To close our Retiree Spotlight series, we asked Mr. Elmer McDaniel, who retired as executive vice president and general manager of Baldwin EMC in 1997, to stop by for a visit with our current chief executive officer, Karen Moore. Mr. McDaniel was hired as member services director and then served as accounting office manager before beginning his 17-year tenure as G.M.
Karen Moore: I understand your career here spanned 31 years, but how were you first introduced to Baldwin EMC?
Elmer McDaniel: When I was about 14, I was working in the field picking watermelons when this truck pulled to a stop on the side of the road. This fella gets out and tells my parents that
the Annual Meeting is going on but that they are just a few folks shy of a quorum. The next thing I know I’m piling in with my mother and father, aunts and uncles, to go to this meeting so they can cast their votes. I’d never seen anything like it. That was my first association with Baldwin EMC.
K.M.: So at that young age you found out about a quorum being necessary to hold an election?
E.M.: I did. When I got a little older I started working at EMC in the summers on the right of way crew. Then, when I graduated from Auburn I got a job with Alabama Power in Birmingham for about three years, but I took a job with EMC when I wanted to move back home.
K.M.: Did you think at the time that you’d retire here?
E.M.: Oh, I hoped I would. I was just a country boy and my parents were dirt farmers. I remember being young and naïve. I’d never been exposed to big ideas. I never dreamed I’d eventually become general manager.
K.M.: You took over as G.M. in 1980, soon after Hurricane Frederic. What was that like?
E.M.: Oh, it was a challenge, for sure. Everything was wiped out. But then everything was being rebuilt and growing so fast and before long we were facing rate increases. That was a whole
different kind of storm. When you survive that during your first four or five years as manager, then everything else is relative once the dust settles.
K.M.: You did have a lot going on at once!
E.M.: I did, but the key was the quality of employees we had. They were the first ones to face criticism and they were the ones to best handle it.
K.M.: Every good thing starts with a strong foundation, and we are still reaping the benefits from the groundwork you laid more than 20 years ago. Is there any advice you can give me?
E.M.: Keep up with the latest technology and equipment, and surround yourself with the best people that you can. Good leadership is not always top-down. You’ve got to talk to your employees and walk in their shoes to appreciate what they do and make decisions based on their concerns.
K.M.: Thank you so much for stopping by to visit.
E.M.: It’s been my pleasure to remember these stories, to walk the halls and see all the progress here. It feels great to have been a part of an organization like this.