Plant Accountant Q&A

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Every position at Jackson EMC plays a unique role to serve our members and employees. Within our Finance and Accounting area, the role of the cooperative’s plant accountant specializes in internal reporting and record keeping. We met virtually with Plant Accountant Connie Owensby to learn more about her time at the cooperative, her experience in this position and the role she plays at Jackson EMC.

My name is Connie Owensby and I’m the plant accountant at Jackson EMC. I’ve been with Jackson EMC for 7 years. I started my career in customer service. Then, I served as an accounts payable specialist before transitioning to this role about a year ago.

The difference in the positions are day and night. As our accounts payable specialist, I was focused on paying anything that was invoiced to Jackson EMC. It was very external, as I was managing Jackson EMC’s outside expenses, whereas, as the plant accountant, I’m working on a completely different side of the budget. I would say that, overall, both are very detail oriented, but plant accounting is much more internally focused.

It’s never the same. My main role at Jackson EMC is to manage, track and double check all of Jackson EMC’s internal spending when starting new electric services at residential and commercial properties. For example, any time we initiate new service, like for a new home or possibly an addition to a current member’s home, there is a process that our engineers go through. The plant accountant is the final stop in that process. I receive, review and validate the finished project summary that includes all of the project expenses. Daily, I go through work orders, making sure paperwork and assets are correct for auditing.

When a member calls to request a new service or an upgrade to existing service, the work order process begins.

First, a staker will go to the member’s property to evaluate the work that needs to be done. Then, they draw up the proposed service on a work order, which includes what materials should be used, how they should be assembled and where they should be constructed. That map is then given to our line crews who gather the necessary materials from the warehouse, go to the work site and construct the new service. During this stage, the proposed plan can be changed, as needed. When this happens, they have to mark-up the map with their changes.

When all the work is done, our engineering clerk makes sure those changes are represented and that everything matches on the final map. All of that information is then entered electronically, so we know every single material item and where it is located across our entire 10-county region.

Finally, when everyone else is done with their part of the work order cycle, all the paperwork is given to me, the plant accountant. I’m responsible for the final check of all the paperwork and our software to ensure everything is recorded properly. I can then close the work order to complete the job.

My role at Jackson EMC helps maintain transparency about spending. The cooperative is required to meet certain standards set by the Rural Utility Service (RUS) to receive funding for important infrastructure projects. Essentially, my role helps us make sure we’re meeting those standards. Each internal work order has a code that reflects certain plans, so I make sure everything is categorized correctly and report those numbers regularly – it’s a checks and balances process.

Every position in Finance and Accounting is very different, and everyone has different specialties. I would say as the plant accountant, I bridge the gap between Engineering and Operations, and Finance and Accounting.

I love working in accounting, mostly because of the teamwork and partnership in our department. Everyone, from my supervisors to co-workers, is supportive. They’re always willing to answer questions, even things that might seem small or simple to them. Originally, I worked in customer service, so my background wasn’t in accounting. I went back to college to be able to better support this department and have really invested my future in accounting. As a department, we always try to be spontaneous and get together. While in-person gathering has been limited, we’ve made sure to meet virtually and check-in on each other.

Yes. As a co-op, we aren’t investor focused, we’re member focused. Being a not-for-profit organization, our biggest concern is keeping costs low for members. That’s really at the heart of the cooperative spirit.

Being a part of an electric cooperative is a unique experience, as a whole. For example, when we have storms, we can pull from other co-ops for help and resources. There’s a community of cooperatives across the nation where everyone is member oriented, and we get to be a part of that at Jackson EMC. There’s a sense of togetherness, instead of competition, and that’s felt across the cooperative, not just in my department.

Like each of our roles at Jackson EMC, as a plant accountant, I play a fundamental, specialized role. Without each lineman, each accountant, each engineer and so on, Jackson EMC wouldn’t be able to provide the reliable service we pride ourselves on. As a co-op we’re motivated to be our absolute best for each other and our members. I’m excited to be able to continue to grow in this role and look forward to supporting my department and Jackson EMC in this position.

For more information about other careers at Jackson EMC visit jacksonemc.com/careers.

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