November 2007. Forests and fields lined the quiet sides of U.S. Highway 290. Between Oak Hill and Johnson City, there was a single traffic light.
Then on Nov. 12, 2007, PEC’s Oak Hill district office opened its doors.
“In the first few weeks we were open, we used to have members wander in and say, ‘I didn’t know you were here!'” PEC Member Services Agent Mary Efta, who helped set up the office, remembered. “They were so surprised to find us. It’s hard to believe it now — so much has changed.”
Our Oak Hill district office has seen a lot in its decade on Circle Drive. And on the eve of its 10th anniversary, the Oak Hill “original crew” — the staff who have been at the office since day one — came together to remember the early days of the district they built from the ground up.
“When I came in, there were just bare floors in the warehouse,” PEC Supply Chain Supervisor Rene Martinez said. “I had worked in Johnson City, and I had also visited the other districts, so when it came time to set up the Oak Hill warehouse, I used the best of what I’d seen in the different districts. It’s sort of what we all did here; we each brought our talents from the different districts and molded them together to make the Oak Hill district.”
It was an exciting time, PEC Journeyworkers Michael Gonzalez and Oscar Tovar recalled. In the early days, the staff at Oak Hill barely had enough bodies to assemble two lineworker crews. And because employees had joined on from so many different offices, the most valuable time they spent also comprises some of their fondest memories: just getting to know one another.
“It took everybody coming together to try different ideas, or merging them all together to see what would work best for everybody,” PEC Engineering Assistant Laurentina Garza said.
The diversity and depth of experience among the small staff created a fast-paced atmosphere of idea-sharing. They weren’t just opening an office; they were learning from each other and creating a new culture.
“A lot of experience hit here all at one time,” PEC Regional Operations Supervisor Karl Keel said. “For the most part, we all took the best, all the best work practices from all the other districts, and made Oak Hill what it is.”
The Oak Hill staff anticipates no end to the growth for their district, which continues to see spillover from Austin and surrounding areas — a microcosm of the population boom and associated development sweeping Central Texas.
“I think there’s going to be so many job opportunities here,” Keel said. “New jobs, new departments, things we have yet to even anticipate. Because we were a rural co-op, and we are no longer going to be a rural co-op.”