from the editor
Heard in the Hoosier state
Beware of “Bless your heart.”
I’ve heard that Southerners will sometimes utter this seemingly sweet phrase as an insult with hidden meanings like: “Bless your heart. (It’s not your fault that you’re an idiot who screwed up again.)” Yikes! These three words — spoken with a drawl and a smile — prove that a spoonful of sugar can effectively hide a bitter pill.
The Southern lexicon features a whole slew of colorful and descriptive sayings that would doubtfully have the same effect with my Hoosier accent: gems like “grinnin’ like a possum eating a sweet tater” and “she has her nose so far in the air she could drown in a rainstorm.” For someone who loves words, these phrases are like sweet tea to my lips.
We Hoosiers, however, have our own words and phrases unique to our part of the country. For example, for most of the U.S., “puppy chow” is canine kibble. But in Indiana the term also describes a SO GOOD powdered-sugar covered snack mix made with chocolate, peanut butter and Chex cereal that unfortunately does look a lot like dry dog food.
Meanwhile, “catty corner” is not where cats hang out to beg for bowls of puppy chow. It, as you know, means diagonal. One place you might be able to snag a few handfuls of puppy chow though is a “pitch-in,” the Hoosier version of a “potluck,” or as they say in Illinois, a “scramble.” Though my go-to pitch-in dish is Buffalo Chicken Dip, perhaps you’re a fan of stuffed green peppers, or as some Hoosiers may call it, “mangoes.” Don’t confuse this mango with what the rest of the country calls a mango because a sweet tropical stone fruit tastes better in a salsa or smoothie than stuffed with ground beef and rice.
While we’re at it, don’t get me started on the whole “pop,” “soda,” and “Coke” debate. Studies — and yes, there have been soda pop studies — show that we Hoosiers are divided on what we call this fizzy drink. I lean toward “pop” but bless my highly caffeinated heart, what do I know?
VOLUME 72 • NUMBER 4 ISSN 0745-4651 • USPS 262-340
Published monthly by Indiana Electric Cooperatives
Indiana Connection is for and about members of Indiana’s locally-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. It helps consumers use electricity safely and efficiently; understand energy issues; connect with their co-op; and celebrate life in Indiana. Over 304,000 residents and businesses receive the magazine as part of their electric co-op membership. Member’s cost per issue is approximately 32 cents, plus postage.
CONTACT US: 8888 Keystone Crossing, Suite 1600 Indianapolis, IN 46240-4606 317-487-2220 firstname.lastname@example.org IndianaConnection.org
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EDITORIAL STAFF: Emily Schilling Editor
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Kiley Lipps Graphic Designer
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Giveaway: There will be two gift card drawings this month, courtesy of the Warren County Local Economic Development Organization. Enter to win a $50 gift card to Williamsport’s High Falls Saloon and Grill. Also available: a $20 gift card for food or ice cream at nearby Hot Dog Station. To enter, visit indianaconnection.org/talk-to-us/contests or send your contact information to the address below. The deadline to enter is Oct. 31.
Three ways to contact us: To send us recipes, photos, event listings, letters and entries for gift drawings, please use the forms on our website indianaconnection. org; email email@example.com; or send to Indiana Connection, 8888 Keystone Crossing, Suite 1600, Indianapolis, IN 46240-4606.
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No portion of Indiana Connection may be reproduced without permission of the editor.
03 FROM THE EDITOR
05 CO-OP NEWS
Energy news and information from your electric cooperative.
Turn ‘on’ to go off-road.
12 COUNTY OF THE MONTH
Spotlighting Warren County.
23 profilefood 14
18 COVER STORY
Beer food: Pop open a bottle or can and get cooking.
16 INDIANA EATS
Around the world in B-Town.
Overhead line safety: When in doubt, look up.
Electric co-ops offer a multitude of career paths.
Jamie Bell raises hand to opportunities and growth.
24 HOOSIER ENERGY/ WABASH VALLEY NEWS
Spotting the invasive spotted lanternfly. (Not in all editions.)
Hilly Hundred bike tour back for 54th year. (Not in all editions.)
On the cover
Tipmont REMC lineman Lucas Bouwkamp seemingly aligns with the stripes of a huge American flag backdrop as he descends a pole during an electric lineman skills competition in August. Though lineworkers may be the job most associated with electric utilities, Indiana’s co-ops offer a multitude of career opportunities.PHOTO BY RICHARD G. BIEVER
CONTACT US 812-689-4111 800-737-4111 Fax: 812-689-6987
7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday
STREET ADDRESS 712 S. Buckeye St. Osgood, IN 47037
MAILING ADDRESS P.O. Box 196 Osgood, IN 47037
To report a power outage: 800-737-4111 or SmartHub
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Mike Thieman (District 6), President Melissa Menchhofer (District 5), Vice President Jesse McClure (District 4), Secretary Vince Moster (District 1), Treasurer Brad Bentle (District 2)
David Smith (District 3)
Darrell Smith (District 7) Bonnie Boggs (District 8) Casey Menchhofer (District 9)
Fall is a busy time, and October is a particularly eventful month with school, community and sports activities in full swing. It’s also when all cooperatives celebrate National Cooperative Month.
