Answering the call in tough times

February 1, 2022

 • BY Ron Holcomb

There are nearly 900 rural electric cooperatives like Tipmont across the United States. It’s reasonable for folks outside the industry to presume there isn’t much variety in distributing residential and business electricity. But to put a spin on the old saying: If you’ve met one co-op, you’ve met one co-op.

Each co-op’s differing goals and innovations keep our industry dynamic and ensure security, comfort and convenience for members like you. However, a few common principles bind us — seven, to be exact. One of them, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, is as straightforward as it sounds: If a co-op needs help, several hundred of us are there to answer the call.

That’s exactly what Tipmont did last month. Members of the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative in Culpeper, Virginia, were hit with more than a foot of snow, merciless winds and bitter cold to kick off 2022 — causing major damage to electric distribution systems. After these events, our nationwide mutual aid program provides for cooperatives to assist each other in service restoration. Four Tipmont linemen — Bo Bouwkamp, Garret Foutch, Tristen Hoffman and Dustin Manns — traveled over 600 miles to assist with efforts near Culpeper. They were among a 30-person delegation of crews and equipment from 10 total Indiana cooperatives that responded, alongside co-op counterparts from numerous states.

Tipmont REMC line workers (from left) Tristen Hoffman, Garret Foutch, Bo Bouwkamp, and Dustin Manns with a Tipmont REMC bucket truck prior to departing for Rappahannock Electric Cooperative on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.
Tipmont REMC line workers (from left) Tristen Hoffman, Garret Foutch, Bo Bouwkamp, and Dustin Manns with a Tipmont REMC bucket truck prior to departing for Rappahannock Electric Cooperative on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.
Tipmont REMC line workers (from left) Tristen Hoffman, Garret Foutch, Bo Bouwkamp, and Dustin Manns with a Tipmont REMC bucket truck prior to departing for Rappahannock Electric Cooperative on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.
Tipmont REMC line workers (from left) Tristen Hoffman, Garret Foutch, Bo Bouwkamp, and Dustin Manns with a Tipmont REMC bucket truck prior to departing for Rappahannock Electric Cooperative on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.

These four, and the hundreds who joined them, weren’t simply there to reconnect service. In a stressful situation, our linemen were there to reassure people with calm, poise and conversation as they put their talents toward turning the lights back on. We know because we got some very nice voicemails from members of the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative thanking our crew both for their work and their kindness.

Every cooperative plays a pivotal role in our statewide and national network, assisting each other in times of need. I feel tremendous pride in how Bo, Garret, Tristen and Dustin represented Tipmont, and Indiana, with their professionalism and safety. I thank them for their dedication to doing what’s best for people here and wherever help is needed. I’m also comforted in knowing that, should Tipmont ever need a hand in return, a few hundred friends have our back.

Ron Holcomb

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Ron is a 30 year veteran of the electric utility industry with extensive experience in power supply, advanced grid technologies, essential service operations, economic development and value-driven growth initiatives for combined electric and telecommunication utilities. During his career, he has led three utilities as President/CEO and provided management consulting to utilities across the country. Ron joined Tipmont REMC as CEO in summer 2013. He holds a B.S. in Physics from Austin Peay State University and an MBA from Murray State University.
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