Levi McNeely’s career with electric co-ops always has been about leading-edge technology and automation to improve reliability and efficiency for consumers. But it all began with the simplest things: a printed business card and a human touch.
In 2009, at his senior high school scholarship banquet, an Indiana electric cooperative representative approached him after he was awarded a 4-H scholarship. “Hey, if you are ever looking for an internship or anything,” she told him, “let me know.”
He kept her card. As his freshman year was ending, he called her, and she called cooperatives that were looking for an intern. “And that’s how I got into the cooperative world,” he said.
In August 2023, McNeely, a Hendricks County native, became manager of system reliability and operations technology at Hendricks Power Cooperative in Avon. It’s the co-op where he interned during college and took his first job in 2013. In between was a circuitous route of growth and development opportunities at a large, fast-growing electric co-op in Florida and an Indiana cooperative power supplier based in Indianapolis. At Hendricks, he’s now connecting all the dots from his engineering, analytical and high-tech experiences.
“System reliability and integrating technology into the industry is a culmination of different pieces of my career,” he said of his job at Hendricks Power. “They’ve always prided themselves on being one of those leaders in technology. Hendricks had some gaps that fit my skill set and fit my passions. That’s allowed me to come back to the place I started my career and be able to hit the ground running.”
After his internship at Hendricks, McNeely was already sold on the cooperative way of business and the broad scope of engineering he got to experience. “What I love about co-ops is you wear a lot of different hats. You get exposed to a lot of different angles of the business,” he said. “As a young engineer, fresh out of college, I got to see the engineering piece; I got to see how that flowed into the operation side of the business and what the linemen are doing out in the field. And then I got to try my hand at some of the technology side. And, at the end of the day, it has a family feel where you’re not treated as a number. And co-ops tend to be involved in their community, as well. That’s something I’ve enjoyed for sure: To get plugged into the community, to the people who are at the end of the line that you’re providing power for.”
Shortly after McNeely married wife Ali in 2014, they left Hendricks County for his second job at Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CHELCO), on the Florida panhandle. While he said the beach life was great and he learned an incredible amount of engineering and technology there, after almost four years they both wanted to come home to family in the Indianapolis area, especially with the arrival of their first child. That’s when he was hired by Wabash Valley Power Alliance, a cooperative-owned power supplier to REMCs mostly in the northern half of Indiana. That gave him yet another perspective of the industry.
With the return to Indiana, he and Ali moved to Johnson County where they became cooperative consumer-members of JCREMC.
It’s a full circle for McNeely, beginning with a co-op representative taking an interest in the community and handing him a business card in 2009. “I’m just thankful for co-op people who care enough to show up at high school scholarship banquets to see where graduates are headed, what they’re studying, and if there are any connections to be made there.”