When Southeastern Indiana REMC celebrates Co-op Month, it is celebrating you! After all, our coop wouldn’t exist without you, our members.
Our core business purpose is to serve as your electricity provider, but your co-op’s larger mission is to help make our corner of the world a better place. “Concern for community” is one of seven guiding principles that all coops share.
Just like the wires that run through our service territory, our concern for community flows through all of our decisions –– because being a co-op means being a responsible partner and good neighbor.
Southeastern Indiana REMC helps our community thrive through initiatives led by our employees and a local board made up of neighbors who live right here in our community. Because we’re local, we understand our community’s unique needs and strive to help meet them.
involved with is our joint venture with SEI Communications to provide SEI Fiber services to the unserved and underserved members in our sevencounty service territory.
The word “cooperative” is close to “cooperation,” meaning people working together toward a common goal — mutually benefiting one another and the larger community. That’s the essence of the cooperative spirit. Our employees and memberelected board members are invested in the community in which they live and serve.
Above all, as a co-op, we put our members’ priorities first. As your trusted energy partner, we know that saving energy and money is important to you. That’s why we have numerous rebate opportunities, energy-saving programs, and a “Time of Use” rate option in place to help.
We want to empower you to manage energy use at home. If you haven’t already, we encourage you take a moment to download our SmartHub app. Through the app, you can conveniently monitor and manage your energy use. We’re here to help so call us if you have questions about your energy bills.
A fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) product with speeds from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps.
Residential pricing starts at $64.95 plus tax.
To safely provide reliable electricity and diversified services to the members and communities we serve.
We’re proud to support local youth through our Camp Kilowatt, Youth Tour and scholarship programs. With your help, we offer Operation Round Up grants to help fund worthwhile programs and projects in our community. We also partner with other organizations on things like drug takeback drives and the mobile mammogram program. One of the biggest partnerships we are actively
Southeastern Indiana REMC is continually examining ways to operate more efficiently while providing the highest level of friendly, reliable service you expect and deserve. After all, we’re your local co-op. We were built by the members we serve.
2023 Director election SEEKING NOMINATING COMMITTEE MEMBERS
If you’ve been looking for a way to get involved with your REMC, serving as a nominating committee member from your district is an ideal place to start. The members of this committee help find qualified director candidates and oversee the voting process at the Annual Meeting.
In 2023, the members of Southeastern Indiana REMC will elect directors from districts one, seven, and eight for three-year terms on the board of directors. A total of three member-volunteers from each of these districts is required to be compliant with the bylaws of the corporation.
Qualified members should complete and submit the interest form, available on our website at seiremc. com, for consideration before Nov. 1. The board of directors will review the list of submissions and appoint the Nominating Committee during the November 2022 board meeting.
If you have any questions, please visit the annual meeting page on our website or contact B.J. Myers, director of communications and creative services, at 800-737-4111 ext. 236.
Rebates FOR ELECTRIC OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT
Southeastern Indiana REMC offers a rebate for corded or battery outdoor equipment.
• Lawnmower (Minimum of 36 volts)
• String trimmer
• Leaf blower
Eligible equipment Requirements
• Equipment must be purchased new. Reconditioned or refurbished equipment is not eligible.
• Equipment must have a minimum oneyear warranty.
• Submission must be within 90 days of purchase date.
• Snow blower
• Pressure washer
• Purchase date must be between Jan. 1, 2022, and Dec. 15, 2022.
• The rebated equipment needs to be installed/purchased prior to submission of the application.
All members must complete the Electric Outdoor Equipment Rebate application and provide proof of purchase to receive a rebate. Limit one rebate per member household per year.
Rebates for qualifying purchase are the lesser of $50 or 50% of purchase price. The cooperative has the right to deny rebate if terms and conditions are not met.
For more information and the full list of requirements, visit www.seiremc.com/rebates.
Turn ‘on’ to go off-road
More varieties of electric vehicles give people options to enjoy all-terrain travel
While many people enjoy driving around town in electric vehicles, more options are becoming available for enthusiasts who want to travel off the beaten path (or no path at all).
The electric vehicle market has grown in the U.S., with more consumers buying EVs in recent years. Fortunately, the kinds of electric vehicles hitting the market also are expanding. For people who enjoy going off-road, that can mean all sorts of fun! Some new options to consider include utility terrain vehicles, trucks, and even bikes and motorcycles.
ELECTRIC BIKES AND MOTORCYCLES
The motorcycle and biking industries are getting electric makeovers. Zero Motorcycles, which created its initial prototypes in 2006, offers a variety of electric motorcycles; newer companies, such as Rambo Bikes, sell battery-powered bicycles. This Iowabased company highlights its bikes for enthusiasts who enjoy hunting, camping and other outdoor activities. Some models listed on the Rambo Bikes website can start with financed monthly payments less than $100.
UTILITY TERRAIN VEHICLES
Designed for work or leisure, several companies, including Polaris and Volcon, have developed all-electric UTV models. Electrek reported this summer that Volcon will start delivering its first new Stag allelectric UTV next summer. Polaris, which makes multiple kinds of off-road vehicles, partnered with Zero Motorcycles as part of its plan to offer electric options for most of its “core product categories” by 2025, according to a Zero Motors announcement of the partnership.
