World traveler finds fulfillment in serving others
by Jim Robertson, Staff Writer
“We’re not trying to make money off our neighbors. We’re just trying to provide the best service we can to our members, and we’re trying to be as frugal with that money as we possibly can,” says Chris Botulinski, chief operations officer at BARC Electric Cooperative in Millboro, Va.
Raised in a military family, home for Botulinski changed several times, taking him throughout the U.S. and around the world. His life began in Japan before relocating to Fort Meade, Md. The next couple years included some bouncing back and forth between Pearl City, Hawaii, and Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. He describes his middle school and early high school years in Rota, Spain, as “amazing.”
“I didn’t realize how much I missed working at a co-op until I got back into it.” – Chris Botulinski
Returning to Fort Meade, where he graduated from Meade High School, Botulinski began his college career at the University of Maryland with little or no direction and later transferred to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering with a power emphasis.
A CAREER BEGINS
Botulinski began his professional journey with Copper Valley Electric Association, a sparsely populated electric cooperative with a large service area in southern Alaska. “One of the best experiences up there was just learning what a cooperative is, what it means to work for a co-op. I had no idea, until then, what it meant to serve the members,” says Botulinski. During his time with CVEA, he served in the roles of system engineer, manager of engineering and manager of transmission and distribution.
With no prior knowledge of electric cooperatives or how they function, Botulinski was relieved to learn that co-ops operate as not-for-profit utilities. That fact may have come as a shock, but he also finds it refreshing to know that community-focused organizations still exist and continue to provide a high level of service.
“I quickly understood we work for the member-owners,” admits Botulinski. “We serve them. We have our jobs because of their willingness to create that cooperative many years ago, and we continue to improve and maintain that system.”
After dedicating ten years to CVEA, he moved away from cooperatives for four years. First, as site power engineer at a large aluminum smelter in Queensland, Australia, for a year and then as electrical operations engineer and manager for a photovoltaic solar company, SunPower, in Austin, Texas. He gained better understanding of large-scale utility projects and how renewable generation sources interact with the electric grid.
Glad to return to the cooperative community, Botulinski served as vice president of engineering for Southwestern Electric Cooperative in Greenville, Ill. “I didn’t realize how much I missed working at a co-op until I got back into it,” he says. Most co-op employees describe their fellow employees as family.
Expanding his knowledge of substation and line transmission construction in Illinois led to relocating once more to the mountains of Virginia to serve the members and employees of BARC Electric Cooperative as chief operations officer. He oversees the daily engineering and operations activities of the co-op’s electric system in addition to managing a fully owned fiber broadband subsidiary, BARC Connects.
“This throws another fantastic challenge into my career,” says Botulinski, who was unfamiliar with running a broadband service provider, “and now greatly expanding my knowledge of what it takes to operate a [broadband] system on top of the electric system.”
ADVICE FOR CAREER SEEKERS
“The big difference in an electric co-op is you are not a number,” Botulinski stresses. “You are an individual, and management cares about you. We celebrate each other’s successes, and we share in defeats.”
Botulinski encourages all job seekers to give serious consideration to an electric cooperative, where everyone works together to carry out a mission of providing service to their members. You just may find yourself a powerful career like Chris Botulinski and many others.
For more, visit vmdaec.com/powerfulcareers.