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Building up our communities

Building up our communities
September 27, 2021

I've enjoyed officiating local high school football games
for 27 years now - and counting!

Have you ever had the “Our town is great, but…” conversation with a friend? “Our town is great, but it needs a Target.” Or a bigger church. Or more housing.

Some of these needs aren’t essential, but many are foundational to living well. And, regardless of where you reside in Nebraska, your very community – and you as an individual – have certain needs that must be met.

Earlier this month, I was officiating a high school football game. Someone recognized me on the sideline and jokingly asked, “Don’t you have anything better to do on a Friday night?” I thought about it for a quick second and responded: “Nope. I can‘t think of anything else I‘d rather be doing right now.”

The fact is, there continues to be a serious shortage of high school officials across the country. In a letter I recently received from Dr. Karissa Niehoff, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, Niehoff cited the COVID-19 pandemic alongside unrelenting unsportsmanlike behavior among adult fans as the main reasons for the shortage.

It’s such an unfortunate situation because we need volunteers, not just in high school sports, but throughout our communities, to improve them and provide opportunities for growth. The time we take to provide kids a means to play sports gives them an outlet for exercise and good health at the most basic level, but it also lets them create memories and learn all those important life lessons you get from working as a team.

Public service is one of NPPD’s core values, as it should be. NPPD teammates live in the communities we serve, and as such, we have the obligation to extend the best of ourselves to these communities by being involved and making a difference.  

Likely, you have your own mission or purpose to serve that aligns with your unique beliefs and passions, and you are moving mountains in your own home town.

Many of NPPD’s teammates are devoted members of their church, where money is often tight and needs are many. Others are active on volunteer fire departments. Several of our emerging leaders in Columbus and Auburn have united under our Diversity and Inclusion program within what we call Employee Resource Groups. These groups were created to improve inclusivity and workplace culture at NPPD, build up mentorship and career opportunities as well as better serve our communities. One such group participates in school backpack programs to ensure kids in a tough spot have enough nutritious food to sustain them, mentally, emotionally and physically.

NPPD was established back in the ‘70s to provide electrical service to communities who, decades ago, didn’t have the luxury to flip on a light switch. Bringing the benefits of electrification to underserved areas was a fundamental need in the early days of public power. Now, needs are shifting as we grow more conscious of and take visible action to be better environmental stewards in the way we generate power by improving upon sustainability and decarbonization goals, all the while keeping reliability and affordability top of mind. We continue to expand upon the products and services we provide to give our customers the best value and add to their quality of life.

To do all this successfully, we must develop strong leaders who are not just capable of leading our organization, but also practicing leadership in the communities we serve.

Leadership is about having vision, aligning the team and thinking strategically. It’s also about motivating, coaching, communicating and inspiring. However, it cannot be just about delivering results. I’m a big believer in situational and servant leadership. We should also lead by setting a good example, living our values, understanding our place in the community and the world, and getting outside of ourselves. And, it doesn’t necessarily matter what we are involved in – only that we are involved.  

I’m thankful for the NPPD team. They are out there every day, facilitating robotics tournaments to help ignite students’ passion for STEM and create an ecosystem of innovation and discovery for our youth. They are supporting community activities like the yearly Latino Youth Summit so students feel empowered to pursue secondary education to achieve their professional goals. Our teammates are promoting the value of public power and agricultural safety during local parades, the Nebraska Power Association’s booth at the Nebraska State Fair, and custom combine safety tours. Our crews are improving communities other than their own by answering the call to provide mutual aid services whenever severe weather or hardships strike. I often think fondly of one group of teammates that, year after year, participates in a Habitat for Humanity project.

There are so many ways to positively impact the world around us. The point is at NPPD, we aren’t afraid to engage.

Tom Kent signature