In just three years, Virginia Clifton went from receiving calls from members reporting power outages to overseeing the inventory and purchasing of materials needed to restore power. Her children often remind the Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative purchasing manager that she has more than a job: She has a career.

The Colorado native relocated to Virginia in summer 2014 knowing very little about electric cooperatives. In August 2017, Clifton came to CBEC in search of a role related to her associate degree in accounting.

Her strong analytical skills and attention to detail led her to a responsibility of nearly $636,000 (as of November 2020) of inventory with work orders, construction materials and timelines to manage.

“I had no idea I could have such a great career with development and advancement opportunities right here,” says Clifton. The cooperative provided her with training and certification in areas like forklift operation while she learned the construction side of the business.

Clifton manages a warehouse and pole yard of materials and equipment. “I think it’s really cool,” she says. “It makes me pretty proud.”

She is instrumental during the power restoration process. Often, line crews in the field call on her to measure, cut and deliver wire to a job site, in addition to ordering additional supplies from vendors.

Electric co-ops are making a powerful impact similar to the electrification of rural America more than 80 years ago. CBEC is among the co-ops bringing high-speed internet to underserved areas and changing lives for the better. “Long down the road, I can say ‘I helped with that,’” Clifton says proudly.

This past year has been difficult for electric cooperative employees, who consider their coworkers — and members — to be like family. “We all pull together. We adjust. We adapt. We keep the lights on,” says Clifton.

Clifton’s daughter, who had aspired to be a lawyer, has ambitions of following in her mother’s footsteps and pursuing her own powerful career. She now has evidence proving co-ops offer nearly limitless opportunities to employees who are determined to advance.