PICKUP TRUCKS AND SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES
Multiple car and truck manufacturers have announced plans for electric truck and SUV models to enter the market over the next few years. Ford has even started delivering the Ford F-150 Lightning all-electric truck, while EV start-up Rivian has already delivered orders of its all-electric pickup. Rivian also has more EV models coming in the next few months.
Many companies that sell gaspowered vehicles are exploring — or already selling — electric options, with more expected over the next few years. These new options offer new possibilities for people to explore the world in ways they might not have previously considered. You can contact your local electric co-op’s energy advisor for advice on electric vehicles, including best ways and times to charge them at home. Your energy advisor also can give you more information on new electric vehicles that can take you off the beaten path — literally!by Jake Taylor Energy Advisor LaGrange County REMC
As one of Indiana’s most rural counties, Warren has fewer than 23 people per square mile. Much of its 366 square miles is devoted to agriculture, especially in the county’s northern and western parts where Indiana ends and the open prairies of Illinois begin.
The county’s farmland is among the most productive in the state. And, while Warren is a quiet farming county, even advertising its seat of Williamsport as a kind of “Mayberry,” the county is not without geographical and historical landmarks.
The Wabash River, flowing west by southwest out of neighboring Tippecanoe County, defines most of the southeastern side of Warren’s inverted wedge shape. Toward the county’s southwest tip is where the Wabash makes its sharp lefthand turn southward.
Eleven years after its founding, Warren County became part of the tragic Potawatomi “Trail of Death.” In the fall of 1838, about 860 members of the Potawatomi people were rounded up near Plymouth, Indiana. They were then forced to march at gunpoint from Marshall through Fulton, Cass, Carroll, Tippecanoe and Warren counties, and then across the states of Illinois and Missouri to eastern Kansas.
Along the way, more than 40 people, mostly children, died
and were buried. The group camped in Warren County, Sept. 14, 1838, near Williamsport, and Sept. 15, near State Line City, on its way to Illinois. Two Potawatomi children were buried near the Sept. 15 campsite. Geographically significant, Warren County has the highest free-falling waterfall in the state. Williamsport Falls, located in downtown Williamsport, drops 90 feet over a sandstone ledge. Unlike most natural features you have to find, this one is less than 1,000 feet from the county courthouse. A trail allows visitors to venture into the gorge where they can walk beneath the overhanging rock formation and behind the mist of the falls. The caprock over which the creek falls is nearly 40 feet thick.
The best time to view the falls is after a rainy spell or snow melt, or in the winter when it freezes over and is encased in varying muted colors of ice. In dry weather, Fall Creek, which feeds the falls, is often barely a trickle. In fact, the falls are sometimes called “Dry Falls.”
State Line City, on the southwestern edge of the county, shares its western border with the Illinois state line. President-elect Abraham Lincoln was welcomed there on his train ride east to his inauguration in 1861. The Wabash Railroad he was riding left Springfield, Illinois, on the
NAMED FOR: Joseph Warren, a major-general in the Massachusetts militia, who was killed in 1775 at Bunker Hill.
COUNTY SEAT: Williamsport INDIANA
COUNTY NUMBER: 86
morning of Feb. 11, the day before Lincoln’s 52nd birthday. It crossed into Indiana at State Line City later that day.
A marker there records Lincoln’s brief whistle-stop remarks to well-wishers which read in part: “I am happy to meet you on this occasion, and enter again the state of my early life, and almost of my maturity. I am under many obligations to you for your kind reception and to Indiana for the aid she rendered our cause which I think a just one ….”At 90 feet, the Williamsport Falls is the largest free-falling waterfall in Indiana. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
POP OPEN A BOTTLE OR CAN & GET COOKING
1 (15.25 oz.) box chocolate cake mix
1 cup beer (Editor's note: When we tested the recipe, we used a stout beer.)
¼ cup oil
¼ t. baking soda
Beat together the cake mix, eggs and beer. Add oil and baking soda; beat until blended. Pour into a greased 9-by13-inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 23-26 minutes. (If using a Bundt pan, bake for 30-33 minutes.) Cool for 15 minutes. Remove from pan. Frost with any canned frosting or glaze.FOOD PREPARED BY EMILY SCHILLING AND AMBER KNIGHT PHOTOS BY KILEY LIPPS CHOCOLATE BEER CAKE Patricia Zobrist , Knox, Indiana Charlotte Rymph , Monterey,
WELSH BEER BREAKFAST RAREBIT Patricia Piekarski , Harvey, Illinois
2 English muffins, split and toasted
4 slices Canadian-style bacon, warmed
4 eggs, any way you like them
1½ cups shredded cheese (any style)
¾ cup beer
1 beaten egg
Place English muffins (4 halves) on a plate. Top each with a bacon slice, tomato slice and 1 egg. Set aside and make cheese sauce. In a saucepan, combine cheese and beer. Cook and stir over low heat until the cheese melts. Slowly stir half of hot cheese sauce into beaten egg. Return all to saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until sauce thickens. Serve sauce immediately over English muffins.
