By Deb Hickok
Mike Bartch, materials and warehouse supervisor for Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA), had some trepidation when switching from a career in banking and finance. But his skill sets in financial controls – purchasing, contracting, budgeting, auditing and forecasting – fit well into utility line construction. Mike also had experience in member-driven relationships. Five years ago, accepting a supervisor position with GVEA blended his professional experiences and expertise. “My interest in Golden Valley was a continuation of my skill sets and the opportunity to work with members again,” says Mike.
His team facilitates materials through the GVEA warehouses in Healy and Fairbanks. The Healy group supports the power plant and the Eva Creek windmills. “The plant runs 24/7 so they have to be able to access materials right away,” says Mike. “The Healy warehouse performs a vital service by ensuring the plant has the correct items available at all times.” The Fairbanks team manages multiple warehouses and storage yards. “They touch all GVEA materials first then disperse among the company,” says Mike. “They manage a high-volume of material movement.” All the inventory for the transmission and distribution lines are kept in Fairbanks, including hardware, conductors, transformers, poles and tools to build or maintain the lines.
“The warehouse teams do the heavy lifting. I personally don’t handle the materials,” he says. “My role is to support them and ensure that they have what they need. If there’s a word that our group may use to explain our work, it’s ‘meaningful,’” describes Mike. “We’re supporting the Golden Valley membership by supplying the correct material needed to make the company run.” Mike adds, “Both warehouses put great effort and purpose into their work, creating a high functioning team.”
“One value that the warehouses have in common is the responsibility for inventory bought with member dollars,” says Mike. “We are stewards for these members’ assets.” The team takes care to be as economical as possible while maintaining high safety and quality standards. “Being prepared is critical,” says Mike. They equip construction projects as well as unexpected outages and storms. He cited this summer’s back-to-back windstorms in Fairbanks to demonstrate the importance of planning. The crews in the field must have what they need to make repairs. “We don’t know when or how much damage, but we have to be prepared with a whole arsenal of tools and special material,” explains Mike. “We have little margin of error.” He said they ran through a lot of material, which must be immediately replenished – sometimes even as the storm is going – to prepare for the next one.
“It’s all hands-on-deck when these events are happening – truly a team aligned with the mission,” says Mike. “We all understand our responsibility to the members.” They are acutely aware that their work influences whether a house freezes up or medical equipment fails.
Mike arrived in Fairbanks as a sophomore in high school in 1990 when his father was stationed at Fort Wainwright. After a brief stint at college in the Lower 48, he graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He married his high school sweetheart who is a fifth generation Fairbanksan. “My wife and I love the Interior,” enthuses Mike. “We enjoy going out exploring, fishing, hunting, berry picking, and rock hounding.” The couple has five children ranging in age from four to 15 years old. “Their hobbies are my hobbies,” he adds.
“Duty to the Golden Valley membership and meaningful work is important because this is where we’re raising a family and we will hopefully grow old here,” says Mike.