Between the lines: Our upside-down lives

Dawson Public Power District General Manager Gwen Kautz.

Dawson Public Power District General Manager Gwen Kautz.

By Gwen Kautz
General Manager

I’ve been overwhelmed by the past 3+ weeks. You, too? Overwhelmed by the constant COVID-19 news, overwhelmed by the concern for family, overwhelmed by the impact it has on friends who are losing jobs – just everything.

My plan was to inform our customers about all the things we were doing related to COVID-19, but the truth is it would be insensitive of me to do that. Many of you are balancing precariously on what’s left of the job you have. Some of you aren’t even that fortunate.

Planning for a moving target

We’ve had to do a lot of planning that wasn’t in our playbooks a year ago. Dawson PPD counts on spring storms and we have that game plan. We plan for long lead times in getting material. We have a plan for helping other power districts. We have a plan for long term construction needs. We have a plan for education and training. We even have a pandemic flu plan…which needed to be dusted off and updated. Until you’re in the middle of implementing that plan, you don’t see the holes in it until the hole shows up on your doorstep. Turns out flexibility and adaptability are strong tools in our toolbox.

The Circle of Life

The realization of how connected we all are is mind-blowing. Why haven’t we paid attention to that before? Talk about the real circle of life. What affects you will ultimately end up affecting us. Whether that means you can’t pay your bill, but we still have a bill to pay on your behalf, or a power outage delays your work while at home.

A prime trickle-down example

We hear a lot about trickle-down economics, and I think there is no better example of “trickle down” than what is happening today. This pandemic is shaking up business and consumer behavior on a massive scale.

Take for example, conferences that have had to be canceled. It affects the food industry, the city hosting the conference that was counting on tourism dollars, the hotels, the vendors, the publicist making the educational material, airlines and car services, and the conference host.

So, trickle down, it impacts workers who don’t need to make food, the restaurant need not order food, no workers needed to put together conference packets, hotel staff have no rooms to prepare, or pilots and flight attendants on furlough – and all the airport associated businesses that are staring at empty terminals. These examples are merely the tip of the iceberg!

Defining an era

According to several articles, babies born in the wake of the coronavirus will be labeled Gen C’s – and their lives will be shaped by the choices made in the coming weeks and by the losses we suffer as a result. I’m having a hard time thinking past next week, must less in the next generation. But, as I said in an employee email, this will define an era, much like John Kennedy’s assassination, the Vietnam war and 9/11.

There is an upside

One small consolation: I’m learning how to do teleconferences, which have been going well and may have a place in our future now that we’ve been forced to use it. I’m looking at all the driving time/expense savings associated with that. Eventually we will need to start meeting in person again, but that teleconference option shouldn’t disappear.

Stay safe

It is our prayer that our customers stay safe and well. We know it’s taking an effort on everyone’s part to get through this. We believe we are doing our part.

Act safe to be safe!


May 2020

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