BEER CAN CHICKEN
1 t. paprika
chicken (4-5 lbs.)
1 (12 oz.) can beer
2 cups apple cider
1 T. olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
Mix dry ingredients together and rub chicken inside and out. Open can of beer. Pour half into a spray bottle and add apple cider, olive oil and vinegar. Insert can of beer into cavity of chicken. With chicken resting on the can, cook for about 2 hours over medium hot grill (around 350 F) with grill cover on. Spritz chicken with the basting spray periodically while cooking. When chicken is done, carefully lift it off the grill and, with an oven mitt on, remove the can. Carve chicken and serve.
Cook’s note: Chicken can also be baked in the oven at 350 F for about 2 hours. Adjust oven racks as necessary to ensure chicken fits in the oven.
Around the world
Experience Bloomington’s ethnic cui sine
Whether you have a hankering for a kimchi pancake or a kebab — or if you just want to expand your culinary horizons — Bloomington, Indiana, is the place to go. Home to Indiana University, Bloomington has attracted people from all over the world who come to live and learn. You can experience different cultures, one bite at time, at the plethora of ethnic restaurants (more than 75!) that dot this southern Indiana town. Here are just a few:
Little Tibet Restaurant
HIMALAYAN/NEPALESE, THAI, INDIAN CUISINE
415 E. 4th St. 812-331-0122
Try: Momo Tibetan dumplings, curries, mango lassi (yogurt-based drink)
BURMESE CUISINE 413 E. 4th St. 812-339-7334 www.burmagarden.com
Try: Fried rice, pho, tea leaf salad
210 S. Grant St.
Try: Boba and milk teas, beef rendang (Indonesian curry), ramen
Do Asian Fusion Cuisine and Lounge
ASIAN FUSION CUISINE 404 E. 4th St. 812-333-7470
Try: Korean fried chicken, ramen
The Irish Lion
IRISH CUISINE 212 W. Kirkwood Ave. 812-336-9076 www.irishlion.com
Blarney Puff Balls
Try: Bibimbap, kimbabs (a Korean version of norimaki sushi), kimchi pancake
Le Petit Café
FRENCH CUISINE 308 W. 6th St. 812-334-9747
Try: Crepes, steak dinner
Samira Restaurant AFGHAN CUISINE 100 W. 6th St. 812-331-3761
Try: Vegetarian items, kebabs, aushak (steamed dumplings)
THAI CUISINE 430 E. 4th St. 812-331-1233
Try: Pineapple fried rice, pad thai
Taste of India
INDIAN CUISINE 316 E. 4th St. 812-333-1399
Try: Butter chicken, chicken pasandaAnyetsang’s Little Tibet Beef Rendang
OVERHEAD LINE SAFETY
WHEN IN DOUBT, LOOK UP AND OUT!
Whether you’re on the job or working on an outdoor project around your home, you should always be aware of overhead electrical lines. Many workplace fatalities are caused by overhead power lines. Imagine how easy it is for us at home, who are not trained to avoid these obstacles, to run into danger!
“In a majority of cases, fatalities occurred in occupations with little to no electrical safety training,” said Jon Elkins, vice president of safety, training and compliance at Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “That’s why we put so much emphasis on safety training and compliance education, not only for our cooperative employees, but our consumers as well.”
When working on an outdoor project, stay at least 10 feet away from overhead lines. If your ladder or piece of equipment touches an overhead line, both you and the equipment can become a path for the electricity. Look up and out in front of you before using a ladder, large machinery, or a pool cleaning net. Even non-metallic ladders and equipment can conduct electricity. If power lines are present, always carry ladders and long poles horizontally.
Using large tools or machinery can make it harder to avoid overhead power lines. Always consider where power lines are before you begin a project. Scanning the area should be part of your plan from the start.
If you’ve struck a power line and must get off a piece of equipment, jump as far away from the equipment as you can and land with both feet together. No part of your body should touch the equipment and the ground at the same time. Hop or shuffle away from the equipment with your feet together to reduce the risk of electric shock.
If you come across someone who’s hit an overhead power line, stay away and warn others who may be here to not touch him or her, or you could all get shocked, too. Immediately call 911 and then contact your electric cooperative to turn off the electricity at your location.
If you know you’re going to be working near power lines, contact your electric cooperative so the experts there can properly inform you on safety precautions you should be taking in your area. Electrical safety is one of our core values.
Before raising a ladder and when using outdoor equipment of any kind, especially when trees are nearby. Branches can hide power lines from view. Even non-metallic tools can conduct electricity.
When using cranes or other lifting devices that approach working distance within 20 feet of power lines.
When putting up scaffolding, framing a building, painting, pruning trees or picking fruit.
Before moving a ladder, long-handled brushes, and the like. Always carry these items horizontally when power lines are near.
When working on top of buildings.
Follow these guidelines to prevent the most common mistakes made near overhead power lines.
WHEN SHOULD YOU LOOK UP FOR OVERHEAD POWER LINES?
