During Kendall Hankins’ initial job interview with Southeastern Indiana REMC, the general manager asked him one question that caught his attention. Beyond his qualifications for the job, the GM wanted to know what Hankins did for his community.
He was glad the GM asked. Not only did Hankins have impressive community experiences to share, but the GM’s question also revealed to him the culture of the organization he was hoping to join.
“I was able to tell my story about the programs I was involved in or help start and my service as a police officer,” he said. Plus, he learned, “The co-op’s vision is community driven. It’s service driven. Co-ops think it’s important to invest in people who invest back in the community they serve.”
At the time of the 2015 interview, Hankins had been a Ripley County sheriff’s deputy for six years. He was interviewing for a customer service representative position at the co-op. In that role, he would specialize in electricity theft investigations and bad-debt collection management, along with other duties shared by nine other CSRs.
He also told the GM about a nonprofit youth organization he started in 2009 that takes a group of four high school students to Yellowstone National Park each summer break for a 10-day camping and exploring experience. The trip, for youth aged 15-18 who are referred by folks in the community, is led by Hankins and teaches participants about hiking, fishing, photography and the natural ecosystem.
Hankins got the job and received a promise: taking the initiative to improve himself and the community was highly encouraged and would be rewarded at the co-op. Hankins wasted no time. In the first three years after being hired, he earned three degrees from Oakland City University, including a master’s in business administration. “What was emphasized to me was how important education was and your willingness to invest in yourself.”
In September 2018, he was promoted to manager of customer service. The position gave him a new set of duties and responsibilities. He also continued taking advantage of a variety of high-level leadership programs offered by Indiana Electric Cooperatives, the REMC’s statewide service association, and Hoosier Energy, its power supplier.
Hankins’ outside community service and leadership also continued to grow. In 2020, he was elected as a Ripley County commissioner. Also in 2020, he joined Ivy Tech Community College in Madison as an adjunct faculty member in the criminal justice/civil service department.
A year later, Hankins was promoted to his current position, director of office services, in which he oversees 11 other employees and much of the co-op’s inside operations.
Now, Hankins helps interview prospective employees at the REMC and he asks that question about community commitment.
“If you find candidates who are invested in the community in their private time, they will be invested in your business model, more than just 9 to 5. Commitment,” he said, “will translate to good employees.”