For Mike Malandro, president and CEO of Choptank Electric Cooperative, it’s all about having a plan.

After high school, Malandro joined the Army. His rapid-deployment unit was one of the first units in Bosnia, where he spent a year. “I learned a lot about leadership there,” says Malandro. “I learned a lot about who I am as a person … about what I was capable of.”

Malandro attributes his success today to his military career. “It really prepared me for my roles today in the electric co-op industry. It was a tougher time in my life. Coming out of the military, while I was going to school, I got diagnosed with cancer.” Training and discipline learned in the military allowed him to persevere through that time of uncertainty.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from West Virginia University but admits he knew little about co-ops before pursuing an engineering position with Prince George Electric Cooperative in Waverly, Va. During his 17 years, he progressed from system engineer to manager to vice president and, eventually, to president and CEO.

Just over two years ago, Malandro accepted the role with Choptank Electric and relocated to the Eastern Shore. “I love the co-op,” says Malandro. “The co-op’s mission aligns with my values.” He admits he could be chasing the corporate ladder elsewhere, but coming to work every day at a co-op brings so much value to his life. “You just can’t put a price on that,” he says.

Shortly after his arrival at Choptank Electric, he realized the co-op had more than 650 miles of backbone fiber already above and below ground. Working with employees, directors and members, a strong grassroots campaign led to passage of legislation that enabled Choptank Electric to use that infrastructure as part of a sweeping broadband initiative.

“In my opinion, the co-op business model is all about balance. Everything we do in this business, good and bad, lasts a long time, so we need to make sure we’re making good decisions.”