Two departments that function behind the scenes to support the work of Duck River Electric are the information technology (IT) and administrative services teams.
DREMC’s IT team, Beau Campbell, James Trott, Matt Adams and Matt Sanders, plays a key role in ensuring that all technology used by employees is operational and secure. They handle the operations and security for all hardware, software and databases used by DREMC. This includes installing and maintaining PCs, servers, networks, databases, and communication systems used by all office and field personnel.
They are responsible for protecting sensitive data for both the organization and the members by detecting and responding to incidents as well as planning preventative measures, such as encryption and multi-factor authentication access. Their vigilance as DREMC’s cybersecurity team is vital in today’s high-tech society.
According to Beau Campbell, the IT team’s manager, DREMC is susceptible to receiving email attacks daily. “Our email filtering software scans every external email sent to the DREMC.com domain, which is approximately 50,000 emails per month, catching and blocking all potentially compromised or malicious attachments, which have averaged 12 per month,” he shares.
Campbell brings 21 years of experience to DREMC. Previously, he worked in the field of information technology at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma as a duty civilian and a U.S. Department of Defense contractor.
Adams has spent 18 years at DREMC and says he was hired when the cooperative was beginning to migrate to using more technology. “IT was still a new concept in the workplace back then,” Adams said. “When I came to Duck River, we only had a few flip phones being used. We had a handful of laptops, but there were no iPads, the SCADA system was not installed yet, and we had no digital mapping system. Today, our department provides support services to all DREMC employees on various levels of technology.”
Trott came in 2013 as the third IT employee. Together, they integrated more technology and digital processes, including the major undertaking of relocating DREMC’s data center from one end of the headquarters facility to the System Operations Center in 2019. “Miles of new network cable were installed to support all of the communications and computer applications used today at Duck River, which also includes room for additional tech installations,” describes Trott.
The team worked together to interconnect the corporate LAN line devices (local area network) on the newly installed Duck River fiber plant to enhance the communications of all DREMC offices, electric substations, AMI collectors (advanced metering infrastructure), radio towers, SCADA systems (supervisory control and data acquisition), outage management system and more.
Sanders has been at DREMC for five years. After graduating college with expectations of working in the recording industry, he found an opportunity at Calsonic Kansei in Lewisburg and began focusing more on IT programming. He also gained knowledge in web and desktop software development utilizing Microsoft technologies, database development and administration, and SCADA application development. His ability to write custom programs for data retrieval and reporting is widely used across DREMC departments.
One of the most impactful processes that the IT team has assisted with is the DREMC “lockout/tag out” procedure that is used by line crews and system operators when opening and closing electric circuits for system maintenance or during outage restoration. “This integrated process aids in logging lockout/tag out orders and is an added step in keeping the crews safe while they work on power lines,” Sanders said.
Campbell adds that work done by the IT team covers all of DREMC. “Some used to ask why would a lineman and an IT employee ever cross paths,” he recalls. “Now we do. Every employee and every geographic area on our system is connected to what our team does on a daily basis.”
The administrative services team includes those who work in the areas of human resources, payroll, employee safety, communications and energy services for residential and commercial members.
The team is led by Elisabeth Thompson, who joined the DREMC team in Aug. 2020. She spent the previous eight years as the public information specialist and commercial and industrial account manager at Bryan Texas Utilities.
Thompson says that the role of administrative services focuses on the needs of both employees and members. The team includes two human resources (HR) generalists, Brandi Shore and Kayla Young; Jerica Keller, payroll specialist; two communications specialists, Connie Potts and Gina Warren; Pat Garrett, residential energy advisor; Shay Maupin, business programs specialist; and Brad Vincent, DREMC’s safety coordinator.
“The administrative services team is fortunate to work with each department to support the work they do for the membership and the DREMC team,” said Thompson.
Shore and Young work together as the human resources team and are responsible for employee recruitment, onboarding new employees, assisting with health and retirement benefit questions and supporting the DREMC management team with employment policies.
Shore moved from Texas where she worked for 13 years at an electric cooperative handling the payroll and HR duties. She came to Tennessee in 2020 to join the Duck River human resources team, and a year later, Young was hired as an HR generalist.
Young was previously employed in an administrative and HR role at a manufacturing facility for almost 12 years. She shares that her role in human resources gives her an opportunity to collaborate with DREMC on initiatives, culture, and vision, while also assisting employees throughout their careers. “We all work together to achieve one end goal, and that is a long and successful employment experience,” she said.
Shore said that the role of HR is ever-changing. “To stay relevant, we need to become more advanced with paperless and streamlined processes and office functions,” she adds. “We are moving in that direction at Duck River.”
“Employee recruitment, retention, and engagement are changing,” adds Young. “With multiple generations employed today in the workforce, finding a unique blend of employment offerings will be key in recruiting and retaining talent going forward to build a strong DREMC team.”
Keller has been at DREMC for 11 years and gained experience as a member services representative and assisting with billing and data processing. For the past two years, Keller has fulfilled the role of payroll specialist and is responsible for entering and producing bi-weekly payroll information for all employees, tracking accrued leave hours, and processing all changes related to payroll functions for 180 employees.
“I’m pretty particular about my job,” Keller says, which is a good thing considering what she does requires accuracy and punctuality. “I’ve always been a people person, and helping employees better understand the payroll process and the information provided on their paystubs is something I enjoy doing.”
Potts and Warren create DREMC’s written, digital and social media communications.