In her 23 years at Southside Electric Cooperative, Heather Dalton has experienced the inside and outside of the power line industry.

Dalton, a staking technician in SEC’s Altavista office, came to the cooperative as a cashier/clerk, equivalent to today’s member service representative. For 10 years, she worked with members on their accounts, entered meter readings into a computer, answered the telephone and helped create work orders.

When a staking technician in the Altavista office left, Dalton saw an opportunity. She was ready for a move.

Dalton works with SEC members who want new or upgraded electric lines, designs either an overhead or underground path, measures and marks the route, provides cost estimates and initiates the project’s paperwork. She works in Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell and Charlotte counties, often having three member appointments each day.

“The biggest thing was wanting to be outside. I’m an outdoors person,” says Dalton, who, with her dad, manages 70 head of cattle on a Pittsylvania County farm and loves to hunt for that big deer.

After getting the job, the cooperative sent Dalton for classroom training while she also learned from working in the field. She credits Graham Fowlkes, her current manager, with helping her understand the new job. Dalton has been a staking technician for 13 years, the first woman to have that position at Crewe, Va.-based SEC.

“I enjoy the challenge of each day going out to design new services. You learn something new each day. No two jobs are the same,” says Dalton, describing her work as both challenging and rewarding.

With an engaging personality, Dalton likes meeting and talking with the members, along with the contractors and out-of-area crews she escorts around the 18-county service area as they make repairs after storm-related power outages.

“A lot of them end up asking for you by name. You make friends out there.”

Dalton’s advice to someone interested in the electric utility industry or any job field is to get a good education, be able to work with others, be open to change and stay positive.

That is what Heather Dalton has done, and she has a Powerful Career at Southside Electric Cooperative to prove it.

Mark Thomas is community relations coordinator at Southside Electric Cooperative