Lines of Work
offer a multitude of career pathsby Richard G. Biever
Jaime Walker came out of college 14 years ago wanting to be a crusader for good. “I know that sounds a little cheesy,” she admits, “but I feel as if I was put on this earth to help people.”
While she wore no superhero cape, she ducked inside her local REMC where she transformed her degree as a mildmannered journalist, communications, and culture graduate into a dynamic career that’s stayed true to her altruistic goals. “It’s not what we do at the REMC, it’s how we do it and why we do it.
We have passion behind the purpose — and that is to improve the lives of our membership.”
Now the vice president of member services at Northeastern REMC in Columbia City, she adds, “We can leave a legacy here. It’s not just a job. It’s more of a calling.”
Tim Landrigan figures joining an electric cooperative when he did a couple years out of high school gave him a 20-year head start on his career. At just 30 years old, Landrigan is settlingAnn Mears’ career for Indiana Electric Cooperatives introduces Indiana’s electric cooperatives to college and high school students at career fairs as those students start narrowing down their future goals.
in as the chief financial officer at Warsaw-based Kosciusko REMC, a position he was promoted to in 2021.
“It’s very surprising,” he says of his meteoric rise that included earning his accounting degrees at night while working for the co-op by day. “I thought I’d be in this spot 30 years from when I started. I didn’t think I’d be doing it when I was 30.”
You won’t find “Fuzzy” listed as such on the résumé of RushShelby Energy’s Chris Chastain. But for three summers, his first experiences with an electric co-op were as a college intern — with the epithetical dubbing courtesy of the grizzled older outdoor crews. “I suppose that probably derived from the peach fuzz still on our faces,” Chastain guesses.
Nickname aside, what the Rose-Hulman electrical engineering student saw at his hometown electric co-op back in the summers of 1994, ’95 and ’96 impressed him so much that he knew that was what he wanted for his career. Chastain not only built a career with electric co-ops, as of last October, he’s now RushShelby
Energy’s president and CEO. “Cooperatives are a special, special place. Sometimes, people take their jobs for granted. But once you can get inside a cooperative, you sense the well-defined purpose. That’s to serve our membership and to serve each other.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average worker today will hold 10 different jobs before the age of 40. Chad Hinesley was pretty much right in the average. He held 10 different jobs by age 44. But how many “average workers” hold 10 different jobs — without ever changing employers?
Not long after high school, in 1996, he hired on with Henry County REMC’s tree-trimming crew. And then, he started climbing every rung of the “cooperative ladder” … up through meter reader and groundman, apprentice lineman to journeyman/ lineman and then to a line foreman. Now Hinesley, 46, is the line superintendent. “It’s been nice to be able to start at the bottom and have the opportunity to work your way up.”
These four co-op leaders had widely varying futures in mind coming out of high school. But they found a common storyline at their local consumerowned electric utility. And their stories are told time and again by others throughout Indiana’s 38 electric cooperatives (REMCs/RECs) and allied cooperative organizations.
“Indiana’s electric cooperatives offer a multitude of jobs that can lead to fulfilling careers for young people wanting to stay in their local community,” said Ann Mears, youth and partnership development manager at Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “Reaching out to young career-seekers and letting them know about these opportunities is crucial. It’s crucial for coops looking to fill vacancies created by retirements as other employees move up and to fill new jobs created by expanding services. And, it’s crucial for the communities co-ops serve to retain their young people and attract others.”
Partly for their isolation in rural areas where goodpaying, stable jobs aren’t as easy to come by and for their reputation as great places to “get on if you can,” electric cooperatives have always been noted for employee longevity and dedication. But as
Baby Boomers retire and are replaced by younger generations who may not be as prone to stay for the long haul as predecessors, co-ops have been working harder to not only attract new employees but also retain, train or retrain and develop them.
October is National Cooperative Month. It’s when cooperative businesses, including not-for-profit electric coops, like to point out the “cooperative difference.”
That difference is exemplified in their adherence to the “Seven Cooperative Principles.” One of those is “education, training and information” for staff, directors and members. This principle manifests itself in the way co-ops work to develop their employees in their positions — and as people. It’s key to keeping the best employees and helping them grow into new positions. And it’s key to better serving the consumers.
Brett Abplanalp, CEO at Greensburg-based Decatur County REMC, said “employee development” is critical to all a co-op does. “If we don’t have a high performing workforce, then we’re not providing for our members.”
Abplanalp said employees are the co-op’s most important asset. Investing
Continued on page 20
Continued from page 19 of the wide variety of jobs available, the competitive wages and benefits, and the peace of mind cooperatives provide.
in their training and growth, and helping them “design” their career, inspires them and brings improved performance and increased engagement.
He said it also helps the coop attract high performers who ask about training and growth when they apply. “I have a program that says, ‘Hey, we’re not going to just hire you and expect you to go to your job, we’re going to continuously invest in you.’”
“Every employee wants to be valued, respected and heard,” Abplanalp said. “If they know we care to invest in them, it helps them know they are.”
Cooperative careers 101: An introduction
Indiana’s electric cooperatives say 20% of their employees will either be eligible for retirement in the next five years or are eligible now. And, according to recent studies by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, it’s even higher for executives (general managers, CEOs and COOs) — 45.7%.
