The Overton Power District met an important milestone last month. On Dec. 13, the district graduated its first class of a new Management Mentoring Program.
Begun in 2015, the MMP involved 13 OPD employees working together over three years on various joint efforts to improve the operation of the district. Coming from various department posts and different points of seniority in their careers, the 13 employees worked on group projects and individual tasks meant to bring value to the OPD.
The program was actually the brainchild of OPD Assistant General Manager Terry Romero. Romero instituted the program in order to address a potential problem she saw looming on the horizon for the district. “It came to my attention that 19 percent of the OPD workforce could retire immediately, and most of management fell into that group,” Romero said. “So, I felt it was time to start looking at the future of OPD; the management and supervisory positions; and who could have the knowledge to fill those roles when needed.”
Romero envisioned a program where participants could gain the institutional knowledge from the current OPD management group and supervisors by working side by side with them on various projects. “Out of the current management group there is a total of 109 years of knowledge about OPD,” Romero said. “Not only is this knowledge about the utility industry, but it is also about history of the OPD itself.”
The group of 13 employees were divided into teams and tasked to work on a number of projects. One of these projects was to research a new metering system for the district. The team looked at various options and equipment available to find the right fit for what the OPD needed. They finally settled on an Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system. This system will allow meter data to be transmitted over existing power lines rather than via radio frequencies. This makes the system more secure. The group determined this equipment to be the best fit for the district, approached the vendor to get cost information and then presented it all to the OPD board for approval. The new system is currently in the process of being installed throughout the district.
Another project undertaken by the MMP was to update the district’s emergency preparedness communication plan. This established a protocol to be followed during an outage or other disaster. The plan dealt with internal communications between OPD employees in case of an emergency. It also delineated procedures for notifying the public in case of an outage.
A third MMP project was to develop and prepare a commercial marketing brochure for the district. This piece would be geared to potential customers planning to relocate to, or develop in, the OPD communities. It contained facts about the district and the services it offers. It also listed requirements needed for developing in the OPD territory.
Those who have participated in the MMP over the past three years said that they have found the experience quite valuable.
“The MMP opened my eyes to the inner workings of the company,” said Keven Hansen, OPD substation supervisor. “It takes a lot more than just physical hardware to keep the lights on. Rather the company is made up of smaller departments that are all necessary to make it successful. This program has taught me that we are all part of the same team and we are all important to the operation of the OPD.”
MMP participant, Luke Whitney, an OPD staking engineer, said that the program was an opportunity to get hands on experience in departments that would otherwise be unfamiliar. “It was nice to work with different people in the organization,” Whitney said. “Some of those I worked with I had never had the opportunity to interact with before. It was nice to see the skills and knowledge that they bring to their job and to the company.”
OPD Public Affairs Specialist, Keith Buchhalter said the MMP was an eye-opening experience to him as well. “It gave us a better understanding and appreciation of the individual and departmental work, how the district operates, and the importance of teamwork and leadership,” Buchhalter said. “Last but not least, it allowed us to receive some of the institutional knowledge that can only be learned by working side by side with management and senior staff.”
Members of the OPD Board were impressed by the results of this first round of the MMP. “Overton’s management realized that most employees don’t want to be managed, they want to be led, coached and mentored,” said Mesquite board member Mike Young. “By sharing their mistakes and successes through this program, OPD’s management is building for the future.”
Romero said that she was pleased with how well the first three-year session of the MMP has gone. “It was interesting watching these individuals from the first meeting and noting the growth they experienced after three years; growth in industry knowledge and also seeing the way each group interacted with each other over the three years.”
The district management team plans to begin a new session of the MMP, involving a new group of employees, to begin within the next few weeks.