‘I just got better’


Michael Carter

I remember our first meeting. “I’m Michael from L.A.,” he said with eyes sparkling and a slight grin.

“Long way from home,” I replied.

“Yeah, I’m from L.A. … Lower Arkansas.” His grin grew into a broad smile, so big his eyes almost crinkled shut.

I had just met Michael Carter, our office’s mail-delivery guy. His daily routine included picking up the office mail, delivering it to each desk, and gathering up all our “out” mail, among many other things.

Michael’s work was essential to keeping the wheels of this electric cooperative turning.

Here’s a typical conversation:

Michael, dropping off the mail: “How are you today?”

Me, somewhat distracted, reading email: “I’m fine, how are you?”

Michael, squeezing my hand in a firm handshake: “I just got better, ’cause I got to say hi to you!’”

“I just got better.” Wow. He shared that statement with me almost every day. And not just with me. He delivered this positive attitude to every employee, along with their daily mail.

Michael brought his heart to work every day and shared it freely with everyone. His peers recognized him as the model electric cooperative employee by electing him “Employee of the Year” and giving him a standing ovation.

I’m talking about Michael in past tense because he’s gone now, a victim of the cancer that took him from us. Nevertheless, his words still live in my heart and ring in my ears. “I just got better.” This is the real power in the power business: the power of human connection. Our not-for-profit cooperative business model nurtures this attitude. We don’t exist to profit from our members — we exist to make sure their lives “just got better” every day.

How’s your day going? I hope, after reading this, you can say, “It just got better.”

And as for my day? Well, of course it just got better, because I got to share it with you!

Duane Highley is president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., (AECI) and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC). AECI, a statewide service co-op, and AECC, a wholesale power supply co-op, are owned by Arkansas’ 17 local distribution co-ops, which provide retail electric service to more than 1 million members.