With the technology used for power delivery rapidly evolving, cooperatives will have to fill those positions with the best and brightest applicants. It is in the best interest of all electric cooperatives to work together to make sure the incoming workforce is aware
To that end, IEC’s Ann Mears helps open doors and windows — and young eyes — to electric cooperatives.
Indianapolis-based Indiana Electric Cooperatives is the association that publishes Indiana Connection and provides safety training; regulatory compliance; educational and leadership training; government relations; communications, and finance and accounting support; and coordinates youth programs for the state’s electric cooperatives.
IEC is a smorgasbord of career opportunities in itself.
Mears attends about 10 career fairs throughout Indiana each semester, some at colleges and universities or regional career events. She also assists local distribution cooperatives (REMCs/ RECs) with career fairs in their home areas.
Ryan Stuthers is a prime example of co-ops working together to inspire and hire young talent.
Stuthers pursued an electrical engineering degree when he went to Anderson University, though he wasn’t sure what type of electrical engineer he wanted to be. “There are a lot of avenues you can take in that career field,” he said.
“Anderson does a really good job of exposing you to all of them.”
Even so, one electric career avenue he had never even heard about was electric cooperatives. “I had no idea what an electric coop was,” the Terre Haute native admitted. But passing through a career fair on campus his junior year, he ran into Mears at IEC’s careers booth.
That day, Mears introduced Stuthers to Indiana’s electric co-ops. “I thought it was fascinating,” he said. “It was a neat concept, and I couldn’t believe I didn’t know anything about it.”
The brief conversation Mears had with Stuthers led to follow-up emails and phone calls. Those led to a job shadowing opportunity at WIN Energy REMC in Vincennes.
“We needed to get him connected somewhere,” Mears said.
So, she reached out to WIN Energy, Stuthers’ most local “home” cooperative that serves territory around Terre Haute and south all the way to New Harmony.
Once Stuthers visited WIN Energy and shadowed its director of engineering, the “ah-ha” moment came for him.
“He gave me an overview of not just co-op specific things but all of the concepts that fall within the realm of
distribution engineering, all of the technologies and their history, and how it’s advancing,” he said. “What piqued my interest the most was making connections from theory — the vast array of electrical engineering concepts from a bunch of different college classes — to real-world application.”
And, Stuthers noted, it was his chance to see jobs existed in which he could apply the many different concepts he had studied. He didn’t have to just focus on one aspect of engineering. “I think that’s what really sold me.”
“It was a good experience,” said Leslie Beard, WIN Energy’s chief operating officer. “Ryan learned a lot about the industry.”
She added that bringing in young people for job shadowing and internships is a win for the co-op, too. “There’s a lot of value for the cooperative because the students bring different ideas and new thoughts. There’s value in showing them there are professional jobs — whether it’s engineering or marketing or accounting, or whatever — right in their community.”
Continued on page 22
Right: A welcoming banner greeted participants, their families and observers to the first Indiana Electric Cooperative Lineman Rodeo in August. Hendricks Power Cooperative linemen Taylor Long, right, and Dan Love, change out equipment in one of the team events.
Below: Along with lineworkers from around the state getting to watch each other work and share tips and build camaraderie, the rodeo also allows office coworkers and families to watch the linemen display their skills in a safe environment and cheer them on. JC REMC lineman Logan Voris and his daughter Raelee watch others on a pole.
For 55 Indiana electric cooperative linemen from 14 REMCs around the state, this wasn‘t their first rodeo. Even the apprentices had experience climbing poles and performing tasks that keep the power on for Indiana’s electric cooperative consumers. But it was the first Indiana Electric Cooperative “Lineman Rodeo.” Held Aug. 25-26 at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds, the event tested the skills of the workers who ranged from first-year apprentices to journeymen and foremen.
The events were scored on excellence in safety, skill, and knowledge in three separate individual and team competitions. The events simulated real-life working situations such as rescuing an injured lineman from atop a pole, replacing line, and changing out hardware. Each event required the lineworkers to climb the poles with harnesses around their waists and spiked gaffs strapped to their legs as they still must do when poles are inaccessible to bucket trucks.
“The rodeo emphasized and rewarded teamwork and communication skills, not speed,” said Jon Elkins, vice president of safety, training, and compliance at Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “Those who make the fewest mistakes are the most efficient, produce the highest quality work, and are the safest workers.”
LEFT: At the end of the competition, trophies are awarded. Clark County REMC coworkers congratulate Dakota Evans for bringing home the big hardware for overall individual apprentice.Photos by Richard Biever and Kiley Lipps
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Though WIN Energy had no openings at the time, Stuthers stayed connected to Indiana’s electric co-op network. A month after graduation in May 2020, he was hired as an engineer for Tipmont REMC’s electric distribution system in and around Lafayette.
The position allows him to pursue his interests in the broad array of electrical engineering concepts.
The position also gives him responsibility over engineering and advancing technology, which is unique among his Anderson classmates who took other paths, he noted.
