WALTERS — Telephones ring constantly at electric cooperatives in regions devastated by the ice storm. On the other end of those telephone lines are some of the working-class heroes of this disaster. They are people the general public likely never will see, but people who will listen to the frustration and try to provide information.
"In times like this, we bring in all our staff,” said Jennifer Meason, vice president of marketing for Cotton Electric Cooperative Inc. in Walters. "We’ll man the phones 24 hours a day. Our dispatchers try to give as much information as they possibly can, even if the news isn’t all that good. "We have people like Jan McKown. She used to read meters for us. So she knows the ins and outs of every location, and if there are lines down, she’ll know where they are.” Jeff Simpson is also among those fielding the flood of calls pouring in to Cotton Electric. Normally, Simpson works as Cotton’s vice president of finance. "When you work at a small cooperative, you utilize all of your resources,” said Dennis Krueger, general manager of Kiwash Electric Cooperative Inc. in Cordell. "In times like these, employees will wear different hats.” No one epitomizes that more at Kiwash than Dwayne Hurliman, who began working there 15 years ago as public relations director. Hurliman has experienced nearly every facet of the company since, and until the ice storm worked in the office as a cashier. Hurliman now drives Kiwash’s devastated territory, filling in as an inspector. He monitors the work of four crews. Back at Kiwash’s headquarters, others like Rick Wiest oversee the command center.