Mrs. Bobbie Madaris retired from Baldwin EMC’s call center in 2004. Now at home in Gadsden, Ala., she spoke to us over the phone about her experiences during her 15-year career.
Baldwin EMC: Today we have an entire department dedicated to the calls, payments and inquiries of our members, but I understand you were the sole telephone operator for several years during your tenure here.
Bobbie Madaris: My goodness, yes. Before I came on board in 1990, the ladies at the window answered the phone when it rang, in between opening mail and taking payments. So when I started out, I was up there with them to give them some relief. Before long I was told we were getting a switchboard and I was going to be the one operating it.
EMC: That sounds like quite a task for one person!
B.M.: It was, and I was fielding calls for all three offices, but I absolutely loved it. It didn’t take me long to learn who everybody was and that was the best part, because I love talking to people. My office was right by the back door and just across the hall from the break room. I kept a big jar of candy on my desk at all times so there were no excuses not to pop your head into my office and say hello. I loved seeing the guys when they all came to Summerdale for their safety meetings. There’s just nothing like face-to-face contact.
EMC: What was your favorite part of working at the co-op?
B.M.: Being a part of a growing company was something really special, and I enjoyed learning all the aspects of the power industry. I learned a lot on the switchboard because I had to help the (members) with their questions and direct them to the correct department. Any chance I had to go out in the field, I took it. I remember going out with the (metering department) one day to see how they read the meters. About the only thing I never did get to do was go out and watch the crew set a pole.
EMC: You were here during the nineties, when computerized technology was really taking off. How did your job change over that time?
B.M.: Well the biggest shift, I guess, was the introduction of the call center. I had been on the switchboard about eight years at that point. It went from me taking all the calls to having a whole department. All of the sudden we were able to take credit card payments over the phone using these little machines, and we took outage calls. The computer systems just changed everything so much.
EMC: What was your greatest take-away from 15 years at Baldwin EMC?
B.M.: Well, that’s easy. I worked with the best people in the world and loved them just like family – I still do! When I moved to Baldwin County (from Gadsden) I hardly knew anybody, but then everything just worked out and all of the sudden I knew tons of people. I met and married a wonderful man, and I am even responsible for setting up five couples at that co-op! After I met the love of my life, I wanted to be sure no one else passed up an opportunity.