One thing is for sure, he said: “If Indiana Electric Cooperatives hadn’t been at that career fair, there’s no way I would have ended up here at Tipmont.”
Offer it, and they’ll come
In the past few years, Kankakee Valley REMC hosted its first two summer interns and was working on a third until the pandemic hit.
“We’ve always felt people don’t know what careers are actually available at a co-op,” said Amanda Steeb, Kankakee Valley’s director of marketing and communications. “You think of electricity, and you immediately just think of linemen. You don’t really think about all the other
professions that make up the co-op. This was a great way to introduce ourselves to our youth.”
Steeb noted Kankakee Valley typically doesn’t have a hard time filling job openings. “That being said, we also know we’re facing a lot of retirements. Getting these interns in, having them get excited about the co-op, having them see the benefits of coming back to this community and working for a co-op,” she said, “may bring some of these interns back. That is the end goal, and I think we’re on the right path to do that.”
Kankakee Valley also reaches out to the young adults with its Operation Round Up scholarships.
For a student to get the full scholarship, she noted the student must participate in several activities with the cooperative. Activities could include job shadowing or attending an annual meeting or a community event like the 4-H fair where they’d greet fair-goers alongside cooperative employees at the REMC booth.
“The youth out there are hungry for this type of knowledge and understanding of what goes on in a business environment,” Steeb said. “We just have to create those opportunities, and they’ll come.”
A picture Chadd Jenkins carries paints not just words but spins yarns of years — 350 years all told. It tells the tale of the huge changes and challenges coming to an electric cooperative near you. And it highlights the roles and careers talented young people entering the workforce can eventually fill in their hometowns.
At first glance, the photo appears to be a nondescript “group shot.” Twelve people are gathered in the warehouse at Parke County REMC. But on closer look — the laugh lines on the smiling faces, the more-salt-thanpepper hair and beards, the receding hairlines and rounding waistlines — all indicate the posed but relaxed nine men and two women appear to be Baby Boomers.
Those 12 REMC employees have all retired within the past half dozen years. And with them, says Jenkins, the REMC’s
CEO, a whopping 350 years of co-op experience and knowledge left the building. He notes Parke County today has 35 employees — with the cumulative experience of 380 years. To put it in Boomer vernacular, “The times, they are a-changin’.”
“That picture says it all — why employee development is critical,” Jenkins says.
“Retirements are going to happen. We can either do nothing and just let them happen. Or we can focus on the areas we know we are going to be needing to fill, and work on them ahead of time.”
“For young adults searching for a line of work to build a meaningful career in rural and suburban Indiana,” Mears says, “now is the time to consider your local cooperative.”
Richard G. Biever is senior editor of Indiana Connection.Former coworkers gather at a retirement party for Richard Stout (in the orange shirt) at Parke County REMC. The other 11 had previously retired. Together, the 12 have 350 years of co-op service.
Jamie Bell has scaled the loftiest heights any electric cooperative worker can go. In 2017, he stood, atop a pole with just metal climbing gaffs strapped on his calves and a leather harness around the pole and his waist, on a mountaintop and he looked down on clouds, valleys and distant mountains of Guatemala and Mexico. It was a long way from home for a guy who grew up in Greenfield wanting nothing more than to work for his local electric cooperative.
Since joining NineStar Connect (then Central Indiana Power) in 1993 as a groundman to assist the lineworkers, opportunities have always been knocking, and Bell has always answered the call.
“Always, my goal has been to move up — not really for me professionally — but to do whatever I could do to better the cooperative, to help the cooperative, and to make the cooperative stronger. And obviously, that would benefit the members. If we didn’t have the members, we wouldn’t exist.”
Knowing people who worked at the cooperative and its reputation, Bell wanted to work for the electric cooperative after high school. With no jobs open at the time, he took a job with a local homebuilder. “I was basically waiting for an opening because, at that time, it was really tough to get onto a cooperative.”
He waited six years for the opportunity to become a lineman. However, those years proved invaluable throughout his nearly 30year career at NineStar Connect. He has
a wide-ranging knowledge of electrical wiring on both sides of a meter as well as construction engineering and design. After joining the cooperative, Bell became a journeyman lineman. He was also offered other opportunities that allowed him to put the full scope of his knowledge and skills to use. He was promoted to positions that allowed him to oversee larger projects.
After Central Indiana Power consolidated with the area telecommunications cooperative in 2011 to create the one-ofa-kind NineStar Connect, Bell was soon overseeing both electric power line projects and high-speed fiber as new technology entered both fields. Today, Bell oversees NineStar Connect’s building projects that also include water and sanitation.
Whether tackling a learning curve of new technology, or climbing a pole in Guatemalan mountains, Bell said, “I’m always up for a challenge to learn new things.”
Looking back to Guatemala, Bell volunteered for the Project Indiana trip as a lineworker. Project Indiana is the not-forprofit Indiana electric cooperative initiative to bring electricity to rural Guatemala. “It was a challenge just to get up to the pole. I knew going in that view would be there. So, I raised my hand and said, ‘Hey, I want to climb that pole.’”Construction Engineer NineStar Connect
Instead of taking in the view too much, Bell said he just focused on the task at hand to complete the project. “It was just one more task in front of me to tackle. There wasn’t much time to reflect or anything like that,” he said … at least at that moment in the air.
