“We are growing together,” says Steven Hopkins, Senior Director, Columbia Operations. “Maury County is one of the fastest growing areas in the state, and as it grows, so does the number of members we serve.”
Hopkins grew up in neighboring Marshall County and has worked at DREMC for almost 20 years. After working as a DREMC lineman, safety coordinator and as Sewanee’s area manager, he has been in his current position since the summer of 2020.
Dwight Cotham, field engineer, has worked at DREMC for 12 years and spends much of his time in the Spring Hill area meeting with home builders to help plan, stake and survey lots in new subdivisions. “New home construction has exploded in this area,” Cotham said. “In a single day, while surveying lots in the Southern Springs subdivision, I was surprised to learn that I had walked 3.5 miles within the new subdivision to cover the homes that are planned at this time. That’s how large these developments are and how many homes are planned in each phase of construction.”
District Engineer Mike Newman said that their team prioritizes up front communication about the cost and lead time for electric construction given today’s supply chain challenges. “In some cases, it is taking up to 52 weeks to receive materials needed for electric construction projects,” Newman shares. “We are working to balance these delays with the rate of new construction so that expectations are met.”
Cameron Isley, field engineer, also meets with members building new homes and helps them plan for electric service construction. “I enjoy meeting new people every day,” he says. “I’ve been at DREMC for a year. DREMC is one big family, and the employees have been helpful to me as I continue to learn my role.”
In 2021, DREMC’s Columbia team constructed over 700 new electric services – this is 100 more than in 2020, according to DeWayne Colbaugh, district operations supervisor. Colbaugh has worked at DREMC for 24 years and supervises the Columbia linemen, helping to schedule and plan electrical construction for the area. “The Columbia team does what’s needed to get services built, working around rough terrain and weather conditions,” he says.
Working Foreman Steven McEwen grew up in Culleoka, a rural community in Maury County, and shares that it can be challenging to keep up with technology changes as they relate to his job, but he likes the improvements. “Important data like switch numbers, pole numbers, location information is all accessible with an iPad instead of a printed book we once carried in the trucks,” said McEwen. “The mapping system is excellent and helps speed our ability to find outage and construction locations, which allows us to assist members more quickly.”
From a lineman’s perspective, seeing the changes and growth of the community and playing a small role in this growth is rewarding. Linemen Cody Dunavant, Heath Fitzgerald and Chad Mills agree that one of the best rewards is the sense of accomplishment they feel when they restore power after an outage or complete the electric construction for a new home or business. “We like helping the members,” said Dunavant, “and this is a good line of work to be in as it enables you to do just that.”
Jonathan Riley, working foreman, grew up in Maury County’s Hampshire community and spent 13 years working as an electrical contractor before joining the DREMC team in 2008. “Over the years, working as a lineman has allowed me the opportunity to not only work in my local community, but I’ve also been able to assist with storm recovery in other states like Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina following hurricanes and ice storms,” Riley said. “Several of us worked to repair hurricane damage to an electric system in Louisiana through the cooperative mutual aid agreement. The hurricane damage was extensive, and there was lots of work to do. While we were there, our crew slept in bunk beds set up in the back of a semi-trailer. The conditions there weren’t the best, but we were thankful to have a place to rest. After 12 days in Louisiana, I was so glad to see my family when I got home.”