program this spring and now holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business from Ohio Christian University. Since joining the co-op in 2019, she has taken on more of a leadership role that allows her to focus on the training and development of others in her department and offer them the same level of support she was given.
As someone who recruits and hires talent for her co-op, Robyn Tate, director of human resources and community relations at Holmes-Wayne Electric Cooperative in Millersburg, has an acute awareness of the characteristics of those who surround her. “Cooperative employees are the salt of the earth. You truly do gain another family when you work at a co-op,” Tate says. “Our jobs go far beyond providing power.”
She recalls countless examples during her 17 years with HWEC when members of her team have quietly and humbly supported their neighbors — anonymously paying the bill of a struggling member, cutting wood to heat a sick member’s home, starting a meal train for a member in need. “What makes co-op employees so special,” Tate says, “is who they are when no one is looking.”
For information about working at electric cooperatives, visit www.ohioec.org/careers.