And on the next trip to Guatemala in 2019, Bell volunteered to help plan, coordinate and supervise the construction trip to village in eastern Guatemala. On that trip, he oversaw the inside wiring of the village huts, churches, school and other buildings. “It was just gratifying to see all the stages of planning, then the satisfaction of its completion.”
And whether it’s the consumers in his hometown in Central Indiana or villagers in Central America, that job satisfaction comes in knowing he’s helping people with essential services they use to lead fuller, healthier and happier lives.
INTERESTED IN AN ELECTRIC CO-OP CAREER?
Visit WePowerIndiana.org to learn about available careers or tell us about yourself.Jamie Bell
Practices and principles
HOW ESG IS WOVEN INTO EVERYTHING HOOSIER ENERGY DOES
Electric cooperatives, like other energy providers, are in the midst of the most impactful transition in modern history. As we continue to navigate through this changing environment, Hoosier Energy’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices — and the cooperative principles that underpin those practices — will continue to become more relevant.
ESG refers to factors that can impact a company’s ability to create long-term value and future performance. At Hoosier Energy, our commitment to operational excellence, superior value, financial discipline and responsible environmental stewardship is woven into every aspect of our business, from the boardroom to our linemen in the field.
Our ESG strategy is simple and straightforward:
MAINTAIN A MEMBER-OWNER FOCUS
Hoosier Energy champions the cooperative model that advances our members and the communities they serve, prioritizing reliability, affordability and innovative energy solutions that our stakeholders have come to expect. Hoosier prides itself in upholding the democratic process of a onemember, one-vote election of our members to represent them.
RESPONSIBLY MANAGE ENERGY TRANSITION
Hoosier Energy is committed to responsible decision-making, investment in critical infrastructure and optimizing its generation portfolio to enhance reliability at affordable rates while supporting the transition to a diverse and cleaner grid.
DRIVE SUPERIOR VALUE FOR MEMBER SYSTEMS AND CUSTOMERS
Strong corporate governance and thought leadership provide the foundation for our commitment to operate with the highest level of integrity. The true value of our business is rooted in helping our employees, members and stakeholders forge a strong, resilient, better tomorrow for everyone.
Hoosier Energy’s investment in these efforts demonstrates the impact we believe ESG will continue to have on our members and our commercial and industrial customers, as well our organization. At Hoosier Energy, that means leading from the front by creating a culture that is transparent, innovative and intentional in order to power possibility for decades to come.
R I D I N G U P T H O S E H I L L S
Hilly Hundred bike tour back for 54th year
The hills of Monroe and Owen counties will be alive with the sound of music — not to mention the whirring of wheels, grinding of gears, huffing and puffing, and oohs and aahs of Indiana autumn splendor. The Hilly Hundred Weekend returns Oct. 21-23 for its 54th annual go-round … and up and down.
The Hilly Hundred is a nationally known tour, not a race, and listed as one of the “Best Rides in America.” It is the premiere Indiana autumn bicycling experience known for its scenery, challenging hills, music, food, drink, and entertainment.
Several thousand cyclists will tour the scenic backroads around Ellettsville and Bloomington on the Saturday/ Sunday rides. Each day offers multiple fully SAG (Support and Gear)supported routes of 30-plus or 50-plus miles. Mechanics will be at rest stops for unexpected repairs.
Designed for the touring bicyclist, the Hilly Hundred attracts riders from over 40 states and several countries. The ride offers different route options each day for the cyclist’s ability. Over 5,600 feet of elevation is climbed over the course of the 100 miles.
The ride began with just 60 participants in June 1968 and continues as one of Indiana’s longestrunning cycling events. Riders come for the challenge. They come for the camaraderie of family and friends. They come for the joy of immersing themselves in nature and rural
scenery of the hills of southern Indiana during the peak of fall colors.
The routes start and end at Edgewood High School, 601 Edgewood Drive, Ellettsville. Riders generally begin leaving the Edgewood schools area between 8 and 10 a.m. each day. At the end of each day’s ride, participants can enjoy ice cream, visit a Welcome Center for pictures from the day’s ride and a Vendor Market Place. Meals will also be available at Edgewood High School. Sleeping accommodations at the junior high are also available, although many cyclists book camping sites at nearby McCormick’s Creek State Park.
Online registration closes at midnight, Oct. 19. Day-of registrations are not available. Registration begins at $85 for the full participation and $65 for riding one day. Registration fee for shorter routes vary.
Riders with electric bicycles please note: For the safety of all riders, only those with Class 1 or Class 3 e-bikes, both of which have motors that provide pedal assist, are welcomed to register and participate in the Hilly; those with Class 2 electric bikes — which have a throttle-powered mode that can engage the motor without pedaling — should not participate.
For full updated ride and registration information, visit HillyHundred.org
The Hilly Hundred is sponsored and organized by the Central Indiana Bicycling Association (cibaride.org).Photo by Michael Luce, courtesy of the Hilly Hundred Weekend