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If you ask Bermex Meter Services Supervisor Benjamin (Ben) McDowell what’s changed since 1998, he’d tell you a lot but the one thing that has stood the test of time is the people.
McDowell started on the Cobb Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) contract during its infancy two and a half decades ago as a meter reader. He compares his career at Bermex to high school and his time in the military and notes that people come and go, but the friendships last forever.
After 25 years, McDowell likes to reminisce with some of his fellow tenured team members (Randy Brown, Marcus Kelly, Francois Nanguy, William Reynolds, Abel Sanchez, etc.) who also got their start at Cobb EMC as meter readers.
“We like to remind the newer employees how things have changed, and they have it easy. We joke and tell them, ‘If you had to do what we used to, you wouldn’t make it,’” says McDowell.
It’s the relationship with his team and his Cobb EMC counterparts that McDowell credits his long-term success with the company to and says, “It’s the people I work with. If you don’t like coming to work, then chances are, you won’t be there that long. It all depends on the workspace. I credit everything to my team.”
McDowell explains how Bermex’s work with Cobb EMC has evolved over the years and adds, the contract started with meter readers, then brought on additional team members to do meter disconnects for non-paying customers or when homeowners moved. As time went on, smart meters came along and soon, those original meter reader positions were no longer needed. As Cobb EMC’s work evolved, so did Bermex’s, and soon, meter auditing positions were introduced. These individuals visit the property of each Cobb EMC customer every two years or so to inspect the meter, its base, and the nearby service lines – a service that picked up during the COVID-19 pandemic as Cobb EMC wasn’t turning off customers’ meters for a period.
Another hiccup that came along with advanced technology was the chip shortage during the pandemic. McDowell shares, “Just like COVID affected everybody (including utilities) there weren’t enough chips being produced to make smart meters. We had to break out old-school meters. Construction didn’t stop, there were still people who wanted houses. It wasn’t happening just here in Georgia, it affected the entire country.”
Now that production has picked up and chips are being produced again, McDowell’s team is going in reverse to change out the old-school meters to smart meters that his team won’t have to manually read.
It’s the concept of change that’s kept McDowell on his toes throughout the years. “I know not everybody likes change, but I do enjoy it. Sometimes change can make things interesting, it may be difficult, but it will certainly make things interesting. Once you get used to something, go ok, and switch it up again. Keep your enthusiasm,” he says.
One change that seemingly was received well was a schedule adjustment in 2012 when his team transitioned from the traditional Monday through Friday eight-hour workday to four 10-hour workdays each week. McDowell says it’s proven to be an “attractive schedule” and finds that his team gives its best effort when there are three-day weekends involved.
As for his team over the years, McDowell shares, “It’s been interesting to see the different people who have come and gone when it comes to this job. When it comes to people cutting corners and others doing a great job – you have the bad and good. That’s the fun part about it, people keep you on your toes.”
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