History repeats itself, the old adage contends. It’s certainly true in Gary Gerlach’s case. This month, the Pulaski County farmer will take over the presidential reins of Indiana Electric Cooperatives (IEC), the service association for Indiana’s member-owned electric utilities. He was elected to the post at IEC’s annual meeting Dec. 4, 2017.
Gerlach, a director of Carroll-White REMC, previously served as the association’s president from 2000-02. This is the first time in IEC’s history that a past president has stepped back into this leadership role.
Ascending to the presidency again was not something he’d planned for. Back in 2013, a couple of his fellow electric co-op directors asked him to consider running for IEC secretary-treasurer that year. Being elected to the position was “an honor beyond all belief,” Gerlach said. After a two-year stint, his counterparts chose him to be the association’s vice president in 2015.
When Gerlach began his first term as president in 2000, he was 48 years old, relatively young for the position. Yet, he’d already accumulated 20 years of experience in the electric cooperative business. The Star City native was elected to his local co-op board in 1979. “I was blessed to get on (the board) at a young age,” he said.
Eighteen years ago, as he was assuming his new duties, he commented, “Age is irrelevant. It’s your mindset, your thought process.”
Now, at age 66, Gerlach is approaching his responsibilities from a different perspective. “The first time (I was president), the future was way out ahead of me,” he reflected. “At this stage of my life, there’s a sense of urgency. I’m in my twilight years. It weighs heavy on me how I can leave the world a better place.”
In today’s electric cooperative world, Gerlach observes, a huge wave of older employees is retiring and the current workforce is charged with being more nimble, multi-tasking to meet the consumers’ many needs. Electric co-ops are focusing on attracting new talent to fill increasing job vacancies. As always, keeping connected to consumers, Gerlach said, is a top priority.
Priorities in Gerlach’s life are his “support system.” That includes his family — wife Diane, son Cree, son Kyle and daughter-in-law Amanda, and granddaughter Brynley — and his cooperative “family,” who’ve inspired him with qualities like integrity and honesty and shown him that no matter one’s leadership style, a positive impact can be made.
For Gerlach, making an impact is all the more important at this stage of his electric cooperative career. “At times I feel like I’m overstaying my welcome,” he admits. “But I have a burning desire to make co-ops better.”
About Gary Gerlach
Co-op: Carroll white REMC
Position: Board President, Indiana Electric Cooperatives