18:00 PM

Perspective: A Spark

Recently, a couple of Jackson EMC employees brought a box of wires, light bulbs and batteries to a local elementary school to watch kids build circuits and experiment with conductors and insulators. I heard how the students learned through trial and error, and how their faces lit up with excitement when the bulbs burned. It reminded me of when I was a kid experimenting with stuff I found in an old junk pile at my great Uncle Doc’s.

Uncle Doc married my grandfather’s sister, affectionately known as Aunt “Tump.” Doc served in the U.S. Air Force nearly 30 years before retiring as a Senior Master Sgt. His specialty was electronics. When he retired, he worked on old vacuum tube televisions and transistor radios. He had an old storage shed behind the house filled with every imaginable gizmo, gadget, piece and part that you would ever need to fix a radio or TV. I had never seen anything like it. Uncle Doc had his own personal Radio Shack.

When he opened the door to that old shed, it looked like some strange combination of science lab and electronics scrapyard. That sight could’ve easily been a fleeting memory for a young kid, but then Uncle Doc did something really special; he showed us the “junk pile” and told me and my cousin Kenny we could use that stuff to make anything we wanted. Now, Kenny had been in on the junk pile before and was a pro at extracting the knobs, buttons, antennas and other components needed to assemble everything from a make-believe metal detector to a cosmic ray gun and even a miniature space robot. My imagination soared. We built. I felt like an eight-year-old mad scientist full of discovery.

Uncle Doc’s old storage shed was such an exciting and fascinating place that it created quite a spark in me. I’m pretty sure it’s that same spark that keeps me excited today about the future of Jackson EMC. It shouldn’t surprise you that Uncle Doc went on to teach and run an electric wiring program at the local junior college. I think he was always a teacher at heart. He certainly taught me a great lesson about the power of discovery and innovation.

Curiosity and discovery can lead to amazing innovation. At Jackson EMC, we strive to be innovative and forward-thinking. Years ago, our engineers saw that if we could monitor and manage the flow of electricity at our substations from our system control center, we could restore power for our members faster. We were among the first to operate SCADA, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition.

We use this technology to raise and lower voltage at the substations, open and close lines to isolate outages and ultimately improve reliability for our members.

Sometimes, it’s an individual that looks at a task and finds a better way. John Kesting is a Journeyman Lineman with Jackson EMC who created the EZ Fuse Cutout, a product he patented and distributes through Newell Porcelain Company. John found a way to make replacing fuses easier and safer for linemen.

Today we source energy when we harvest it as natural gas produced at landfills and capture it in photocells from the sun. The power industry evolved the insulators we use from glass to porcelain, and now we use a plastic that is lighter and easier for our crews to install and more reliable for our members. Members have gone from recording their own energy use on postcards they mailed to our offices with payments to paying their bills on a mobile application that connects to the smart meter on their home. I wonder where that next spark of innovation will come from and what it will bring.

Reach out to your CEO; send Chip an email at [email protected].