Now More than Ever, Utility Work is a Public Service

 

–by UTC Interim President and CEO Sheryl Riggs

In an era where the news changes by the minute, it can be difficult at times to feel certain and hopeful about the future. As I write this, my oldest child has been sent home from college and my other kids have joined us, with all schools in Maryland (and, frankly, the D.C. area) closed until further notice.

Not only that, but our sports, restaurants, many of our stores, and so much more is closed as well. The things we used to take for granted as distractions are not able to function right now either.

Yet there is one thing we can count on during this unprecedented era: You.

That’s right. Our electric, water, and gas utilities are doing what they do best—providing us with safe, reliable, and affordable utility services. Of all the things we worry about, it is such a blessing to know we don’t have to worry about our utilities.

Here at UTC, it is an honor to represent this industry. While some of our members are employed by private companies, some by their customers, and some by their municipalities, every one of them is a public servant. You keep us safe, secure, and plugged in under all kinds of conditions and duress. On behalf of our hardworking staff, I thank you for your service.

In this uncertain time, I wanted to provide you an update on how the UTC staff is working to support you. Yes, we are firing on all cylinders, ready to meet your needs as if we were still in the office. As you may have guessed, we are all working remotely for the time being. We do not know how long this will last, but I can assure you that the UTC staff will not miss a beat.

We’ve actually had some practice at this. Last year, you may recall that we moved our offices from downtown Washington to just across the Potomac River in Arlington. Va. For the first five months of 2019, as our new office space was being built out, we all worked remotely. I would dare say that none of our members noticed that the UTC staff was working from home. When you think about what we accomplished over that time—the move, staffing changes, an audit, and our spring 2019 flight of meetings—you will realize why I am so confident that we will provide you with the same level of service.

Regarding our meetings: As you already know, we are rescheduling our annual Telecom & Technology conference from May 18-22 to Aug. 31-Sept. 4. We are also moving the March 23-25 Region 6 Meeting to Oct. 12-14, and the April 7-9 Broadband Workshop to Aug. 4-6. For more information about each meeting, including questions about hotel reservations, please see our website here.

We are taking these steps because many of you have travel restrictions through at least mid-May. We also know that you are needed at home now to keep the lights on and water flowing. We will be here to greet you and thank you in a few months.

One of the most important functions of an association like UTC is togetherness. At UTC, we consider all of our members as one big family. You are the lifeblood of what we do, and we never forget that. It is during times like these were we need this familiarity. We are exploring all kinds of options, including expanded webinars, to help us all stay together and in contact during this time. We already have a great slate of webinars scheduled through May, and are working on creating many more over the next several months.

I want to give a special thanks to the UTC Board of Directors, particularly our Executive Committee and our Board Chairman Greg Angst. Greg and I are on the phone constantly, discussing new strategies and ideas that will keep all of us engaged over the next several months.

I also want to thank the UTC staff, who remain as committed to the mission as ever. Our policy staff are busy working with UTC core members, Congress, and our federal regulators to ensure that the needs of our industry are being considered and accounted for in the several pieces of legislation coming out of Congress in response to this epidemic.

Our meetings department is working overtime to take appropriate actions with our near-term meetings, and keeping all the other trains running on time as well. And our Finance and Operations team is ensuring we have the resources needed to keep the Association running smoothly.

These are undoubtedly difficult times for our nation and our world. It can be tough to stay focused and hopeful about the future, but I know we will come out of this stronger than ever.

Thank you for everything you do for UTC, and thank you for keeping us safe.