Operations Coordinator Cheri Derrick is no stranger to blazing her own trail. Cheri was the first female employee of the Operations Department in a traditionally male-dominated industry of utility line work.
“That was my biggest hurdle; working with 45 linemen who were wondering ‘what is she going to do?’” Cheri said with a chuckle. “I appreciate that they allowed me to step into my role.”
After 18 years of service, Cheri is ready to build a new adventure in retirement.
In 2004, a position was created for the Operations Secretary. She was working as the executive secretary at a local hospital.
“Dawson PPD was a sought-after place to work in Lexington and this was a new position,” Cheri commented. “I liked that the District serves rural areas and it reminds me of my small town roots of Verdigre. I grew up on a farm raising crops, cattle and hogs.”
Cheri describes her responsibilities as being the “Operation Manager’s right-hand person.” The Operations Coordinator dispatches lineworkers to job sites, processes work orders, develops checklists and forms, conducts drug/alcohol testing, maintains lists of CDL licensing and tracks information for workers’ compensation.
The 2006 and 2007 ice storms stand out as a memorable experience. These storms tore down power lines through much of central Nebraska over the Christmas and New Year holidays, leaving many without power for almost a month.
“Every employee came together and helped coordinate some aspect of the storm restoration process,” Cheri said. “Husbands came down after work to help build crossarms so the linemen had materials in the morning. Employees cooked meals or packaged breakfasts for about 500 linemen when we called in mutual aid and contractors. Others coordinated hotel rooms.”
“Because of that experience, and changes in technology, Dawson PPD is prepared to be even more efficient when the next storm comes.”
In 2010, Dawson PPD named a new Operations Manager and added a Safety Director position. Cheri’s title changed to Operations Coordinator and she began to provide clerical help to the Safety Director in addition to her existing duties.
“I enjoy safety meeting days when everyone comes together,” Cheri said. “They’re chaotic, but I like that the whole company is together and it gives us time to build relationships with one another.”
Technology played a key role in the development of the processes used today. Lineworkers started with paper, then moved to handheld devices, laptops and now iPads.
“We found a better process for keeping track of our information,” Cheri said. “We developed forms and checklists for vehicle and bucket truck inspections. Job orders are now completed on the iPad along with line patrol, underground inspections and tree clearing. These inspections can be easily retrieved for reference. Locating underground electrical lines for contractors and homeowners is now processed online instead of through paper.”
Tracking and coordinating power outages have become more efficient thanks to the Operations Department’s use of technology. Recently, Cheri helped launch an online power outage reporting system for customers. Customers with a
SmartHub account may report power outages and track restoration notices from the app or web.
Cheri enjoys serving others. At work, she frequently volunteered to work on Dawson PPD’s parade float, cook meals for board and safety meetings, serve on the Employees Club and Retirement and Recognition Dinner Committees, support local youth with mock interviews and lend her voice in Dawson PPD’s radio advertisements. Outside of work she serves as secretary of the Lexington Lions Club International and is a lector at church.
Now, Cheri looks to blaze a new trail in retirement.
“I’m ready to focus on family and some new adventures ahead,” she said.
From all of us at Dawson PPD, we wish Cheri the best in her retirement.
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